Are Massage Guns Safe? The Truth About Massage Gun Use

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.

Sound good?
Let’s go…

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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 surefire way to end up injuring yourself!

Skin conditions caused or worsened by massage gun usage

muscle gun

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:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • 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.


massage gun and hives

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, causes an itching sensation to the skin above.

Vibratory urticaria

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

massage gun bruised skin

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 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.

Overstretched skin

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.

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.

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 attachments.

Thinner and more pointed attachments such as forks are included as they are perceived as being able to pinpoint the massage points to trouble 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 massage such as this is more likely to cause bruising and potentially even damage to the underlying muscle tissue. Instead, I would advise using flatter or cushioned (padded) attachments, as they are less likely to cause this kind of injury.

Flat and padded attachments will give you just as much benefit but with much less risk of injury.

Vibration massage vs percussion massage gun safety

There is much debate as to the safety and efficacy of percussion massage guns, as there has been little medical testing carried out on the benefits and potential harmful effects of their use. As the gun repeatedly drives the attachment into the area being worked, it does have the potential to cause injuries (sometimes serious), if not used with care.

Vibration massage on the other hand is a far more gentle approach to gain similar benefits. Vibration massage works over a larger surface area of the skin than some of the attachments on percussion guns and focuses on helping to clear excess fluids and increase blood flow to the desired areas.

There is little chance of vibration massage causing any significant damage to the body unless it is performed incorrectly, over damaged skin, or in painful areas. Percussion massage techniques are usually performed by trained professionals, so it is also unlikely that they would perform a massage to any area of the body that could be harmed by it.

Are vibrations from massage guns safe?

The vibrations from a massage gun are generally safe, the very act of vibration has no negative effect on the body or its skin.

The danger from these machines comes when people use them without understanding the potential risk that comes with them. Overuse, pinpoint attachments, and adding extra pressure to work deeper into the muscles are all ways that people can incorrectly use a massage gun to make it more dangerous, but this is the user’s actions and not the result of the vibrations themselves.

Are massage guns good or bad for you?

When used correctly, a massage gun can have numerous health benefits, including speeding up recovery by increasing blood flow and assisting in lymphatic drainage.

However, these machines can be powerful, with the attachments they come with also posing an issue if not used correctly, as they can cause significant injury.

The real issue is a lack of knowledge and understanding of massage techniques. Many users would assume that the harder and longer a muscle receives the massage, the faster the recovery or more effective the massage. This is not the case at all and should be explained to users.

A lack of training is another area that can pose an issue when using a massage gun. Professional masseuses are trained in how to effectively massage the body without causing injury, whereas massage guns come with very little (if any) training other than what each attachment may be best used for.

Used in a safe manner, and preferably by a professional, a massage gun can aid recovery and relax muscles, used inappropriately, they can cause damage.

Where shouldn’t you use a massage gun?

There are certain sensitive areas of the body that should never receive massage from a massage gun. Vibration or percussive massage on these areas could cause pain and damage to the area, gentle hand massage on sensitive areas is usually acceptable as an alternative if required.

Areas of the body that should not receive massage from a massage gun include.

  • The front of the neck
  • Across or over ligaments or tendons
  • Any area of the skull
  • Directly on the spine
  • Across the carotid artery (side of the neck)
  • Over the kidneys (lower back)
  • The knees
  • Over ankles

In most circumstances, should you try to use a massage gun on these areas, you would feel pain or discomfort almost immediately.

What are the side effects of vibration massagers?

Along with making injuries worse and causing localized pain and bruising if used incorrectly, there are additional side effects that come from using massage guns, which include:

  • Torn ligaments and tendons
  • Organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Lymphatic vessel damage

It should be stated that these side effects are rare, and occur in the majority of cases as a result of negligence on behalf of the user. If used correctly, vibration massage guns are unlikely to cause any serious injury.

Can massage guns cause blood clots?

No, massage guns and deep tissue massage of any type do not cause blood clots. However, as a massage on a muscle will increase blood flow and circulation to the area, it may dislodge a pre-existing blood clot, which can cause serious issues such as heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms.

It is for this reason, that if you have a family history (or history yourself) of developing blood clots, the use of massage guns should be avoided.

Is it safe to use a massage gun on your neck?

You absolutely can use a massage gun on your neck as long as you avoid certain areas.

Just beneath the muscles on the side of the neck are a pair of blood vessels called the carotid arteries. Pressure from a massage gun against these can cause faintness and even lead to a loss of consciousness if pressure is applied for too long. It goes without saying that these areas should be avoided, as should massaging the front of the throat and directly over the spine.

The sternocleidomastoid muscles (long muscles on the sides of the neck), can become sore frequently and could benefit from massage. It is still important to follow some general guidance here to avoid any potential discomfort or injury.

To safely massage the sternocleidomastoid muscles with a massage gun, use a flat head attachment and make sure the gun is on its lowest settings. There is no need to try to get deep into these muscles, as they are just below the skin and so gentle massage should be sufficient to help with soreness.


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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Chris Walker

Chris Walker worked in the City of London as a fully qualified REP's level three personal trainer for just under ten years. He built and maintained a client base of 40 individuals and worked with several high profile clients, including actors, actresses, comedians and politicians.

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