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Percussion Massage Therapy

For centuries,massage therapy has been one of the most effective natural ways to relieve pain and recover from injuries. In this sense, percussion therapy is one of the most widely used due to the enormous potential it has to release tension and stimulate blood circulation in muscles and joints.

Today you will learn in detail what percussion massage is and how it can help you both to improve your sports performance by making your muscles more resistant to fatigue, as well as to recover from any soft tissue injury in record time.

What is percussion massage and what is it for?

What is percussion massage and what is it for?

Vibration or percussion massages are precise, rhythmic and energetic strokes on the body to achieve relief from some annoying symptoms when muscle fibers are tightened, often by a high workload on them and that has left trigger points in the muscle fibers.

This technique has been known for hundreds of years and is applied with the back of the hands. Today, professional physical therapists often use percussion massage guns that offer more effective and continuous movements. Some of the benefits include relieving stress, preventing injuries and improving the circulatory system.

Although this is a product for self-massage, it is recommended that people have a minimum degree of knowledge to know how to use the muscle massage guns and avoid damaging tissues and parts of the body such as joints that should not receive the constant blows.


What are the uses and benefits of percussion massage with a pistol?

  • Prevents and eliminates muscle adhesions: with the use of the massage gun the blood flow is stimulated to reach the healing processes that often leave additional tissues to form adhesions. When tissues are stimulated by massage, wound healing has a better result.
  • Hydrates the tissues: by favoring the metabolism and helping to get more nutrients into the body, the skin is kept hydrated and the internal tissues are better prepared to support the body's demands. Massages with the use of a percussion gun achieve these positive effects on the body.
  • Unload the peripheral nerves: percussion massages on the back will stimulate the functioning of the nervous system and will bring more oxygen to the brain, which processes all the stimulations that the nerves perceive. Massages should be gentle at first, with softer heads on the gun.
  • Stimulates muscle recovery: by massaging the muscle fibers, knots are eliminated and allows for better lymphatic function. Muscles have a better chance of coping with the overstretching that comes from sports activities and days when you put extra demands on your body at the office.
  • Reduces pain and sensitivity: massage guns have the ability to neutralize the signals that travel through the nerves to the head, have a better effect when injuries are mild and there is minor discomfort. In case of chronic pain, the gun should not be used because it can irritate the muscle fibers even more.
  • It balances the muscle tone: when we regulate the metabolism through a good massage, the muscle tone is reduced, which is actually the deformation of a fiber that is tense and causes mild pain. Massages allow continuous tensions to be reduced until the fiber relaxes again.
  • Increases proprioception: proprioception is considered a sense of the body, like sight and smell, works through the sensitive receptors that are in all tissues of the body and are strengthened when they are stimulated by percussion massages. The massage gun facilitates the transmission of information to the brain.
  • It changes the sympathetic or parasympathetic system: there are involuntary and mechanical reactions of the body that we help to perform better when you offer a massage with the massage gun. These are movements such as vasoconstriction, pupil dilation and bowel function, even massages stimulate tissue movements.
  • Increases circulation: when you use a soft head, you make the blood flow better through all areas of the body, thus avoiding inflammations in the lower extremities. Another benefit is that nutrients reach the muscle fibers better, making the body more resistant to possible injuries.
  • Reduces stress: after a stressful day, the massage gun will reduce the load of muscle tension and you can be ready for another day of work. It is a useful tool when people do not know how to control the mental tension that is generated in the day and is reflected in the body through ailments.
  • Eliminates catabolites: this is the final process of the metabolic system that consists of the elimination of chemicals that the body generates during physical activity and reuse the cells to stay healthy. Often, this process is not completed by the omission of a good sports cooling.
  • Immune function: there are substances such as cytokine that are necessary to strengthen the body's natural defense, massages with this percussion gun cause a greater production of them and improve the immune system against infections and bacteria as a prevention.

When and how to use percussion therapy with a muscle massage gun?

When and how to use percussion therapy with a muscle massage gun?

More than a fad, percussion guns and massages have many benefits when they are used correctly, this implies knowing the areas and times of use to avoid additional ailments due to a bad massage session.

When to use?

