Are Muscle Guns Dangerous? Hint: YES! Find Out Why!
Why you should understand massage gun risks before you fall into the marketing trap
Do you believe the massage gun is an innovative, new medical technology?
Do you think the massage gun is a one-time cost?
Have the exaggerated marketing tactics sold you on the miraculous benefits of the massage gun?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, don’t worry. We’ve been there and have fallen into the same traps as you. If you’re into health and fitness and shop online, you’ve seen the bold, non-stop advertisements for massage guns. These expensive, machine-powered tools claim to relieve pain, increase blood flow, and deliver an unforgettable personal massage. But do they actually work…?
While the branding and advertisements may be appealing, we lack the science and medical technology that backs up these heavy-duty guns. And what makes them different from a power-tool you find in your garage? (Check out this image and review below!)
“My buddy didn’t want to spend $300 and made this. He says it’s still legit.”
All jokes aside…
At IQbody, we’re here to educate you on the risks of the massage gun and offer you a once and for all solution to your muscle pain.
Three questions that will have you ditching your massage gun…
And picking up a scientifically proven muscle recovery system that’s built to last, designed to heal, and tested on high-level athletes striving to find an edge:
- Are massage guns good for you?
- Can massage guns be harmful?
- Are they worth the money?
We will go through these questions and breakdown misunderstandings, leaving you with a more in-depth education around the purpose and efficacy of massage guns.
Are massage guns good for you?
The idea of a personal massage tool, also known as a percussion gun, is not a novel one, and yes, it can be good for you.
These types of tools have been around for decades. Most therapists and doctors would agree that stimulating muscle tissue increases circulation, relieves tension, and ultimately reduces pain. Furthermore, studies have shown that myofascial release and trigger point therapy has multiple benefits.
But there’s a problem. Most average users don’t know how to operate the tool properly and do more damage than good. Therefore, it’s easier for massage gun marketers to rave about the hurt-so-good effect, rather than sharing the true science behind their products.
And we understand them…
If consumers understood what the massage gun is doing to their body when improperly used, even the cheapest massage gun wouldn’t sell on Amazon.
To better understand what a massage gun does to your body, let’s dive into the layers of tissue and muscle.
Your skin, or dermis, is the first layer of tissue protecting your internal structure. With any massage therapy tool or technique, the skin is the first layer to respond to the application. Just under the skin are lots of blood vessels and nerve endings. And although these nerve endings and blood vessels are protected, the protective layers of collagen and elastin fibers vary significantly with age, gender, and health.
If you are young, muscular, and have tough skin, you’re likely able to resist the high-frequency vibrations of a massage gun. But if you have soft, elastic skin, you’re probably going to feel uncomfortable with the force of even the lowest setting on the massage gun.
As we move one layer deeper, we reach the subcutaneous fat. Resting just below your skin, fat acts as a cushion for your body. Depending on the area of the body, age, sex, and overall fitness, the thickness varies. The more fat you have, the less sensitivity you will feel from the massage gun jigsaw pounding.
Our next layer is what we are all trying to reach when we get a massage, use a foam roller, or turn on a massage gun–skeletal muscle. Thicker and denser than fat, skeletal muscle consists of mostly protein, actin and myosin. On the outside of the muscle is a fibrous spider web support and protection layer called fascia (hence, myoFASCIAL release therapy).
According to a John Hopkins study, Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. When hammering into this area with a high intensity motor, we can rupture blood vessels, create inflammation, and ultimately cause bruising. The goal of massage therapy is to increase blood flow that transports beneficial oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. When we shatter these pathways, we counteract the potential gains.
Effectively, when you push the massage gun into your muscle, the skin, fat, fascia, nerves, and blood vessels are having to resist hundreds of forceful up-and-down reps. And if you believe the hype of the hurts-so-good effect, then you probably think it’s ok to clench your teeth, withstand the pain, and hope for the moments of relief after the pounding.
Wrong! When your body feels pain, the nerves are sending messages to your brain asking you to stop. You’re entering fight-or-flight mode, shutting down pain receptors to endure the trauma. When you finally release the trigger, you feel relieved. But this isn’t muscle tension relief. It’s the relief from your massage gun’s hammer and the soreness will be worse the next day.
So, if you want to use a massage gun and reap the benefits, make sure you understand how to operate it. Here’s an article teaching proper technique: The WAVE5 Trigger Point App Optimizes Your Massage Gun, Making It Better.
Can massage guns be harmful?
