Do Massage Guns Really Live Up To The Hype?

Massage guns have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years — and for good reason. Massage guns are portable, handheld devices that can help relax your muscles and promote good blood circulation through a series of targeted vibrations (via Everyday Health). Vaguely resembling a power drill, massage guns use percussion therapy to give your body a deep tissue massage by vibrating at a high frequency and low amplitude of movement. These rhythmic vibrations essentially pummel your muscles and soft tissue with rapid pulses, relieving soreness and muscle tension.

"You can use a massage gun whenever you're looking to relieve some muscle tension, but it may be especially beneficial to use after a workout to promote recovery with reduced muscle soreness," Leada Malek, a sports physical therapist in San Francisco, told Everyday Health. "Massage can reduce tension in muscles and impact flexibility, reducing muscle stiffness, increasing blood flow, and decreasing muscle soreness."

Does percussion therapy actually work?

Massage guns work just as well at relieving soreness and tension as other portable massagers, including foam rollers and vibrating plates, both of which use vibration therapy — a massage technique that is fairly similar to percussion therapy (via Greatist). Unlike vibration therapy, however, percussion therapy uses more pressure to go deeper into your body, which can help increase blood flow, improve your range of motion in your arms and legs, and prevent delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the day after an intense workout.

If you're a runner or athlete, however, massage guns and percussion therapy should not be used to replace professional sports massages and physical therapy (via Runner's World). If anything, percussion therapy should be used alongside or in addition to more traditional forms of physical therapy. "I would never say replace. It's an additional resource for athletes to have," Dr. Jason Wersland, a chiropractor and one of the pioneers of percussion therapy, told Runner's World. "If you have muscular aches and pains, you can use a massage gun and if you follow the right protocols, you can definitely can help yourself, but there are some areas of the body where sometimes having a massage therapist or a physio with their different modalities can be better for speeding the healing."