  • When there are muscular contractures and cramps with tolerable pain.
  • When the body does not go through an infectious and bacteriological process.
  • When people feel stiffness after a stressful day.
  • Before and after sports training.
  • It can be used on any soft part of the body, except eyes, genital areas, nose, ears and sensitive areas.
  • If the skin has open wounds, its use is also not recommended.
  • Avoid exposing bones and joints to this type of vibration.
  • Do not use immediately after fractures, sprains and dislocations.
  • There should be medical supervision for diseases such as osteoarthritis.
  • It is also not recommended for use in pregnant women, unless it is used for physical injuries to extremities.

How to apply?

  • Before training, the time should be shorter and soft ball-shaped heads are selected.
  • Stimulates with low power the muscle groups for approximately 30 seconds.
  • Make linear movements with the gun to massage all muscle fibers.
  • Avoid exerting too much pressure with your hands, making constant strokes.
  • The maximum recommended application time is 60 seconds per area, for example, on the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Do not exceed 30 seconds of use on the lower back and calves.
  • After training, use the gun on specific areas and with harder bullet-shaped heads.
  • Do not massage trigger points for more than 30 seconds.
  • Use moderate pressure, as excessive pressure with your hands will cause bruising.
  • With gentle strokes you reduce inflammation and mild pain.
  • Spend a little more than 45-60 seconds on the quadriceps and hamstrings, which are denser muscles.

What characteristics should a good percussion massage gun have?

Whenever you wish to purchase a muscle massage gun, you should take into account some basic and important features that each gun must have.

  • Amplitude of action: the massager must have an amplitude of 16mm in our muscle mass for the effects to be really effective. If the amplitude is less, there will be no massaging effect on the body, and if the amplitude is greater, it is as if you were hitting deep into the bones, which would leave additional injuries and bruises.
  • Frequency: a frequency of 2,400 RPM (Revolution per minute) has been shown to be the optimum for best effects. Each gun comes with adjustable frequencies for different parts of the body and times, you should always start from lower to higher frequency to adapt the tissues to the massage with the use of this type of guns.
  • Torque: you should use a massager designed to reach deeper into the deep tissues with a torque of 60 pounds of force. Remember that when the gun is at maximum power and with hard heads, the pressure with the hands should be gentle because you can cause more injury than relief to the muscles.
  • Types of heads: Each vibration massage product comes with a set of heads for different uses. There are one or two ball-shaped heads that are soft, ideal for starting massage sessions before warming up and when you want to relieve the stress of the day. There are also hard, pointed heads that relieve trigger points anywhere on the body. In areas such as the spine and collarbone, you have a "U" shaped head that adapts to these areas and prevents you from hitting the bones.
  • Grip: every good gun should have more than one way to grip with your hands to reach hard-to-reach areas such as behind the thighs, calf and lower back, although on the lower back it is better if someone else offers you the massage for a better pleasurable effect.
  • Weight: imagine if you had to hold a heavy massage gun, you would not be able to maneuver well with it. Therefore, the guns must be light, easy to use with one hand and must be resistant to the pressure that is performed, so you should not buy a gun that bends or deforms when you squeeze it hard.

F.A.Q: Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a percussion massage session last?

To achieve the desired effects, the massage should ideally last about 30 minutes, although sometimes it can be extended to 45 or 60 minutes as indicated by the physiotherapist in charge of conducting the session. Performing it in less time would be unfeasible because it would not achieve a proper stimulation of the muscles to achieve that relaxing and vasodilator effect to improve the oxygenation of its fibers.

What is recommended after a percussion massage?

It all depends on the reason for which the massage has been applied. Usually this is used as a method of relaxation and strengthening of muscle fibers, which would not imply any limitation after the application of the massage and the patient could continue with his normal routine.

On the contrary, if the massage is applied as a support in the rehabilitation process of a punctual or chronic muscular injury, the most advisable thing to do after the session is to keep absolute rest so that the muscular fibers remain in their relaxed state during the whole day. However, this massage technique is rarely used for injury recovery, although its use is not completely ruled out due to its multiple benefits.

Is a manual massage or massager gun more effective?

Both forms of application are viable and highly effective. However, the massage gun has become for some years now the preferred option both for athletes who apply self-massage, as well as for professionals who use it on their patients, since it allows a stimulation of the same quality as manual execution, but facilitating the work thanks to its functionalities. Manual massage is feasible if you have a person to perform the session, preferably a trained professional, since care must be taken in the force applied in each movement.


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  7. Chen, J., Zhang, F., Chen, H., & Pan, H. (2021). Rhabdomyolysis after the use of percussion massage gun: a case report. Physical Therapy101(1), pzaa199. https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/101/1/pzaa199/5958507
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