While using a massage gun is fairly straightforward, there are a few important things to know:
Start by massaging the least sensitive areas of your body for short periods.
Massage each area or muscle group for a maximum of 2 minutes.
Avoid massaging areas with severe pain and bony areas, including your spine and joints.
To prevent the massage gun from overheating, always follow the time limit set in place by the manufacturer.
Kelsey Decker, NSCA-CPT, education coordinator at StretchLab, told Healthline: “I suggest starting on a lower level of intensity to make sure your body can handle the sensation. You can also increase the intensity by applying more pressure to the area of focus. Spend about 30 seconds to 2 minutes per muscle group area.”
According to Decker, you can use a massage gun before a workout to alleviate tightness and activate your muscles before heading into a dynamic warmup and then your workout. You can also use it for post-exercise recovery to help release tension.
That said, more research is needed to determine whether using a massage gun before or after workouts is more beneficial and which speeds and durations are most effective.
Several alternatives to massage guns provide comparable benefits. You can use these methods individually, in combination, and with massage gun therapy.
Massage gun alternatives include:
Professional massage: A massage from a licensed therapist is one of the best ways to relieve muscle tension. For affordable options, search for community clinics, massage schools, and businesses offering a sliding scale.
Self-massage: Use your fingers, knuckles, and palms to release tension using kneading and circular motions. You can also press directly on trigger points for a short time.
Topical products: Use topical products, such as massage oil, CBD balm, and analgesic ointment, to reduce friction and make applying pressure easier during a self-massage.
Gua sha: This traditional Chinese healing technique uses a tool to apply pressure to acupressure points and scrape your skin. Tools come in different shapes to target specific areas of the body. They’re small enough to toss in your bag to use on the go. Professional sessions are available, often from acupuncturists.
Massage tools: Foam rollers, tennis balls, and massage balls can help release tension in specific areas.
Stretches: A simple stretching routine is an effective way to alleviate tightness.
Cold therapy: Use ice packs or cold compresses to reduce inflammation, swelling, and tension.
Heat therapy: Hot packs, heating pads, and hot baths can help relax muscles and relieve pain.
Electrical stimulation: A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device can stimulate muscles and promote relaxation.
Acupressure mats: These mats have tiny spikes that apply pressure to specific points on your body, enhancing relaxation and reducing muscle tension.
According to a 2023 review of 13 studies, massage guns can be beneficial for relieving muscle stiffness and soreness from physical activity and daily life.
They boost blood flow to your muscles, which promotes healing, improves workout recovery, and enhances muscle function. The devices may also help improve flexibility, increase range of motion, and break up scar tissue that can cause stiffness and reduce mobility.
Massage guns can also help promote relaxation, mindfulness, and body awareness. Focusing on the sensations in your body encourages present-moment awareness. This can be beneficial for managing anxiety, reducing rumination, and identifying areas of tension.
You can use a massage gun anytime, as long as you do gentle stretches and exercises to warm up your muscles beforehand. You may prefer to use it in the morning to energize yourself for the day ahead and in the evening to relax and unwind.
Decker pointed out that massage guns are not a substitute for stretching, but she said you could use the tool with stretching to ease muscle tension in tight spots or areas of concern.
“[A] massage gun can help the group of muscles relax before transitioning into a stretch for the same muscle groups,” Decker said. “For example, if you have tight hips and it’s difficult to get them to loosen up while stretching, use the massage gun device for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then go back to stretching your hips.”
Many doctors recommend massage guns to help:
alleviate muscle soreness
improve workout recovery
They may advise you on the best techniques and suggest a specific massage gun type or model.
Talk with your doctor before using a massage gun if you:
have a medical condition
are recovering from an injury
They can determine whether the devices are safe and appropriate for your needs.
While massage is generally considered a safe and effective treatment for people with arthritis, research supporting the effectiveness of massage guns for arthritis is lacking.
Theragun advises taking care and caution when using massage guns on areas of the body that are sensitive to pressure and around bony areas. In addition, if you have certain health conditions, it says to speak with a healthcare professional before use.
Before trying any treatment for arthritis, it’s important to speak with your healthcare professional.
Using a massage gun during pregnancy may provide similar benefits to prenatal massage. A 2021 research review suggests that relaxing massage during pregnancy may help alleviate pain, boost mood, and improve sleep.
However, during your first trimester, it’s best to avoid using a massage gun or having any type of massage since this may increase your risk of miscarriage.
Once you enter the second trimester, it’s likely safe to use a massage gun as long as you talk with your healthcare professional beforehand. While using a massage gun, you can sit or lie on your left side. Do not lie on your stomach. Avoid lying on your back for any length of time.
Avoid massaging your abdominal area. Do not use strong pressure, especially on your legs.
The best budget massage gun is the Vybe V2 Percussion Massager. The user-friendly design is powerful enough to provide deep tissue massage, offering plenty of value for the price.
As long as you can tolerate the noise, the Vybe V2 Percussion Massager is a good option if you only plan to use it occasionally or want to try out a massage gun before investing in a high end model.
Be wary of massage guns that are considerably cheaper than the competition. They may wear out quickly and have a heavy, bulky design.
Buy from a reputable company that offers returns. Ensure the amplitude and speed range, which indicate depth and intensity, align with your needs.
The Theragun PRO is a great choice for back pain. The ergonomic, adjustable design allows you to comfortably reach most areas of your back and provides a deep massage that alleviates tension, stiffness, and soreness. You can choose the right speed and attachment head for your needs.
As products vary in power, size, attachments, and price, it’s important to take your time shopping around.
By considering your needs and using our list, we’re confident you’ll find the massager that’s best for you.
Last medically reviewed on July 10, 2023
How we reviewed this article:
Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.