I recently purchased my first massage gun. A friend who recently like myself had started doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu recommended buying one. We are both in our early 40's and experience quite significant amount of tightness after each class.  In recent years massage guns have become a staple for fitness enthusiasts and anyone seeking to maintain their muscular health. But can massage guns replace stretching?

A massage gun can’t replace stretching. It is very effective in performing deep tissue massages. But unlike stretching it can't realign the skeletal muscles. So a massage gun is not an ideal substitute for stretching. It should be used as an extra resource for exercise recovery and injury prevention.

In this article I explain the basics of massage guns and stretching. I will also explain how massage guns work and the advantages and disadvantages of using them. Furthermore, I provide insight into why you should be combining using a massage gun and stretching together.

What Is Stretching?

Stretching is a physical activity in which you deliberately stretch or flex certain muscles or tendons. The goal is to improve muscle elasticity and tone. Stretching is not only meant for athletes. It is recommended for everyone seeking to maintain their muscular health.

Massage Gun_Stretching

If you spend your entire day sitting in an office, you need stretching exercises to activate underused muscles.

Why Is Stretching Important?

You can stretch at any time of the day. You can stretch before the workout, in the middle, and post-workout if you are working out. Additionally, it is advisable to stretch gently when you wake up in the morning and before retiring to bed. Just like massage guns, you can do your stretches from your place of convenience, no need to visit a therapist or a gym.

A good and effective stretch can stimulate blood flow into your muscles. This keeps your joints and muscles properly aligned and healthy. Other benefits of stretching include:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved muscular motion
  • Boosting nerve health

What Is a Massage Gun?

A massage gun is a handheld therapy device that uses rapid strokes to stimulate deep tissue massage.

It may look like a power drill and, once you turn it on, it may sound like one too (though most recent models have reduced the noise aspect). This trending fitness device is designed to stimulate blood flow into the body muscles. The results help to ease pain and soreness and helping them relax.

Massage guns are designed to function as percussive therapy. This is a therapy that uses handheld devices to exert gentle pulses of pressure on target areas). They come with different head attachments, which you can use as per your specific needs.

Who Can Use a Massage Gun?

Fitness enthusiasts and athletes form the largest percentage of massage gun users. However, anyone experiencing muscle soreness and pains can use this device to relax their bodies.

Stressed-out individuals or those with insomnia can use a massage gun to improve their condition. In such cases, massage guns help stimulate blood flow throughout the body and in relaxing tight muscles.

Although massage guns are ideal for use by anyone, they are not recommended:

  • If you're on blood thinners.
  • If you bruise easily.
  • Using the gun right around your neck.
  • Limited sensation, for example, caused by diabetes or foot issues.

How Does a Massage Gun Work?

A massage gun works by combining pulse and vibration effects to loosen and relax tight muscles.

The great thing about a massage gun is that it is very easy to use. Here is how you go about it and some helpful tips:

  1. Turn on device before getting started to allow the head to start pulsing. Failure to do so can cause a jarring effect on your body that can even lead to bruises.
  2. Always start at a low speed and adjust to higher speeds as you get used to it. Starting at a low speed helps gauge your tolerance levels, as very high speeds can sometimes be painful.
  3. With the head attachment pulsing, 'float' it by placing it a few centimetres or inches away from your target muscles. Do not exert extreme downward pressure on your muscles; leave the massage gun to do its work as you gently glide it over your muscles
  4. Identify a trigger point, a point on your muscles that's a little more sensitive or painful than the rest. Direct the massage attachment to the area, apply pressure until you are satisfied with the results.
  5. Ensure that you are relaxed when you use the massage gun. This is to allow for effective relief of muscle tightness. If you are too tense or flexing the muscles, you may not benefit much from the massage gun as you expect.

Using the Different Massage Gun Attachments

Massage guns come with different head attachments depending on the brand. Let's look at the most common ones: the large ball, flathead, bullet, and forkhead.

Massage Gun_Massage Gun on Table
  • The large ball: This attachment is round-headed and made of dense rubber or hardened foam. It is most commonly used on large and medium muscles.
  • Flathead: It is a multipurpose head attachment suitable for any part of the body, from the pecs to the glutes.
  • Bullet: An attachment with a pointed tip allows you to focus on a particular point in the body. It is ideal for parts that need special treatment.
  • Forkhead: Features a dual-pronged head and great for targeting the spine.

How Long Can You Use a Massage Gun For?

Using your massage gun for the optimal time will ensure you maximise its effectiveness. Here is a guideline on how to use a massage gun to derive the greatest benefits:

  • Before workouts: Here, you can have a muscle activation for about 30 seconds. You use the massage guns on your muscles to activate them and the respective nerve fibres.
  • Mid workout: If you experience fatigue in the middle of a workout, you can reactivate your muscles for about 15 seconds.
  • Post-workout: After workouts, you can use your massage gun for up to 2 minutes to benefit from Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You can repeat this throughout the day with at least 1-2 hours of rest in between.

Advantages of Using Massage Guns

Here are some of the advantages of using a massage gun:

  • Improves blood circulation
  • Promotes the breakdown of scar tissues
  • Improves flexibility and mobility
  • A study found it to be effective in managing the effects of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
  • Increases relaxation and promotes better sleep
  • A massage gun is highly portable, and you can carry it with you anywhere you go

Disadvantages of Using Massage Guns

  • Compared to stretching, massage guns are quite pricey
  • A massage gun requires regular care and maintenance
  • If not used correctly, it can can more pain and strain on your muscles

Massage Gun vs. Stretching

Now let's tackle the question of whether a massage gun can replace stretching.

It wouldn't be wise to say that a massage gun can replace stretching. This is because stretching has its unique benefits to your body, especially in skeletal muscles' alignment. Instead, using a massage gun should be seen as an additional resource to your muscular health and fitness routine.

A massage gun effectively performs deep tissue massage and helps relax your muscles. But you will still need to do a bit of stretching to keep your joints and muscles properly aligned.

In most cases, it is advisable to incorporate both massage guns and stretch into your routine work out sessions. By doing so, you will derive the benefits of massage guns and stretching to help achieve and maintain your muscular health.

Conclusion

Using massage guns and engaging in stretching exercises are not only reserved for athletes. These are tools to help anyone, achieve and maintain their muscular health. By adopting them, you will derive benefits such as:

  • Improved blood flow
  • Increased flexibility and mobility
  • Alignment of your skeletal muscles
  • Muscle relaxation
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