Percussion massagers are excellent tools for post-workout recovery, if you’re using them properly. Here’s everything you need to know to use muscle massagers safely and effectively!
Looking for a new way to treat your muscles to a little R&R after an intense workout? You might be curious about percussion massagers that are growing in popularity.
Percussion massagers are a great way to improve your mobility and address certain pain issues from muscle imbalances, if you’re using them right.
Massagers can be a double edged sword: on one hand they can be an excellent myofascial release tool, but on another hand, they can also cause problems if not used properly.
If you’re wondering about massagers, we’re here to help! In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about massage guns, what they are, benefits of massagers, and how to use them safely!
Please note this post is not sponsored by Exogun, I include it in the post and photos because it’s the percussion massager I chose to buy.
What is a percussion massager?
If you’ve been on social media, read articles in fitness magazines, or perused popular fitness blogs, you’ve probably seen buzz around percussion massagers (also called massage guns, massagers, power massagers, or muscle guns). I’ll use several of those terms interchangeably throughout this post.
If you’re not familiar with this type of massagers, they are another great tool you can add to your fitness recovery tool box, just like foam rolling, cupping, stretching, massage, and other forms of myofascial release.
Massage guns are a handheld percussion massager that uses rapid, pulsating strokes to massage and release your muscles and fascia (myofascial release).
I’ve used other vibrational and percussion massage devices before in the past that are nice for creating warmth and deliver a massage, but massage gun-type percussion massagers can deliver a deep tissue massage in very specific areas and trigger points.
Most power massagers will come with several small attachments for reaching targeted areas. I decided on the Exogun when I bought mine and it came with 4 different attachments.
My favorite attachment is the flat one that spreads out the pressure a little bit more, but the others are great if you have specific muscle knots that you need to work on breaking down. Just make sure that you’re careful with them (more on that farther down in the post).
Benefits of using a percussion massager
There are a lot of great reasons to use a percussion massager! We’ll get into the contraindications of power massagers in a bit, but let’s look at the benefits of using a percussion massager:
Percussion massagers provide targeted myofascial release
Since I’ve had a lot of tendon problems, hip surgery, constant IT band syndrome problems, and knee surgery, foam rolling has become a constant and regular part of my routine.
I don’t always do foam rolling on my days off of exercise, but you’ll never see me do a workout that doesn’t end with foam rolling and stretching. Ever.
Myofascial release has become a non-negotiable part of my fitness and when I was personal training, I incorporated it into every client’s routine as well. I consider it essential to proper movement and recovery.
That said, sometimes foam rolling doesn’t always deliver the pressure we need, especially when we’ve been foam rolling for years. And it’s often really difficult to use the foam roller for hard to reach areas, like your neck, pectoral (chest) muscles, or inner thighs.
That’s where massagers come in: they help you get very targeted massage and myofascial release in places you can’t reach with a foam roller.
If you’ve been using a foam roller for years and want a step up from that, try out a percussion massager in addition to your rolling and stretching.
Massagers are compact and easy to use
One thing I love about percussion massagers is that they are incredibly easy to use. You don’t have to get on the floor like you do with a roller, which is great for people with limited mobility.
You don’t need a lot of extra space with a power massager like you do with a roller. With a foam roller, you need enough space to lie down on the floor with plenty of space to move as well, but you can use a massage gun just about anywhere and in limited space.
A percussion massager is also easier to travel with because it takes up less space than a full-sized roller and even some of the travel rollers. We like taking our massage stick with us to travel as well, but our massage gun will be a regular travel companion since we can use it while we’re sitting in the car, something we can’t really do with our massage stick.
Contraindications: when you shouldn’t use a massage gun
Just like with many forms of myofascial release, there are cases when you shouldn’t use a massage gun, and there are certain people who shouldn’t use them.
Don’t forget to always check with your doctor or physical therapist before using myofascial release tools!
Here are a few reasons you may not want to use a massage gun:
- If you have bleeding disorders or bruise easily
- If you are pregnant or have a high risk pregnancy
- If you recently had surgery (massage can move blood clots, always check with your doctor/surgeon about timelines for massage of any kind after surgery).
- If you have nerve disorders, MS, epilepsy, or other nervous system disorders
- If you have skin disorders and you have open sores or your skin is easily torn
Use your massager in the right place or it can do more harm than good
If you don’t remember that list of things, remember this: using a massage gun is great if you’re using it on the right area. You can actually make some issues worse by using a percussion massager in the wrong place. Let me explain.
After my knee surgery, I had some consistent knee pain when I started working out again and couldn’t figure out why. My physical therapy sessions were used up for my knee, so I had to kind of figure things out on my own.
Since my physical therapy was used up but I still needed a little help, I bought a couple months access to the recovery center that my physical therapist office had, which included massage chairs, Normatec pressure cuffs, Hyperice vibrating roller, the Hypervolt massage gun, among other great recovery tools.
I didn’t realize at the time that my knee pain was caused by my quad tendon pulling my kneecap up and out of place because the arthroscopic incisions in my knee were on the bottom of my knee, effectively releasing the tendons and muscles below my kneecap and the exercises I was doing was also tightening my quad tendon.
Kneecap riding too high and out of place = painful exercise.
It was completely different pain than before my surgery, so I knew it wasn’t the old tight IT band problem again.
I started using the Hypervolt on my fully healed incisions since I thought my completely new kneecap pain was due to scar tissue in those incisions. It actually made my kneecap pain worse because I was not addressing the real problem: my kneecap moving upward thanks to a new imbalance and my quad tendon getting too tight.
After a while, I began to notice what the problem was: I noticed my kneecap on my surgery knee was riding a full 1/2 inch higher than my other knee when I had my legs out straight and completely relaxed. I got a brace from my surgeon that I ended up having to modify, and once I knew what the problem was, I was able to tackle it and I’m doing pretty good so far.
My doctor also told me that my kneecaps naturally rode high anyway, so this is something that I probably have to watch out for anyway.
Bottom line: if you have an imbalance, it can actually hurt you rather than help you to use a massage gun on the wrong area.
Make sure you know for sure what areas you need to target before jumping in to treat yourself!
Tips for using a percussion massager
If you decided to bite the bullet and get a percussion massager/massage gun, here are some tips for safely using it.
- Avoid using your percussion massager over bony areas (unless you’re using a softer vibrational massager). Try to use the massager over muscles.
- Don’t press down hard with your massager. The power massager will work best if you apply moderate pressure, just holding it against your muscle but not pushing down with it.
- Avoid using a percussion massager over bursa. The repetitive pounding from a deep tissue massager isn’t a good thing for bursa especially if you have bursitis. If you’re not sure where the bursa are located in your body, you can find medical illustrations online of areas where bursa are located.
- Don’t use the percussion massager in one place for too long or it can cause bruising. Rotate areas that you’re massaging, especially if you have it turned on high or are new to using a massager.
- Start out easy with a massage gun if you’re new. Most massagers have different speeds and intensities, start out the easiest ones first when you’re starting out. Just like with any kind of myofascial release, you need to ease into it and build up as you build tolerance.
- I mentioned this a couple time before, but this bears repeating: always check with your doctor or physical therapist before using a massage gun to make sure it’s okay for you to use based on your personal health needs!
Popular Brands of power massagers
Since percussion massagers are really popular right now, there is a flood of different percussion massagers on the market. Just look at Amazon to see how many different kinds have popped up in the last year or 2!
Some of the more popular brand-name massagers include:
- Hyperice Hypervolt: $349-$399
- Theragun: $249-$599
- NordicTrack Percussion Massager: $99
- TimTam Power Massager: $249-$499
Originally I had my eyes on a Hypervolt. I had used it in the recovery center and liked it a lot. The Scheels store closest to us had a holiday sale on Hypervolt over Christmas, so I was seriously considering it but still didn’t want to spend that much ($350 for their deal including the case) so I started looking around.
Another fitness blogger I know wrote a post about massage guns and the Exogun brand they went with it for theirs, so I decided to give that one a try.
I’ve had my Exogun massager for about a month now and like it quite a bit. It works just as well as the Hypervolt I used at the recovery center and came at a pretty good price point: they had a small discount available so I got the massager, 4 attachments, and the case for about $170.
Their website lists the normal price at $599, but each time I’ve been on their website the past several months, I’ve only ever seen it actually sold for $199, then they offer coupon codes and sales as well.
I was worried about cheaper brands not performing as well, but since I had a good report from someone I knew that it worked good, I gave the Exogun a try and it works just as well as the Hypervolt so far.
The Exogun has 6 speeds/intensities and the battery life seems to be really good so far. We’ve had it a little over a month now and we’ve only had to charge it once.
Update: I had to return my Exogun since it started making a weird rattling noise, but since they have a 1 year warranty, I returned it and they are sending me a new one! So far they’ve had great customer service.
Hopefully the new Exogun lasts longer than a few months. I suspect the rattling was due to how I stored it when I wasn’t using it, but we’ll see how it goes with the new one they’re sending.