The short answer is, yes. When using a massage gun you want to be extra careful to avoid major arteries, nerves, lymphatic vessels and internal organs. Also, when your body tells you to stop, that means STOP. At IQBody, we don’t buy into this hurts-so-good movement. Rather, we believe slow, measured, self-induced pressure (or slow/controlled pulses) are most beneficial for the muscular system.
Here are the harmful risks of using your massage gun:
- Rupturing blood vessels–when blood vessels burst you may see bruises and experience blood leakage into the muscle tissue.
- Stretched collagen and elastin fiber–the continuous rapid blows to your skin with the percussion massage gun can lead to saggy, stretched skin overtime.
- Damaged muscle fiber–while muscle cells are durable by nature, they are not created to withstand continuous blows. Over time the pounding effect of the massage gun can damage the actin and myosin proteins and lead to further muscular contraction and less strength.
- Increased nerve sensitivity–under the pressure, rapid blows, and machine force of the percussion gun, your nerve endings in your skin transmit unwanted signals to your brain. The effects of these increased signals can potentially increase heart rate and high blood pressure.
- Increased muscle contractions–when your nerves fire fight-or-flight signals your muscles respond with unnecessary contractions. When we are attempting to relax a muscle and relieve tension, increased muscle contractions especially while under outside pressure are counterproductive.
A massage gun may be a safe choice in skilled hands, but inexperienced users face too many risks. Incorrect or excessive use can create more pain and cause injury. Continuous pressure or vibration on the same spot can cause tissue damage and extreme soreness.
If you’re thinking, “I’ve never used one before, so how can I be sure I’m using it safely?” that’s okay. We’re here to help. If you want to learn how to make the most of your at-home recovery sessions, be sure to check out the article linked above. Also, we’ve listed some general rules of thumb for using your massage gun below.
Don’t overdo it. Longer time under pressure does not always translate to better recovery. Due to the massage gun’s power, limit your sessions to three minutes maximum for any large muscle like the quadriceps; and two minutes max if you are massaging your neck. Get the blood circulating and stimulate the muscle enough to loosen it up, and no more.
If you take blood thinners for clotting, avoid using your massage gun on your legs at all costs. Instead, visit a local massage therapist and ask for a Swedish style massage.
Do you get nauseous from strong, high-frequency vibration? If so, use caution when operating your massage gun near your head. The vibration generated by a typical massage gun is strong enough to move the fluid in your inner ear, which may cause nausea and vomiting in some people.
Another word of caution — if you have any of the following conditions, please be careful. The intense percussive force of the massage gun puts you at increased risk of further injury:
Muscle Strain — This type of injury occurs when a muscle is stretched past its normal range of motion. Often a result of improper form, sudden movements, and muscular overuse. The powerful hammering motion of the massage gun can actually further damage your muscles.
Sprains — A sprain occurs when the muscle or ligament is actually torn. This injury occurs from sudden movement, stretching the muscle past its limits. Patients who suffer sprains often hear a popping noise when their injury occurs. Just like with muscle strains, massage guns can cause further damage to muscle and ligament sprains.
Inflammation Injuries — The body responds to injury with inflammation. This natural response supplies more blood to the affected area. Common inflammation conditions include tendinitis, fasciitis, bursitis, and periostitis. Patients with inflammation should not use a massage gun as it may worsen the inflammation and slow healing.
Broken Bones — While this one may seem like a no-brainer, people have tried it before. Previously broken bones shouldn’t undergo any hammering motion from percussion massage gun therapy. This goes for patients who have been cleared for exercise as well. Any bit of hammering can cause the mended bone to fracture or break. Don’t do it!
Because of the inherent risks associated with massage gun misuse, at IQBody we believe muscle pulsing to be the safe and sustainable way to go. You get all the benefits of a massage gun — and more — without the injury risk. Never heard of pulsing? Here’s an article explaining the benefits of the pulse technique: Why Pulsing Is Superior to Foam Rolling.
If you are determined to use a massage gun, make sure you understand the risks. It’s easy to make a mistake and potentially injure yourself, so make sure to read the instruction manual that came with your device. Follow the suggestions in this article and recover safely.
In summary, here are the top 6 tips to avoid injury when using your massage gun:
- Read the warnings and contraindications.
- Never use if pregnant without consulting with your doctor.
- Never use on children, the elderly, or anyone with a physical condition contraindicated in the literature included with your unit. Consult your healthcare provider first.
- Do not use for longer than recommended in the instructions.
- Do not use on your head, face, or chest.
- Do not go to sleep with a massager on your body.
So, what’s the verdict? Are massage guns worth the money? Will they work as advertised?
