The touted benefits of a massage gun are pretty impressive – boosted immunity, muscle recovery, flexibility and joint mobility, to name a few. A massage gun is a handheld device that uses vibration therapy to emulate a technique called ‘tapotement’, where therapists move their hands in a fast and rhythmic manner to stimulate the nerve endings in the target area.
According to sports therapist Willum Ogden, head of medical at Flow Recovery (opens in new tab), this stimulation of the nerves promotes several things, including increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which can contribute to an increase in muscle flexibility and joint mobility.
“Massage guns can also help with tight shoulders, necks or backs from sitting at a desk, as well as being used to warm up muscles before the gym or as part of your post-training recovery,” he adds.
To use a massage gun, Ogden says to avoid bony areas and focus on the muscles, moving the device in a circular manner up and down or left and right. The best massage gun can cost anywhere between $39 to $650, and they can be used every day. For best practice, don’t use one for longer than 10 minutes in any one area and avoid them if you have a pacemaker.
Read on to discover more potential benefits of these handy devices.
1. Promotes blood flow
“Applying a massage gun to an area on the body creates a sort of rippling effect along the skin, like waves,” explains Ogden. This enhances the rate of blood getting to the area, as 2014 research (opens in new tab) found.
“By boosting blood flow, the targeted muscle gets a greater rate of delivery of fresh blood with higher levels of oxygen and nutrients, both of which are essential for muscle recovery and healing,” he adds. “The increase can also contribute to reducing swelling and inflammation, as well as a host of other benefits.”
2. Encourages lymphatic drainage
Massage guns may help our bodies to fight infection because they give the lymphatic system a boost. This part of the body is responsible for our immunity, and its job is to protect us from illness and disease.
As well as fighting against infection, the lymphatic system moves lymph fluid from body tissues into the blood and gets rid of body waste and toxins.
“You may have heard of lymph nodes and these act as a filter – they are basically the body’s ‘waste disposal points’,” says Ogden. “They trap or destroy anything harmful that the body doesn’t need, sieving out lymph fluid and waste products such as lactic acid and deoxygenated blood, which the body then expels or excretes via sweat, urine or bowel movements.”
By reducing the amount of lymph fluid in the body, the muscles can perform optimally and won’t feel as heavy after a workout.
3. Increases muscle flexibility
A massage gun can also relieve soreness and stress in the body by releasing tension and fluid deep in the muscles to enhance tissue metabolism.
“A massage gun can help a muscle and its thousands of fibers to relax and be less taut,” says Ogden. “This has been shown in many studies. In one 2013 study (opens in new tab), massage guns were found to significantly increase the flexibility of the hamstrings.”
A 2021 study (opens in new tab) also found that just 10 minutes use of a massage gun on the lower limbs could promote flexibility.
4. Better joint mobility
“Any benefit of using a massage gun on a muscle indirectly helps to improve joint mobility too,” says Ogden. “This is due to how our muscles are connected via tendons into bony origins. If you take away some of the tension from a muscle or help it to relax then the subsequent tension on the joint is also reduced.”
A 2013 study (opens in new tab) on the impact of massage guns on joint mobility found that they were effective in improving hamstring flexibility and relieving tightness. Meanwhile, 2019 research (opens in new tab) found that they were particularly good for knees.
5. Increases muscle recovery (by reducing DOMS)
DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is that achy or stiff feeling you get after intense, new or unfamiliar exercise.
“DOMs is a common by-product of exercise, typically through overtraining the muscle, trying a new exercise or eccentrically loading the muscle,” explains Ogden.
While you can’t avoid DOMS completely, several studies have revealed that massage guns can help to reduce the pain and soreness – in turn speeding up muscle recovery. One 2014 study (opens in new tab) found that the use of a massage gun for five minutes after an arm workout was significantly better at reducing post-training stiffness compared with a traditional massage.