7 Things You Should Stop Doing With Your Percussion Massager – Triathlete

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From race shows to physical therapy offices, sports training tables and even drugstore shelves, percussive massagers seem to be popping up everywhere these days. With a wide range of styles, sizes, settings, and price points to choose from, it can be confusing to navigate the ins and outs of these massage guns, how they work, and when and why they should be used. However, when used properly, percussive massagers are valuable tools for pre-workout and post-workout routines.

What are percussion massagers?

Percussive massagers (or more commonly, percussion or massage guns) are handheld devices with an oscillating end that applies rapid, jackhammer-like pressure pulses to muscles. Percussion guns essentially offer a form of self-massage, or myofascial release, that is more targeted and deeper than foam rollers or vibration plates. The characteristics of percussion weapons include:

  • Torque, which is a lot of pressure, is applied in pounds
  • Frequency, ie how many percussions occur per second or minute, and
  • Amplitude, that is the depth of tissue that percussive treatment can reach.

Percussion pistols can come with a variety of attachments (or “heads”) aimed at different body parts and user comfort levels. The science behind the treatment is consistent across brands, but different price points can come with differences in overall quality, fit (including head shapes and treatment frequencies), and ease of use, including longevity. Percussion guns are commonly incorporated into warm-up routines, post-exercise recovery, and soft tissue treatments.

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How do impact massagers work?

Percussive massagers are suggested to relax and improve tight muscles myofascial mobilityincrease freedom of movementReduce and improve pain and muscle soreness blood and lymph flow, supporting both pre-workout readiness and post-workout recovery. Although specific research on percussion guns is still in its infancy, the mechanisms of action are believed to be similar to those of vibration and massage therapies, with a combination of mechanical and neuromuscular effects. Impact weapons aim to attack both muscle and fascia. Fascia is one fibrous network of the connective tissue that envelops the soft tissues of the body and plays a role in power transmission and reactivity. Adhesion or scarring in fascia results in a loss of normal tissue “gliding and gliding”, decreased mobility and range of motion, soft tissue “knots”, pain, dysfunction and possible injury. Myofascial release aims to counteract this by targeting restricted areas, traditionally through manual techniques, and restoring normal movement. Percussive massagers are considered a form of myofascial relaxation without the need for a therapist.

Similar some massage techniques and vibration therapy, from a neuromuscular perspective, it is also believed that percussion guns alter spinal reflex activity without affecting muscle strength, allowing greater range of motion without loss of performance. This was seen in a case to learn ankle movement and muscle strength after several minutes of application over the calf muscles. While some research suggests that vibration therapy may increase muscle activation when used prior to exercise, more research is needed to determine if this applies to percussion guns.

Post exercise, percussion therapy can Reduce muscle soreness with delayed onset, pain and perceptions of muscle stiffness. Percussion guns may even have an advantage over other therapies, it has been found Improve muscle recovery values stronger than foam rolling and vibration and in less time (two minutes versus 15 minutes) than manual therapy. Improved local circulation and lymphatic drainage also help eliminate waste products, resulting in faster recovery and happier legs.

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What are percussion massagers used for?

It follows that percussion guns are useful tools both before and after training, as well as in rehabilitation situations. Because they can improve mobility and range of motion without negatively impacting muscle strength, percussion guns are a useful addition to a dynamic warm-up routine and help the body engage in fluid movement faster. Athletes attempting to treat chronically tight, restricted areas should use them for myofascial relief and neuromuscular benefits prior to targeted rehabilitation or mobility work to maximize benefits. Take a tight calf, for example, breaking soft-tissue adhesions with a punch gun before stretching is akin to untying the knot on a rope before pulling on the ends. Post-workout, the proven benefits of percussive therapy for soreness and pain make them a useful addition to any recovery routine – and let’s face it, they just feel good on tired muscles, so get banging! With some impunity, of course. Here’s what you need to know about using your new massage gun.

The 6 Don’ts When Using Your Percussion Massage Gun

Do not use for too long.

The magic numbers to remember: no more than 2 minutes per muscle group pre-workout and 2-5 minutes post-workout. While research has yet to determine an “ideal” amount of time to use percussion massagers, clinical consensus agrees that this is an adequate (but not excessive) amount of time to maximize benefits. We recommend setting a timer on your phone to ensure you stay within the allotted time frame.

No rush.

Slowly cover the entire muscle in a relaxed state, paying special attention to tight or tender areas. Different manufacturers have different recommendations on how to move percussive massagers across different muscle groups (sideways, up and down) before and after a workout, so refer to websites or apps for details. However, after a workout, a slow, up-and-down motion with pauses over particularly tight areas is typically recommended.

Do not use directly over bony prominences, the front of the neck or abdomen, or acute injuries.

Percussion guns work on soft, contractile tissue. Application over bones, tender areas, vital organs, or areas that are already inflamed is not only ineffective but also painful. So stay away from that kneecap and avoid fresh road rash at all costs.

Do not use the same head attachment for each treatment area.

Choose a head attachment that is appropriate for the treatment area and your comfort. Different manufacturers may suggest specific attachments for different areas of the body depending on muscle size and characteristics. However, ultimately use your judgment and choose a head that is comfortable.

Don’t assume high frequency is better.

Use a comfortable frequency and pressure. Again, this is an area that needs further research to optimize, but bludgeoning weapons are manufactured to be within therapeutic frequency ranges across their velocities, so use what feels best.

Do not exaggerate.

Remember that exercise causes muscle damage. We want our recovery methods to promote recovery and not further damage muscles. It doesn’t help to pound on a sore quad with full force. In the extreme case report, a cyclist developed an acute episode of rhabdomyolysis after prolonged use of a handgun. Very rarely does excess of anything help in a triathlon, and this is one of them – so don’t smash your calves for an hour.

Don’t forget the rest of your recovery log.

Using a massage gun should be part of your recovery routine, but it shouldn’t be your only recovery method. Don’t forget to pay attention to the basics such as: nutritionsleep and manage stress. And every once in a while, swap out the massage gun for a human massage — it’s a great addition to your percussion massage routine.

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