In short, it depends.
Splashing out on expensive sports massages, physio-visits, and various recovery treatments can get expensive fast. A single purchase of a tool like a massage gun can save you a ton of money in the long run.
But before we jump into economics, a word of caution. As you’ve probably experienced in your research, the hype around massage guns can be pretty intense. It’s hard to know what to believe. One thing is certain, though: you will never see a manufacturer discussing the downsides we’ve outlined in this article.
And don’t let them fool you into thinking massage guns are a magical, new technology. They’re simply another form of vibrating massage devices that have been around for decades.
Now for the economics.
On the low end, a massage gun will set you back somewhere around $200. Higher end massage guns usually run between $400-$600. The most notable differences between high end and low end massage guns are quality (durability and quietness), battery life, and variable settings (vibration speed and arm positions).
As we move down the pricing ladder, we find many different brands. Below is a screenshot of massage guns ranging from $79 to $399 on Amazon. Apparently, they are selling like crazy:
Looking at the reviews, you’ll notice some recurring problems.
The issue of quality is a big one. Many consumers report these products breaking or experiencing battery failure either immediately – the massage gun won’t even turn on – or within a few weeks of purchase. No one wants to spend $200 of their hard-earned money on a product only to have it turn into an incredibly expensive paperweight within two weeks. But unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think:
“Just got it and plugged it in to charge for a few hours and doesnt even turn on. Was a xmas gift for my boyfriend so im pretty disappointed it doesnt work”
“I haven’t used it a dozen times. IT WILL NOT WORK NOW! THIS IS RIDICULOUS!”
“This machine is a WASTE of money. Bought in March and it’s dead and done. Cheap and SUPER heavy.”
“and then shut off. I just received this yesterday and charged it all night – the light on the handle was green this morning. Started using it on my shoulder and neck with the small round ball at a pressure of 2 and after 5 min. it shut off. Can’t get it to turn back on. Plugged it back into the wall, light is still green – nothing else lights up, not even on the back – the pressure and battery amount. I will be returning this.”
There are dozens of examples, but you get the idea. Quality is an issue at the lower end of the market for massage guns, which is frustrating considering that these devices are already way overpriced. And unless you’re a physical therapist or some other recovery specialist, odds are you don’t have the money lying around to spend $600 on a better, more reliable model.
So far, we’ve covered three big questions when it comes to massage guns:
- Are they good for you? In some situations yes, but with improper use the risk of injury can easily outweigh the benefits.
- Can my massage gun be harmful? The answer is absolutely, yes.
- Are they worth the money? This depends on your budget and if you can afford to replace them when they break down. Even the best massage guns have limited warranties, so you’ll have to buy a new one sooner or later.
Our research so far doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in massage guns. These so-called therapeutic devices come with a lot of unwanted risk and in a lot of ways do more harm than good. So, how do you recover safely?
This leads us to our fourth question of the day:
Is There a Better Way?
We all want to find the best solution for muscle recovery at the best possible price. And we want a solution that will last. We don’t want to worry about buying a massage gun only to have it not work, break down, or (worse yet) injure us further.
At IQBody, we believe a better recovery solution exists. Because of the cost and inherent risks associated with massage gun misuse, we set out to find a healthier and more affordable alternative. When we couldn’t find one, we made it our mission to create one ourselves.
We researched muscle soreness, tightness, and mobility.
We studied trigger point therapy.
We tested myofascial release therapies.
We partnered with a certified physical therapist.
Then, we looked to science for information, the body for feedback, and user results for confirmation.
The outcome was a muscle recovery tool that melts away pain and tension on the spot: The WAVE5 Muscle Care System.
WAVE5 uses a method called pulsing, variable pressure technique, to safely increase blood flow to your muscle tissue and speed up recovery. With pulsing, you get all the benefits of a massage gun — and more — without the risk of injury. (Never heard of pulsing? Here’s an article explaining the benefits to the pulse technique: Muscle Hydration and The Value Of Pressure.)
In short, pulsing is a risk-free way of hydrating your muscles from the inside out. This powerful recovery method breaks up tight, rigid muscle tissue for increased mobility, flexibility, and strength.
We made the WAVE5 portable too, so you don’t have to worry about stuffing a powertool into your bag whenever you’re on the go.
And the best part? For less than the cost of almost any massage gun on the market, you’ll have a muscle recovery solution that will never break, needs no batteries, and has zero risk of injury.
No hype. No hidden downsides. Just healthier muscles and better results.
Ready to upgrade your muscle recovery routine? Click here to learn more about the WAVE5.