The Supposed Benefits Of A Massage Gun Assessed By An Expert
The internet says they can do it all, from relieving DOMS to burning body fat, but what are the real benefits of a massage gun? We asked a performance therapist for their view
You may already be familiar with massage guns. Maybe you’ve seen one particular brand’s tie-ins with Premier League football teams, or your favourite fitness influencer use them. Maybe you’ve seen just how much they cost and wondered if the claimed benefits are too good to be true.
Anecdotally we know they feel good – you just need to peruse our best massage guns round-up and click through to read the reviews to see our tester has found using them beneficial. However, as we discovered when we checked in with experts for our first Theragun review (originally published in 2020), there’s not much in the way of peer-reviewed scientific research.
So we thought it was high time to ask a professional with hands-on experience for their take on whether the benefits of a massage gun that we’ve read about are real. We spoke to Tim Kayode, co-founder of Myoset, to separate fact from fiction.
Massage guns break up scar tissue – True
You may have heard that one of the benefits of a massage gun is that they break up scar tissue that might have formed after an injury or even surgery.
Essentially, messages guns are a type of percussive therapy, in that the gun goes in and out, fast. This means the pressure reaches deep into the tissues so scar tissue can be broken up.
“Scar tissue build-up causes pain,” Kayode says. “A massage gun will help break up adhesions and tightness and help ease the long-term build-up of scar tissue. It can also help reduce scar tissue build-up.”
Although Kayode is confident that that massage guns can break up scar tissue, he says it’s up for debate whether massage guns are better than an actual massage.
“An actual massage is more effective,” says Kayode, “because a trained practitioner is able to identify knots and/or tight areas and deliver the best techniques to release the knot in an efficient manner. Also, the heat generated from a physical massage is like no other; this is great for warming the muscles up, which in turn speeds up the healing process while also boosting blood flow.”
Massage guns help relieve DOMS – True
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can kick in anything up to 72 hours after a workout. Finding a way to help reduce DOMS can be a welcome relief.
“Massage guns absolutely help reduce DOMS,” says Kayode. “It works because massage guns are great for improving blood flow in the muscle. Blood contains oxygen and nutrients that are a great source of energy for muscles and are crucial for the repair of damaged muscle fibres.
“Use a massage gun shortly after a tough training session to prevent the onset of DOMS or at least reduce its severity.”
Massage guns can replace stretching – False
You may have heard that one of the benefits of a massage gun is that it can replace stretching, which is best done before and after every workout. Kayode disagrees.
“While stretching and massage guns increase blood flow and boost circulation around the body they work in different ways. I believe they work well together when used correctly.”
He says using a massage gun before a workout doesn’t give your body the dynamic movements it needs to minimise the risk of injury. Dynamic movements and stretches are those that allow joints to go through a full range of motion, such as leg swings, arm circles and lunge rotations.
Kayode says that the most effective solution would be to go for dynamic stretches before a workout, and then use the massage gun to target specific tight areas to ensure you’re properly warmed up.
Massage guns can break up and burn off body fat – False
“Just because a massage gun can break down scar tissue and loosen muscles does not mean it can assist in burning body fat,” says Kayode.
“I’ve never heard of a massage gun being used as a weight loss tool and don’t know scientifically how this would even work.”
Kayode does add that a massage gun can boost circulation in a specific area but this doesn’t necessarily mean fat loss.
Ultimately, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, and being able to lose body fat requires more effort than just a massage gun – namely a healthy diet, consistent exercise and a calorie deficit.
Massage guns can improve sleep – It depends
“This is a tricky one as there hasn’t been much research on this,” says Kayode. However, he says, research has been done that indicates the more relaxed you are before bed, the better your quality of sleep.
There’s even research that found that a massage before bed helped critically ill patients to sleep better.
“People have turned to things such as meditation, yoga and massages to help with their sleep quality,” says Kayode. “I think in this case, if you find your massage gun relaxing, why wouldn’t it help improve sleep quality?”
On the flip side, if you find that a pummelling from a massage gun is far from relaxing, then give it a miss before bed.
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Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.