By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove
If you’ve been browsing lists of the top holiday gifts to give this season, you’ve no doubt noticed hand-held massage guns top the list. A massage gun is a great tool you can use at home to give a little extra care to your soft tissue, but it’s important to know the best ways to use these devices to experience relief and avoid injury.
Massage guns have many different names, but most offer a form of vibration or percussion therapy that help promote blood flow, circulation and lymph drainage. This type of therapy allows more oxygen and nutrients into muscles, aiding in the tissue recovery process. Some people find they recover faster from workouts and experience less discomfort from exercise after applying percussion or vibration to stressed soft tissue areas.
Many people report improved range of motion after using massage devices. When muscles become shortened for long periods of time, they place additional stress on joints. This stress decreases range of motion and flexibility, putting you at risk for injury. Applying pressure on muscles after using them causes them to become more relaxed and less likely to place strain on surrounding joints and tissues. Some research shows applying pressure, such as massage, vibration or percussive therapy, to a muscle while actively stretching it could increase the range of motion of that muscle by 30-50% in just 30 seconds.
Generally speaking, at-home massage devices are safe and low risk, but be sure to follow these tips:
- Use your massage tool on your hips, legs, feet, back and arms but AVOID your neck, spine and other bony areas. If the device comes in contact with the spine, or directly onto a bone, it can be dangerous and potentially cause injury.
- Use your massage device in moderation. Overuse can aggravate tissues in the body and potentially lead to injury, or leave you suffering with unnecessary pain.
- Limit sessions to no longer than 2 to 3 minutes at a time. Longer sessions using soft tissue devices are not always better. Some areas can tolerate higher amounts of intensity and longer durations then others. Small areas like your forearms (great for those who work with their hands all day) will benefit from a couple minutes of therapy compared to large muscle groups like your hips and thighs, which may be able to tolerate up to 5-10 minutes.
- Explore different muscle groups. One of my favorite areas to target is the bottom of my feet after a long day of standing at the office.
- Healthy tissue does not hurt when you press on it. If you are experiencing tenderness when applying the tool to the skin, that area could benefit from therapy, just be aware of your pain tolerance. Any sore or tender area is a cue to do less.
- Use the adjustable speeds and different massage head attachments to your advantage. If the surface area is small and sensitive, then choose a lower setting and work your way up to a higher speed and intensity.
- When just beginning to use your device, test an area first, using a low intensity for short duration and then monitor your body’s reaction over the next day or two. If you notice any discoloration in your skin, such as the skin becoming red immediately after or any bruising long term, shorten your session and intensity.
- Finally, if you feel any numbness, tingling, sharp pain, or a sensation of pins and needles, stop immediately. These are signs the massage gun may not be right for you or that particular area.
Although at-home massage devices offer a high level of convenience, keep in mind these devices should not replace professional massage therapy. Licensed massage therapists have extensive training that allows them to deliver more significant results than what you can achieve with an at-home device. Professional massage therapy can be a powerful tool in your healthcare regimen, as it elongates and relaxes muscles, allows you to hold your chiropractic adjustments longer and helps the body to eliminate toxins.
Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.