What does a percussion massager (aka massage gun) actually do?
This is probably the most common question we are asked when speaking to dancers and athletes about the Dance Buddy massager. Most of the people we speak with have seen a massage gun at the mall, or at least have seen an advertisement for one on their social media. However, it much less well known what a percussion massager does, what the benefits are, and how it compares to getting a classic massage by hand. In short, many people wonder if massage guns actually work, or are they just another fitness fad.
When comparing a percussion massage to a classic massage by hand the most tangible benefit is convenience and time. Almost nobody has the time (or money) to visit a massage therapist before and after every workout. However, carrying a portable massager with you and taking just a few minutes before and after a rehearsal is something many dancers are able to do with consistency... which brings us to our next major comparison.
Consistency provides another major benefit over other massage methods. Many of us performers are not able to make time for preventative care, so we don't visit a therapist, chiropractor, or doctor until something is already hurting and preventing us from performing. Having a portable massager conveniently in your dance bag allows us to prevent pain and injury before it even starts.
Technique and skill are where professional massage therapists and trained experts are truly going to outshine any massage gun. Dance Buddy provides some YouTube videos on how to get the most out of your new massage gun, but despite what social media may have us think, watching a few videos is not going to replace years of experience and training on how to treat and prevent muscle injuries. Most massage guns are designed to be used by yourself, or with a friend. Unless you're lucky enough to have a trained professional by your side it is unlikely they are going to match the talent level or a true expert.
Primary Benefits of Percussion Massage
These next few paragraphs are going to provide some specifics and details on the benefits you will see with regular use of a massage gun, aside from it just feels really good.
Relieving and Preventing Aches and Pains
Every dancer and athlete is familiar with the common aches and pains from pushing your body to its limit on a consistent basis. The arches of your feet, your calf muscles, your hamstrings, lower back... the list goes on and on. Sometimes the aches may not come for a day or two, but sure enough our body lets us know had a hard workout.
Percussion massagers are truly outstanding for relieving and preventing these aches, pains, and general soreness in our muscles, especially when used on a regular basis. The vibrations from the massage gun increases blood flow and oxygen to your muscles. This increased circulation assists with carrying away lactic acid and loosens up tight areas allowing your muscles to properly recover.
How does a percussion massager reduce aches and pains?
- Increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles
- Carries away lactic acid
- Loosens tight areas which are preventing good circulation
If you have been dancing for very long it is highly likely you have had an injury or two while performing your favorite move. Many injuries are a result of not properly warming up before performing. Some of these are cramps, strains and sprains, and even torn or pulled muscles.
Two common causes of these injuries are muscle fatigue and not being properly warmed up before strenuous physical activity. Percussion massagers are excellent tools for both of these things. The vibrations from the massager will stimulate blood flow to the muscles, and loosen them up and get the oxygen needed perform full out. Additionally, using the massager both before and after exercise reduces the build up of tight areas and lactic acid from regular exercise, further reducing the chance of muscle fatigue and injury.
How does a percussion massager decrease the risk of injury?
- Stimulates circulation to muscles
- Increases oxygen to muscles
- Carries away lactic acid
- Loosens tight areas and knots in muscles
Disclaimer: There is no way to prevent all injuries or take all risk away when dancing and performing.
Quicker Recovery Time
The use of a massage gun will reduce the amount of time needed for your muscles to recover so you can get back out on the floor. This is especially beneficial when you are at a show and need to recover and stay warm between performances. Recovery time is not just about being able to quickly recover after going full out so you can get back out on the floor a few minutes later, but also recovering from one day to the next. A percussion massager will help with both of these types of muscle recovery.
To decrease the time needed for your muscles to properly recover the massager stimulates circulation and increases the flow of oxygen to your muscles. The vibrations will also loosen up tight areas, further improving the ability for blood and oxygen to reach your muscles. Additionally, this improves the ability for lactic acid to be cleared from your muscles, reducing soreness. This reduces the time needed for your muscles to recover and keeps you performing at your best.
How does a percussion massager reduce recovery time?
- Stimulates circulation and increases flow of oxygen to muscles
- Loosens tight muscles
- Clears lactic acid
Improve Flexibility and Range of Motion
As dancers we are always looking for ways to improve our flexibility. Regular use of a massage gun will reduce soreness in your joints and muscles, as well as remove knots and tight areas within your muscles, both of which decrease flexibility. The vibrations of the massager will reduce inflammation by loosening up areas allowing better circulation to carry away fluids. This reduced inflammation will give your body better range of motion.
How does a percussion massager improve flexibility and range of motion?
- Reduced inflammation around joints
- Keeps muscles loose and removes tightness
- Reduces soreness in muscles
General Cautions When Using Massage Guns
Knowing the benefits of massage guns is great, but it is also important to note when and how not to use a massage gun.
- Do not play doctor! If you have an existing injury, or are feeling an abnormal amount of pain consult your doctor before using any massage gun.
- Don't over-massage your muscles. Over-massaging a muscle can decrease the benefits and do more harm than good. A couple short 3-5 minute sessions with the massager will yield better results than one long session.
- Good hurt vs bad hurt. Often, we feel a "good pain" when massaging out a tight area. However, if you feel and excessive pain, or a pain that makes you pull away from the massager you should lighten the pressure or avoid the area.
- Stay away from your throat. Never use a massage gun around the front of your neck and near your throat. This can be very dangerous.
Sciencey stuff! So you know we are not just making things up.
Vibration therapy and DOMS:
Vibration stimulation and muscle damage:
Common sports injuries:
Benefits of warm ups:
Percussion massage and Range of Motion: