Anyone with an injury wants to know how to maximize their recovery. All injuries heal differently but the basics remain: sleep, nutrition, staying active, and various forms of physical therapy.
Massage and stretching are great ways to relax muscles, improve blood flow, and reduce muscle adhesions and soreness. Massage therapy has also been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve immune function, and increase energy and alertness. You might even notice improvements in anxiety, digestion, headaches, and insomnia. Incorporating techniques such as foam rolling, stretching and percussive therapy can help you optimize your recovery.
What is Percussion Therapy?
Percussion therapy is a type of massage therapy. It speeds up the growth of tissues and repairs them by providing strong, concentrated, rapid, short-duration pulses deep into the tissues of the body. This improves blood flow through veins and circulation in the lymphatic system which helps relieve pain, improve function, and increases range of motion. While popular among endurance athletes, it is also a useful tool for non-athletes. Percussion therapy tools are easy to use, can reduce tension, and increase function from the injured athlete to the software developer sitting at a desk all day.
Massage therapists are licensed professionals with specialized training, including the study of human anatomy. To own a massage gun, on the other hand, all you need are a credit card and an Internet connection.
“You always want to get cleared by your doctor first and foremost,” advises Mike Venezia, a California chiropractor and medical director at Addaday.
The massage gun is meant to be used on muscles, rather than nerves, bones, joints or tendons. While it may seem obvious, experts advise avoiding anywhere you have scabs, wounds, cancerous lesions or a recent bone fracture. People should also avoid using the massage gun on any body part that has impaired sensation. In particular, this is a concern for those with peripheral neuropathy, a condition often caused by diabetes. Without accurate sensory feedback, you could cause damage without even realizing it.
Unlike with many other forms of bodywork, it’s not only possible to perform percussive massage on yourself but it’s recommended. According to Alan Novick, physician and chief of the Memorial Rehabilitation Institute in Hollywood, Fla., if someone else is using the massage gun on you, regardless of their credentials, skill and experience, they can’t tell how much pressure they’re exerting on your body or how much pain you might be experiencing as a result. “You could actually hurt somebody,” he says.
Novick also cautions not to use percussion tools if you’re taking blood thinners such as heparin and warfarin. And never apply a massage gun to the neck. “You could get a carotid dissection.” A carotid dissection is a tear in the carotid artery which can interfere with blood flow to the brain and ultimately cause a stroke. You can, however, safely use a massage gun on your shoulders and/or trapezius muscles to relieve the tension that often comes from working at a computer.
Remember to discuss all types of therapy with your doctor before starting any new regimen.