How To Use A Massage Gun
Ok, we’ll get this out of the way, using a massage gun isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s quite simple. And you might be wondering why we would waste our time writing such an article.
Hey, don’t blame us. Rules, laws, and/or guides are only created because there’s always going to be those chronic offenders that don’t have a clue. And offenders, there are many!
That might not be you, but bare with us. You just might learn a few simple techniques to help maximize your massage session and post workout recovery.
Related: Looking for suggestions as to which massage gun to buy? See our Buyer’s Guide.
Massage Gun 101: Getting Started
Here are some basic steps on how to use a massage gun:
- It’s a good idea to turn the massage gun on BEFORE placing it on your body. Not doing so can be a bit jarring on the body or worse, lead to bruising.
- Start on the lowest speed. Until you’ve had a chance to assess your tolerance level, starting out on high can be a bit painful. Also, keep in mind that soreness can be a result of micro tears in the muscle or increased inflammation. Beating the muscles into submission could do more harm than good. More is not always better.
- Whatever speed you’re using, you want to “float” the massage gun across the muscles. Extreme downward pressure of the massage head on the body is not necessary. Let the massage gun do the work as you gently glide it over the affected areas. Think light to moderate pressure at most.
- Remember to relax! You bought a massage gun to relieve muscle tightness, not make it worse. If you’re too tense and flexing the muscle while going over it, you’re not getting the full benefit of the tool. Just breath, inhale, exhale, and slowly move the massage gun across the belly of the muscle.
How Long Should You Use Your Massage Gun?
For most, using a massage gun induces a lot of “good pain”. We hear that all the time. Meaning it’s painful to use on sore areas, but because it’s loosening it up, it feels soooo good.
So is there really too much of a good thing? Absolutely.
The head of the massage gun is delivering micro traumas to the body with every percussion. Short term, yes, it improves blood flow, increases circulation, and knocks out tightness. Extended use does the opposite.
Follow these guidelines for the most benefit:
- Muscle Activation- 30 Seconds: Before a workout or activity, target your muscles with the massage gun for up to 30 seconds to activate the muscles and nerve fibers.
- Muscle Re-Activation- 15 Seconds: Mid-workout and feeling a little tired? Muscles starting to fatigue or spasm? Give them a little boost with another 15 second session.
- Recovery and Pain Relief- 2 Minutes: Post workout or when DOMS set in, you can safely use your massage gun for up to 2 minutes on each muscle group. This process can be repeated throughout the day with at least 1-2 hours rest in between.
How To Use The Included Tips
Every percussion massager comes with a variety of different interchangeable attachment heads. The 4 you see below are pretty standard. If you’re a little confused as to where to use them, let us clear it up.
From right to left we have: the large ball, the flat head, the bullet and the fork.
- The Large Ball- The most commonly used attachment. Depending on the manufacturer, it’s made of either a dense rubber or hardened foam. Designed to treat both large and medium group muscles, it’s overall the most versatile.
- The Flat Head- A great multipurpose attachment. From the pecs to the glutes, the flat head is able to provide a more dense massage over the large ball. Because it doesn’t have any sharp edges, it won’t hurt quite as much if you happen to run over bones while massaging.
- The Bullet- Best used on trigger points or knots. This attachment is great to really focus in on one particular spot on the body. For instance areas of the shoulders or different ligament attachment points.
- The Fork Head- The dual-pronged head allows you to target areas such as the spine, without hitting the bone. It can also be used for other places like the calf muscles or along the achilles too.
Using A Massage Gun Post Workout
After a grueling workout, your fatigued muscles are probably spent. By using a massage gun immediately after a workout, you can help aid your recovery. Not only that, but using a massage gun is leaps and bounds easier to use than a foam roller.
Keep in mind, your muscles are already stretched, strained, and inflamed. Adhere to the 2 minute rule for each muscle group as closely as possible. The last thing you want to do is exacerbate the soreness or cause more injury. You simply want to use it enough to flush the lactic acid from the muscles.
In addition to the massage gun, drink plenty of water. Remember, working out and using a massage gun is going to increase blood flow and overall circulation. If you’re going to eliminate the toxins and lactic acid released into the blood, water is the primary transporter. Although the science isn’t 100% clear or certain how much water you should drink, 2-3 liters a day is generally accepted as adequate to avoid dehydration.
Ice Or Heat After A Massage
Using a massage gun helps release tight muscles. Releasing those trigger points and tension requires a lot of deep muscle therapy and therefore can leave your muscles quite tender. For that reason, initially, stay away from heat. The blood in your body is already flowing and the muscles are on fire, you don’t need to heat them up any more! Instead, start with some sort of cryotherapy first.
If you’re not quite ready for a cold shower, we recommend using something like the Recoup Cyrosphere. It’s portable, it’s mess free, and it’s insanely cold!
Guidelines for using ice and heat are as follows:
Ice is typically recommended for an acute injury, one that has occurred within the past 24-48 hours. Ice not only decreases pain, but also causes vasoconstriction or narrowing of the blood vessels. This will keep swelling to a minimum and reduce the amount of time it will take to heal from the new injury. The resultant inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to promote healing.
Heat on the other hand should be applied to more chronic conditions to help relax and loosen the tissues and stimulate blood flow to the affected area. People that suffer with stiff muscles and joints find temporary palliative relief of symptoms. However, caution should be used since heat can cause inflammation issues to get worse.
Ice or Heat Tips:
- Ice should not be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time and can be applied 4-6 times a day.
- Do not apply the ice directly to the skin, rather wrap it in a cloth towel so there is always a layer between you and the ice itself.
- Applying ice too often, directly on the skin, or using it too long can damage the tissues and even result in frostbite!
- Heat should be applied in 30 minute intervals.
- Using a heating pad is okay, but use caution to not fall asleep or leave it on for too long. A warm, wet towel is the preferred method of applying heat.
- Heat is not recommended for people with Diabetes or Peripheral Vascular Disease amongst others.
So that’s the overall basics of how to use a massage gun. For their intended purpose, they work wonders! But, like anything, it’s important to use discretion and operate them responsibly.
*Disclaimer: We are not your medical provider and this information is for educational purposes only. You should always use good common sense and listen to your body. Increased pain with continued use is a major red flag. Always consult with your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.