Ok, so you’ve been told how wonderful massage guns are and all of the fantastic benefits they can provide, from improved blood circulation to enhanced recovery after exercise, plus they just feel really good.
But, are they safe, could they be causing more harm than good, and are they worth the money?
Today, I’m going to be answering the question “are massage guns safe” so you have a complete understanding of the pros and cons before you invest in one.
Can massage guns be harmful?
- Skin conditions caused or worsened by massage gun usage
- Can massage guns make you sore?
- Are massage guns good for sore muscles?
- How can you use a massage gun safely?
- Are massage guns worth the money?
Skin conditions caused or worsened by massage gun usage
The reason you’ve chosen to find out about this is almost certainly because after using a massage gun, you’ve had some sort of skin irritation or painful experience.
The good news is that there are usually pretty simple explanations as to why these skin conditions occur after using a massage gun.
Here are some of the most common we associated with massage gun use:
- Bruising and tenderness
- Redness and inflammation
- Overstretched skin
This doesn’t make for a great sales pitch for muscle guns, but very few people actually suffer from issues caused by them.
The majority of the time it can be put down to simple overuse or misunderstanding of how to use the product.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the conditions they can cause, and why they can cause them.
What are hives?
“Hives” is an itchy rash that occurs on the skin, that appears as raised red blotches.
The condition usually heals in time and needs no further treatment, but in severe cases, it may require further medical assistance.
How do massage guns cause hives?
In the majority of cases, it won’t be the massage gun itself that causes a breakout of hives.
It’s common to use essential oils when using a massage gun, so it’s more probable that you have had a reaction to the oil itself, rather than the action of the massage gun itself.
In rare cases, however, an increased blood flow to the area being massaged can stimulate hormone release which can cause an inflammatory response to the area.
This would create feelings of heat, itching, and redness, which are the main symptoms of hives.
Why does my skin itch after using a massage gun?
Similar to the above, it’s coming for people to have a light inflammatory response to percussion massage.
In some cases, the area by not break out into hives, but, instead, may only present itself as an itchy area of skin where the massaging took place.
Another cause of an itchy sensation on the skin after a massage is tiny muscle spasms that are caused by high levels of vibration (the exact purpose of a percussion massage gun).
The spasm can affect the surrounding nerves which In turn, cause an itching sensation to the skin above.
In rare cases, vibratory urticaria can be the culprit that’s causing your skin to itch after using a massage gun. These are also called (vibratory hives).
For some people, a constant motion (like running) or rubbing against the skin can cause the same histamine response in the body we described above.
The release of this hormone initiates an inflammatory response to the area being massaged, which causes itching. In this case, simple over-the-counter antihistamines can reduce itching and redness.
Bruising and tenderness
It’s very common for people to overdo massage gun use. An inexperienced user might feel they need to press down hard on the massage gun or to use it for longer periods of time than recommended in order to get “better” results.
This is completely unnecessary, as gently pressing the massager against the skin or clothing is more than sufficient to reap the benefits.
Overuse or pressing down hard into the muscle can cause bruising and tenderness.
If this has occurred, it’s best to rest the area to let it heal completely before trying to massage it again, as further use will only increase the bruising and healing time.
Ironically, overuse of a massage gun can make the appearance of your skin worse, rather than improving its tone and tightness.
If used correctly, a massage gun can increase the blood flow to the area of the skin you want to treat, which can help certain skin conditions. But, when overused, the constant stretching back and forth of the skin can damage the collagen (a protein), which is what gives your skin its stretchy nature.
Over time, constantly damaging the collagen of the skin will cause it to become looser, which in turn can cause wrinkles and dimples.
Massage gun on skin or clothes?
Taking everything we have discussed so far into account, should you use a massage gun directly on your skin, or should you wear clothes to protect yourself?
The answer is simple, if you find you’re getting rashes from using a massage gun, it may be worthwhile trying it through clothing to see if that provides any relief. Although the majority of people will be fine to use them on bare skin.
You do not need to worry about the massage being less effective through clothing, as the vibrations will pass through into the skin just as easily. If you’re looking for a truly deep muscle tissue massage, thick clothing may dampen the effects slightly, but if the goal is to treat skin conditions, it’s perfectly fine to wear clothing.
Are massage guns safe to use?
As a general rule, massage guns are safe if you use the product correctly. There is no need to press down hard against the skin when using, and they should not be used more frequently or for longer than the manufacturer intended. Overuse can cause redness, itching, and localized tenderness.
Ok, so after speaking about the negative effects and conditions that a massage gun can cause, you might start thinking they aren’t such a good idea.
The truth is that, in the majority of cases, people use massage guns on a regular basis with little to no discomfort or issue at all.
If you have read the above information, you will see that the main reasons that people have medical issues after using them come down to either, overuse, incorrect use, or genetic predisposition to skin irritation.
This means that in all likelihood, you should be fine to pick up a massage gun and start using one, as long as you don’t get too excited and start using it for an hour each day, that’s a sure-fire way to end up injuring yourself!
Can massage guns make you sore?
Absolutely, overuse or incorrect use of a massage gun can certainly make areas of your body feel sore or tender.
A gentle massage for only a few minutes without pressing down hard into the muscle should cause little to no bruising or tenderness, however, should you decide to take the “more is better” approach, you may find the next day the muscle has become tender and painful to the touch.
Overusing a massage gun can easily bruise the muscle under the skin, which could remain painful for several days to even a week. It’s not surprising considering the action of a massage gun is to vibrate against the muscle at high speeds if you were to press into your thigh with your forefinger several hundred to even a thousand times, you wouldn’t be shocked if you were bruised the next day, it’s sort of similar.
It’s perfectly normal for your body to feel sore after an intense workout, if you’re working the muscles hard enough, you will create tiny tears in the fibers which need to heal. A massage session does not warrant the same degree of soreness at all.
