Are Percussion Massagers Safe? Use Yours Correctly!

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All of us have pain somewhere. Chances are you, like me, have at least one or two spots on your body that are painful, tight, uncomfortable, and cause problems throughout the day. Some people have a bad knee from high school sports, others have a sore lower back from standing at work all day, and many more suffer from that infamous shoulder blade pain that just never seems to go away. 

Massages are an outstanding solution to many of these problems. Of course, a weekend at a spa, or even an hour at a spa, can work wonders. But many of us don’t have the time or access to that. Instead, we choose home massagers, whether they be massage chairs, back and shoulder massagers, or percussion massagers.

Percussion massagers work incredibly well, but Are Percussion Massagers Safe?

For the most part, Percussion Massagers are safe, but you need to use them correctly. In this article, we’ll look at how to use a percussion massager safely.


A World In Pain

Neck and Shoulders

A recent study performed by the National Institutes of Health showed that 55% of all Americans surveyed claimed to have at least some type of pain. Around 10% of Americans claim to suffer from severe pain that limits their mobility and daily lifestyle. 

Most health insurance plans do not cover the majority of everyday pain that people suffer from, either. The only circumstance they’ll offer to pay for anything is if it’s part of a rehabilitation plan or you were the victim of an accident.

Other than that, you’re on your own when it comes to treating pain. 

Treating Pain At Home

Massage Table

Unless you’re a professional athlete, then you’re probably not lucky enough to have a personal massage therapist around 24/7 to get you on the massage table whenever you feel an ache or pain. This is why home pain treatments are becoming more popular every year.

Trendy new devices and programs come and go every year, but few actually stand the test of time. 

Today, we’re going to be looking at one of the most popular pain treatments on the market- percussion massage guns

Everybody from professional athletes to the average Joe is raving about how effective these simple percussion massagers are at releasing tight muscles and working out painful knots.

They’re also great for post-workout recovery, preventing injuries, and even treating certain musculoskeletal disorders! 


What Are Percussion Massagers? 

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Percussion massagers, or “massage guns,” are very simple devices. When you first see one in real life, you’ll probably wonder why it took inventors this long to develop such a helpful device. 

Depending on the quality and type of percussion massager, they can be as small as a handheld kitchen whisker or as large as an industrial nail gun. The larger they are, the more power they have. And the more effective they are at treating deep-tissue pain. 

The devices are usually powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts around an hour or so, depending on how much you use it and how strong you set your massage gun. Some are battery-powered or have a power cord.

The tip of the massager features a soft, round ball attached to the end of a piston that quickly fires back and forth to deliver precise punches wherever the user has the gun aimed. 

Depending on your pain tolerance, you’ll be able to choose from a range of pressure settings for your percussion massager. Beginners or those who are more sensitive to pressure should always start on the lowest setting and work their way up. If you’re used to high-pressure massage or have deep muscle aches, though, the gun’s higher settings are perfect for releasing problem areas. 

In addition to the regular ball-shaped tipped, some models come with complete kits and feature different tips depending on the area you’re massaging and the type of pressure you’re trying to apply. Some of the other shapes you’ll find are:

  • Flat hammer-like tips (for larger muscles like the glutes or quads)
  • Sharp triangular-shaped tips (for those tight, hard-to-get muscle groups)
  • Double-pronged tips (to release groups of muscles through acupressure)
  • Extra-soft tips (for those who are more sensitive to pressure)

Understanding Pressure Points and Muscle Knots

RENPHO Percussion Massage Gun

To understand what makes percussion massage guns so effective at treating pain, it helps to understand how pressure points and muscle knots form in the first place. 

Some pain spots are caused by a major injury. Perhaps you tore a tendon, fractured a bone, or hyperextended a joint. These injuries can often take years to recover from. And they may leave you with pain that just never seems to go away. 

Other pain spots are the result of small, repetitive injuries over time. Repetitive motion injuries are incredibly common among those who perform manual labor jobs involving repeating the same motion repeatedly. 

These injuries are caused when a small muscle, tendon, or group of muscles undergoes strain so many times that it becomes inflamed. The muscles tighten themselves in order to limit motion and allow the area to heal.

The only problem is that most people can’t afford to take off work for a whole week to let the spot heal. So they grit their teeth and work through the pain. 

Muscle knots develop when an area in the muscle becomes swollen. When you massage your shoulder or neck and feel those small “balls,” they’re just areas where the muscle has swollen. As these knots swell, they put pressure on the surrounding nerves and turn into “pressure points”, which is why they often feel painful if you press them hard. 

Muscles function a lot like rubber bands. For instance, if you were to tear a rubber band, the easiest way to fix it (other than replacing it) would be to tie a knot in it. It will work just as well but will have that one weak spot.

It’s a primitive example, but it’s a good way to explain muscle knots to people who don’t want to read all medical literature. 

How Can Percussion Massagers Help? 

Have you ever noticed how muscle knots almost always form in the same places? Your upper back, shoulders, and neck tend to be the most prone to developing knots. This is because there are a lot of joints and bones here. 

