athletic massage

What Is Percussion Therapy and How Does It Work?

What Is Percussion Therapy and How Does It Work?

Have you ever trained way too hard at the gym, only to wonder whether or not percussion therapy could help soothe your sore muscles? You’re certainly not alone.

If you’re like many people, you’ve likely come across percussion therapy tools (or massage guns) in your local department store. These tools can seem appealing — especially if you experience frequent aches and pains. But what is percussion therapy, and how does it work?

Below, learn what exactly percussion therapy is, how it works, and how to know whether it’s right for you.

What Is Percussion Therapy?

Put simply, percussion (or percussive) therapy is a high-powered form of massage that uses rapid-striking motions to work into tight muscles and other soft tissue. The main tools that use this type of therapy are called massage guns. 

Athletes, physical therapists, and casual users alike often reach for devices like these. Some people love them for the health benefits, but others use them just because they feel good.

Many people report that percussion massage guns can help with sore, achy muscles and promote overall health. But how does it all work?

How Does Percussive Therapy Work?

Here’s a general breakdown of how percussion therapy can offer its feel-good benefits:

  • When a massage gun (or another percussion massage tool) pummels your muscles, it boosts blood flow and kneads deeply into soft tissue. 
  • This can help with soreness, muscle activation before exercise, and a general sense of well-being.

What’s more, you can personalize your session by changing which type of head you attach to your device. Typically, you can choose from round, forked, or bullet heads — but certain brands come with even more options to pick from.

Percussion Therapy Vs. Regular Massage 

What makes percussion therapy different than plain old massage?

Put simply, a percussion massage tool uses levels of intensity and power that go beyond typical home massage units (or a therapist’s hands.) 

A good old-fashioned massage can work wonders for your muscles. But percussion therapy works the top layer of soft tissue and deeper muscle fibers through its intense, repetitive bursts.

Why Use Percussion Therapy?

If you love to work out, you might be looking for ways to combat that after-gym achiness. And even if you’re a non-athlete, you might be on the lookout for holistic ways to soothe your body.

In any case, percussion therapy is perfect for nearly anyone who could use on-the-go relief. Here are three of its most popular uses:

Target Tense Muscles for Better Range of Motion

Percussion therapy tools can dig deep into the fibers that are holding onto stress and tension. And this can help with range of motion (ROM), especially when you work on the muscles around the joints. This is one reason these tools are so popular among athletes who want to maximize their warm-ups.

The research on percussion therapy and ROM is still in its early phases, but it has promising results so far. For instance, one small 2020 study found that a handheld massage device could improve the range of motion in the calf muscle. 

Healthy Recovery

After a grueling workout, percussion therapy can help your body rest and heal. That’s because it can boost blood flow to your muscles right after exercise, which is important in recovery.

Scientists are still trying to understand percussion therapy’s post-workout benefits. But personal stories and small studies show that many types of massage may help with exercise recovery. 

For example, one 2014 study found that vibration therapy and massage could help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise.

Activate Muscles for Warm-Up 

Percussion therapy can help you fire up your muscles, whether you want to focus on your biceps before curls or your calves before a run. Using it as a warm-up tool can improve circulation and may even lower the chances of damage during training. 

In one small 2021 study, researchers looked at whether or not using a percussion massager between bench press sets could help with performance. The results showed that the volunteers were able to do more reps in total when they used massage guns during their breaks. 

Who Should Use Percussion Therapy Massage Tools?

Percussion therapy has a wide range of uses. But those who can benefit most from it mainly fall into two categories:

  • Athletes who want to find new ways to boost warm-ups and recovery. Percussion massagers are great for recovery, flexibility, and warming up before a workout.
  • Anyone who wants to reap therapeutic benefits. Whether you need physical relief or just want to relax, percussion therapy could help. It can ease specific muscle issues, promote healthy circulation, and offer whole-body stress relief.

Tips for Getting Started with Percussion Therapy

Perhaps you’ve had a physical therapist or chiropractor use a percussive massage gun in your session, and now you’re ready to try it on your own terms. Or maybe your athletic friends have recommended you pick one up. 

In any case, you can start percussion therapy in your own home by using massage guns such as the Accuvibe Mini or Accuvibe Micro.

Here are some general tips for getting started:

  • Start on a low and slow setting and increase as needed.
  • Avoid bony areas.
  • Use it for 30 seconds to two minutes per area, sweeping over the muscles most in need.

Side note: For more in-depth information on ways to use a percussion massager, benefits, safety, and step-by-step instructions, be sure to check out this complete guide.

The Bottom Line

So, what is percussion therapy, and how does it work? Overall, it's a powerful type of massage that has caused a stir in the fitness world recently. It helps athletes and casual users alike address soreness, pain, and recovery by sending short, rapid bursts to the muscles.

Many people — especially those who are active — swear by this therapy. But because it offers both therapeutic and athletic benefits, you don’t have to be a sports player to enjoy it. Percussion therapy can help you feel better whether you work at a desk all day, casually work out, or are training for a marathon.

Ready to get started with restorative massage on the go? Check out MedMassager’s Accuvibe Mini and Accuvibe Micro massage guns today.

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