Percussive Therapy: Does it Hurt?

Workout enthusiasts and athletes may have heard about percussive therapy and its use in massage guns and similar devices. This exciting new technology offers a new way to help loosen up your muscles and achieve peak performance before, during, and after a workout, and it can also cut down on recovery time. You may have seen videos on social media of people using massage guns and watched as their skin rippled with percussive therapy. If you are considering purchasing a percussive therapy device, you might be wondering if it hurts. 


What is Percussive Therapy?

Percussive therapy uses a series of concentrated pulses, delivered from a rotating head, to increase blood flow to soft tissue throughout the body, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The Swedish deep tissue massage technique known as tapotement includes, beating, slapping, or hacking on the muscles to release tension, and percussive therapy provides similar benefits with waves of energy. The technology works by sending a series of concentrated pulses rapidly to a targeted area of the body, causing the connective tissue to relax, scar tissue to break up, and blood flow and movement of white blood cells to the area to increase. Percussive  therapy can also be used in place of stretching, as it helps to elongate the muscle fibers and provide relief on the joints. Percussive therapy is described and measured by three different components, including amplitude, frequency, and torque. The amplitude measures how far the head of a massage gun device moves back and forth across a specific area, while the frequency describes how many times per second percussive therapy reaches your body. Torque describes the strength of the motor of the device. 


How Does Percussive Therapy Work?

The magic of percussive therapy lies in its ability to increase blood flow to the soft tissues of the body, thereby reducing pain and soreness. Percussive therapy reduces pain because the brain experiences pain based on stimulus received from the body, and the energy from percussive therapy works faster than this pain stimulus, telling the brain to calm the body and relax the muscles. During stimulation with percussive therapy, the brain physically cannot maintain tension in the muscles, which is why you hear about the incredible speed at which the technology provides relief. 


Does Percussive Therapy Hurt?

If “concentrated pulses” don’t sound like something you want to put your muscles through, take comfort in knowing that percussive therapy doesn’t hurt. Using a percussive therapy device doesn’t cause more pain as it relieves the tension and soreness in your muscles. The best part is that you’ll start to feel better in just a few minutes of using percussive therapy, so any discomfort you’re experiencing won’t linger for long. 


Does Percussive Therapy Really Work?

Let’s face it: there have been plenty of new fitness and health devices introduced over the years that promise to produce amazing results and end up leaving you with nothing but a lighter wallet. Percussive therapy devices, however, are not one of them. A study conducted in 2014 demonstrated that massage and vibration therapy, which are part of percussive therapy, can help prevent DOMS and can reduce muscle pain and tightness after a workout. Athletes and healthcare practitioners who have used the devices also report high rates of effectiveness from personal anecdotes regarding the application of the device.


Percussive therapy not only is highly effective, it also works quickly, can be applied before, during, and after a workout, and doesn’t hurt. What more could you want from a recovery device? With percussive therapy, you can say goodbye to your foam roller for good.



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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