Your joints don’t have as many blood vessels that run through them, meaning that it takes them a lot longer to heal than larger muscle groups such as your legs or arms. In order to heal, the muscles need to be exposed to Oxygen which is carried through the bloodstream. The reason why massages help so much is that they force blood to flow into these tight areas so they can heal. 

Percussion massage guns are the closest that you can get to simulating a real massage. They also work a lot better than those old-school handheld massage wands since they’re able to apply the much-needed pressure required to target deep tissues where the pain hurts the most. 


Are Percussion Massagers Safe To Use?

Percussion Massage Gun

If you’ve ever seen a percussion massager perform in slow motion, you’ll realize that they can exert a significant amount of force. As the ball pounds into the muscles, you can see the surrounding skin and muscles bend and ripple as they absorb the shock.

This has led many interested shoppers to question how safe these devices really are. 

After all, if they’re causing your body to ripple that much, couldn’t they also cause damage? 

Whether you share these concerns or not, you should still read through this section as it contains valuable safety tips for every user to know about. 

If you’re concerned about safety, we recommend that you start off by using the gun at the lowest pressure setting and gradually work your way up as you get more confident. This will prevent accidental injury and give your muscles time to acclimate to the new treatment. 

Safety Precautions To Keep In Mind

Most people won’t have any problems with percussion massagers, but there are certain situations where you should not use one of these devices since they do tend to be a bit rougher. 

Injuries

Percussion massage guns are excellent for treating minor injuries such as a light tear or strain. Just use it in a lower power mode so that you don’t hurt yourself. However, if you have a more severe injury such as a broken or fractured bone, hyperextension, or bruising, you should avoid percussion massage until your body has had time to heal. 

Pregnancy

On light settings or during the first trimester, percussion massage should be perfectly fine. Once you pass into the second and third trimesters, though, the body can become more responsive to stimulation. If you were to start using your percussion gun at high speeds, it could disturb the baby and possibly even initiate a premature birth as the baby thinks you could be in danger. 

Post-Surgery

If you’ve just undergone surgery, then you should avoid percussion massagers until the affected area is fully healed. For one, the massage gun’s high-impact force could tear sutures and stitches, opening wounds and causing bleeding. 

Another possible side effect could be that the percussion gun releases blood clots or scabs that are important for healing. By releasing a blood clot before your wound has had time to heal, you could cause an infection. 

Sensitive Nerves

If you have a disorder that affects the nervous system, such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis, then you should be careful while using a percussion massager. These conditions can make your body more prone to injury and vulnerable to fast movements. 

While a percussion massager could be good for these conditions, you should still start slowly. Depending on your body type and sensitivity, you could have an adverse reaction. If you feel like a massage gun would benefit you, and your doctor agrees, start small with short 3 to 5-minute sessions on a low power mode. 


Pro-Tips For Using A Massage Gun

Percussion Massage Gun Tips

Now that we’ve gone over all of the primary safety precautions that you should keep in mind while using a percussion massage gun, let’s take a look at some pro tips to help you get the best use out of your new device and help your body heal faster than ever! 

Experiment With Different Tips

Depending on the brand of massage gun that you go with or whether or not you get it as part of a larger kit, you may receive several different massage tips with your purchase. If not, then you can usually purchase extra massage tips from the manufacturer or a third-party source. 

The image above showing the various tips was from the Renpho Percussion Massager. It was one of our favorite back massagers.

We went over the different types and shapes of massage tips earlier in the article if you want to review them. 

If you want to get the most benefit out of your massage gun, then we definitely recommend experimenting with different massage tips. Each additional tip is designed to apply a different type of pressure; some are great for large muscle groups at high power, and others are good for acute pressure treatment of deep tissues and smaller muscle groups. 

Don’t Massage The Same Place For Too Long

When you’re first using your percussion gun on a tight muscle group, it’s going to feel a bit painful since all of the tight muscles are likely putting pressure on your nerves. While it may be tempting to put a lot of pressure and spend a lot of time targeting that one painful spot, you shouldn’t massage the same place for too long. 

When you apply too much pressure for an extended amount of time, you cause the muscles to go into rebound tightness. Essentially, the muscles start to feel as if they’re being injured and tighten up to protect themselves. As you can imagine, this can make your existing problem worse. 

This leads us to our next point.

Balance The Massage

Make sure that you balance your massage. One of the most common reports we found by regular users is that they sometimes caused their bodies to become unbalanced by only targeting a certain area. 

For instance, say you have a tight shoulder, and you’re using the percussion gun on that one area. After a couple of sessions, your problem shoulder should loosen up. However, you probably neglected to massage your other shoulder, which has now tightened to compensate for the other shoulder’s looseness.

When your body compensates like this, it can cause bad posture and even injury. To prevent this, always make sure you’re even with your massage and spend time using the percussion gun in other areas to balance out your efforts. 


Final Thoughts

Percussion massage guns are one of the best sports medicine products to ever be released. They’re able to effectively target painful areas in order to loosen them and promote full-body healing. The pressure and effect you’ll get are similar to that of a professional massage, making them well worth every dollar you spend on one. 

If you’re ready to start living a pain-free life, picking up one of these devices is an excellent step in the right direction.

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