Are massage guns good for sore muscles?
This brings us to our next question if you already have sore muscles after a workout, is it a good idea to use a massage gun to help them heal?
The answer is no, if a muscle is already sore, then using a massage gun will only further inflame and irritate the area, making it feel worse rather than better.
If there is soreness purely as a result of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), then no real damage will be caused to the area by using a massage gun (other than the potential issues outlined above), but it will certainly not help in any considerable way, it could also extend the amount of time it takes to recover from post-exercise soreness.
Instead, it is far more effective to use a massage gun on the areas that have been worked the hardest during a workout shortly after it is complete. This would then help to increase blood flow to the area, which has been shown to speed up recovery time and potentially lessen the pain associated with weight lifting.
Much as most people won’t find an issue with using a massage gun (or muscle gun as they’re sometimes called), there are a few specific circumstances where you should absolutely avoid using one.
If you have any kind of recent injury, massaging the area (especially with a gun) is likely to cause more aggravation to the area and impede the healing process.
Increasing blood flow to an injured area is the body’s own way of starting the healing process, it does not need any outside assistance, so if you’re injured, let it rest, heal, and when you’re sure you are fully recovered, then, you can start to use your massage gun again, but certainly not before this point.
Here is a shortlist of conditions where you should absolutely not be using a muscle gun.
- Broken skin
- Burns (sunburn etc)
- Pulled muscles (strains)
- Ligament damage (sprains)
Broken skin tissue needs time to heal on its own, without interruption or interference. Massaging this area may seem like a good idea, but you are far more likely to further damage the area and increase the healing time.
Burns (sunburn etc)
Unlike broken skin, burns need cooling, pain medication, moisturization, water, and plenty of time to heal. In more extreme cases, they may also require further medical attention.
In no way would a massage gun be beneficial to this condition, and so you should not even consider trying to use one to speed up the healing.
Pulled muscles (strains)
The procedure to treat a strained muscle (or a pulled muscle), is to apply the “R.I.C.E”, principal, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Over-the-counter pain medications may be used to help with easing the pain caused by the strain, and again, of course, the final piece of the puzzle is to rest the area and give it plenty of time to heal.
Massaging a sprained muscle is likely to cause even greater damage to the fibers, only adding to your healing time and increasing the pain you’re feeling.
Ligament damage is usually a more serious condition than a muscular strain, as ligaments receive less blood flow than muscles. This slows down the speed at which they can heal. They are also frequently under tension as they connect muscle to bone, so even slight movements pull on the ligament and can require further time to heal.
Strong vibrations traveling through the skin, muscle, and ligaments from a percussion massager would cause further damage and inflammation to the area, which in this circumstance would cause an injury that would already have a considerable healing time, to become substantially longer.
As you can see from the list above, any injury to the skin, muscle, ligament, or bone should never be treated with percussion massage guns, they will only make the situation more painful and increase recovery time. Give any type of injury the time it needs to heal before you consider using a muscle gun on the area.
How can you use a massage gun safely?
Massage guns in themselves are not dangerous if you use them correctly, and as long as the sessions are not excessively long (the booklet that comes with the device should make it clear how long each session should last, but it’s usually around 2 to 3 minutes on each area).
There are certain areas of the body you should steer clear of, such as bony areas, the face or head, or any injury sites. It’s also beneficial to make sure the area you intend to massage is slightly warmed before you begin and can also benefit from having been stretched a little too.
Of course, you should never stretch a cold muscle, so it’s good to use dynamic stretches such as lunges (if for example, you are going to massage the quads) that stretch the muscles whilst warming them up.
The massage gun will do all the work for you, therefore there is no need to press down hard into the muscle that you are working on, this is more likely to cause damage than to improve the massage.
Be careful when using massage gun attachments!
Many of the attachments you’ll find sold with massage guns have thin points to them, for example forks, bullets, balls and padded attachements.
Thinner and more pointed attachments such as forks are included as they are percieved as being able to pinpoint the massage points to toruble areas. The trouble with this, si that it places a great deal of pressure on the area it is applied to. Whilst this may be its intention, it can actually cause more harm than good.
Pinpoint masage such as this is more likely to cause bruising and potentially even damage to the underlying muscle tissue. Instead, I would advise to use flatter or cushioned (padded) attachements, as they are less likely to cause this kind of injury.
Flat and padded attachments will give you just as mcuh benefit, but with much less risk of injury.
Are massage guns worth the money?
For certain people, I would say massage guns can be very beneficial and worth the money, for others I would say almost certainly not.
For the average gym-goer just looking to lose weight and keep in shape, there really is no need to spend the money required for a massage gun. You really wouldn’t be working so hard that unless you had a massage afterward you would be in agony the next day.
There are plenty of other options you have to gently stretch and massage areas you’ve worked, such as foam rollers, or for a deeper massage, a tennis ball. It really doesn’t need to be an elaborate device.
However, if you are a serious sports person, or a person who has a job that involves a lot of manual labor that causes muscle soreness on a regular basis, then a massage gun could be just what you need.
In terms of ease of use and speed of relief, a massage gun would be highly useful and worth the muscle if you are using it on a regular or even daily basis if your job is so intense that it requires it.
I hope this article has answered the question “are massage guns safe?”.
As you’ve seen, in most cases, any medical issues will be minor and will usually heal themselves after a few days, however, caution is still always advised and of course, it’s always worthwhile speaking to a medical professional if you are unsure about using one of these devices first.
The main takeaway from this article should be that most people will be able to use a massage gun safely as long as the device is used in the correct manner for which it is intended. People with very active jobs will also benefit more from owning a massage gun than casual gym goers who can, in all honestly, use foam rollers or tennis balls for massage.
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
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