Tuesday 7th September, 2021

How to use a hand held massager

Using a hand held massager
Using a hand held massager is simple

Using a hand held massager is simple. You place the vibrating head on the muscle, making good contact, and allow the vibrations to penetrate. With an effective machine it’s the vibrations that do the work so there is no need to assist by pressing in or rubbing.

In this article we’ll briefly show you why doing that is so effective, then we’ll share with you some pointers to help you get the most benefits and a few things to be wary of.


How vibration massage works
Usage instructions
Potential uses and benefits
Things to be wary of

How vibration massage works

Using an effective vibration massager like this the vibrations transfer from the head of the machine to the muscle and penetrate deeply. There’s a lot of miss-information around about needing to press in the heads of massage for penetration, but it’s totally wrong. Vibrations will always penetrate much more than pressing in. That’s why buildings can fall over 100 km away from the centre of an earth quake.

The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage
Summary of the scientifically proven effects of vibration massage

Effects of the vibrations

When the vibrations do penetrate scientists have found that they have all the effects shown in this diagram. For more information please see our guide The scientific effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications. Now lets look at how you can get the most benefits from your massager.

Massager usage guide

  • General guidance
  • Basic instructions

General guidance

Serious hand held massagers are built to provide genuine therapeutic benefits to help with musculoskeletal problems, and these can be complex. Because of this, to be safe and get the best possible results we ask that you discuss usage with a professional familiar with your own needs. He or she can help work out what you need and the best way to manage your problem.

Basic instructions

For our section on basic massager usage we will use our General Purpose Massager, but the same principles apply for any quality hand held vibration massager.

Using a hand held massager 2
You sit the massager on the part to be massaged and let the vibrations soak in

Basic usage technique

The basic usage of a vibration massager is simple. You sit the massager on the part to be massaged and let the vibrations soak in. Remember that it is the vibrations that do the work so there is no need to press in or move the massager around. Once a part has had sufficient massage move the machine to the next spot that needs massaging and repeat.

Deep painful massage
There is no need for pain when using a vibration massager

Pain or discomfort

Whereas manual (eg. by hand) massage therapists sometimes use painful pressure to get to a deep spot, vibration massagers use vibration to penetrate. There is no need to press in or cause pain. In fact pain can cause muscles to tense which can work against massage. If you experience pain or discomfort we recommend you either slow the massager to a comfortable level or stop.

Massager contact
Head pointing into the muscle with best contact for vibration transfer

The massager contact and direction

To get the maximum penetration the head of the massager needs to make the best contact, so it should should sit flat on the part to be massaged. At moderate speeds the weight of the machine should be enough to maintain contact. However, as speed increases the massager head will have a tendency to patter (bounce up and down). When this happens either slow the machine down or apply a moderate amount of pressure until the head stops pattering.

Also, the vibrations of the massager are maximum coming straight out of the machine, so these must be directed to get the best effect.

Starting point: 30 seconds per trigger point


The duration of application should always be guided by your professional. However a typical starting point is 30 seconds at a moderate speed for a typical trigger point (60 for chronic deep trigger points). There may be multiple trigger points in an area, each needing an application of massage.

Like most hand held massagers our General Purpose Massager is a sealed unit. This keeps out dust and moisture but holds in heat which can damage or shorten the life of parts. Always allow to cool after 15 minutes of use.

Using a hand held massager 3
Use over cloth or clothing to avoid infection or skin irritation

Use over clothing or a cloth

To prevent irritation, minimise the risk of transmitting infection, and help keep the head of the massager clean please use over cloth or a layer of clothing. You will not need to rub with the massager so there is no need for oil or other lubricants.

Horizontal vs vertical
It is much easier when the part you are massaging is horizontal

Using the weight of the massager

Our General Purpose Massagers only weigh about 1.3kg, but holding this weight for a prolonged time can cause fatigue. We recommend that you position the part to be massaged horizontal. That way the weight of the massager is supported by the part being massaged and the massager only needs guiding to maintain position. The weight of the massager then is often enough to apply downwards pressure on the head.

Which head to use?

This often comes down to personal preference. However, our massagers work by sending vibrations into the tissues, which the larger flat head does very well. The multi projection head is not for "digging in", but helps resist pattering at higher speeds. The smaller head is useful for accessing some harder to get to areas.

Potential uses and benefits

One of the major benefits of having your own hand held massager is that it allows you to have practically unlimited quality massage therapy. This opens up a host of opportunities. Please see the following for some examples.

Musculoskeletal problems and pain syndromes

What is the best treatment for trigger points
Tennis elbow
Shoulder pain

Sports and exercise

The sports and exercise guide to vibration massage
The practical, science based guide to post exercise recovery
Sports performance
Foam rollers


Functional rehabilitation
Does vibration help healing

Health and wellness

Massage for health and wellness
The benefits of preventive massage

Fibromyalgia and chronic pain

Does massage help fibromyalgia

Things to be wary of when using a massager

Poor usage techniques

We have three big problems encouraging people to drive the heads of massagers into muscles thinking they are getting better penetration. Not only do vibrations from a quality vibration massager always penetrate further, pressing in greatly increases the risk of causing damage or injury.

Problems that encourage people to press in and damage themself

Manual massage techniques vs vibration massage
  1. The use of manual massage techniques when using a vibration massager. This is a bit like using a chainsaw like an axe.
  2. Ineffective consumer massagers that come with heads designed to press in.
  3. Manufacturers of percussion massagers wrongly claiming that they get extra benefits because the heads of their machines are driven into the muscles.


The following is a copy of the warnings we give for our General Purpose Massager.

Massager warnings
The DrGraeme Ultimate Quad Head Massager
The DrGraeme Ultimate Quad Head Massager

How to choose a vibration massager

For how to choose an quality massager that will do a great job and that you will be extremely happy with please see our article How to choose a massager, or you can go straight and check out our economical, easy to use professional standard machines: the General Purpose Massager or our Ultimate Quad Head Massager.


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.

We are continually adding more information on research and uses. Subscribe below to have us email them to you "hot off the press".

Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more