Please note this post is not sponsored or endorsed in any way by Exogun, that’s just the brand I decided to purchase.
Are massagers worth the price?
Are percussion massagers worth the price?
In my opinion, yes! They can be a great tool to add to your recovery routine, and with less expensive options available, you can find something that fits into your budget.
If you like to get massages regularly, this is a nice way to loosen up your muscles between massages sessions, especially if you have someone that will use this on your back where you can’t reach.
Since I workout regularly and I’m getting back into my full routines after 5 surgeries in 2 years, a massage gun was a great investment for me personally. I loved the Hypervolt, but decided to go with the Exogun and it works just as good for a fraction of the price.
There are a few other less expensive percussion massagers that work just as well as the full priced brands. If you look on Amazon and read reviews, you can find some good ones at decent prices so you don’t have to spend a lot for one.
Why I no longer recommend Myobuddy massagers
I used to recommend Myobuddy massagers as an option for massagers and I no longer recommend their products or company. They owe me affiliate money that they refuse to pay and when I contacted them on their Facebook page, they were very rude.
A few years ago back in 2017, I participated in a campaign with Myobuddy massagers and we got a unit for free and wrote about them for one of our fitness gift guides.
I also joined the Myobuddy affiliate program as part of their campaign. It looked really good – $50 per referral!
The Myobuddy massager itself wasn’t too bad, although it seemed overpriced and my dad told me I could get a car buffer for half the price and it would do the same thing. I never put that to the test, but the price of the units did seem pretty high.
Fast forward to October 2019, I got a couple of sales in my affiliate dashboard and it was showing that they owed me $150. I didn’t see anything in the dashboard indicating when they’d pay, so I waited for a few months to see when they’d pay.
Typically affiliate programs pay once a threshold has been met (like $50 or $100) and it’s a net 30-60 days so I waited a couple months to see if they’d pay in the meantime.
In February (Feb. 7), I sent an email asking about when the payment would be made, and they finally responded 12 days later (Feb. 19) that they only pay out once every 4 referrals.
I couldn’t remember those being the terms at the time I signed up (I since found the email stating those terms) and since it took 2 years to even get 2 referrals, I told them I wanted to close my affiliate account and get the money paid to me (sent that email on Feb. 19).
I heard nothing back. So I sent another email to check on it, they finally responded again over 3 weeks later (March 13) and it was now almost halfway into March.
They promised to schedule my payment for the end of March.
Toward the end of March, I looked at my affiliate dashboard again and the amount they owed me was dropped from $150 to $100. No email or note explaining why.
I sent an email (March 24) asking about the discrepancy, heard nothing back.
Sent another email on April 2 asking about the discrepancy again and where my payment was since it hadn’t gotten to me.
They finally responded to my April 2nd email and said that there was a computer glitch that was over-reporting my earnings and it was really only $100 they owed me (not $150) and that they’d check on the status of my payment.
April 16 (exactly 2 weeks later) I sent another email checking on the payment since I hadn’t heard anything. They responded 4 days later saying that their affiliate department was closed through April 30th due to the coronavirus and to email their affiliate department and it would be responded to in the order it was received when they reopened (that happened to be the email I had already been emailing).
This email noting the closure was not an automated email and was sent by an employee since it was sent 4 days after my email (automated emails are sent immediately).
Side note: all of my affiliate partners are still running their affiliate programs during the coronavirus closures and they are working remotely. I’ve been working closely with several affiliate programs throughout these closures and they are still running and working remotely.
April 20th I contacted their Facebook page to find someone to talk to. The person I talked to was very rude, intentionally unhelpful, and they told me they were a “hired messenger service” (but everything indicated that they were actually an employee).
They insisted that their offices had been closed for the entire month of April and that no one could have been there to write the emails I had been receiving from their office….
The Myobuddy employee I spoke with on Facebook messenger tried to make me feel badly about contacting them and asking for my payment during the coronavirus closures, even though I had been seeking payment way before then (since Feb. 7th).
It is currently May 7th as I write this and still no word from them on paying me the money they owe me even though their last email indicated their affiliate department would reopen after April 30th.
Unfortunately, I can no longer recommend the Myobuddy products or company due to my very negative experience with them and their failure to pay the affiliate money owed to me when it was promised.
Fellow bloggers: I recommend avoiding their affiliate program since their tracking/reporting software seems to be inadequate (they reduced the payment owed from $150 to $100 due to a glitch) and they apparently do not actually pay their affiliates in a timely manner.
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist