Friday 11th February, 2022

The best massage guns are not massage guns

Theragun being used
Massage guns are a modification of vibration massagers that has made them less effective and more dangerous: you are better with the original

There are hundreds of massage gun marketers telling you that their machine is the best for you. However, your best option is to not buy a massage gun, but get a genuine therapeutic vibration massager like professionals have been using for decades. They do everything massage gun marketers claim their machines do, but are easier to use, safer and more effective.

Further, the makers of these machines are not paying huge amounts for endorsements, sponsorships, advertising and commissions so genuine professional standard vibration massagers are much more reasonably priced.

In this article we’ll go over

  • the difference between massage guns and genuine professional vibration massagers.
  • how massage gun marketers have make unrealistic claims and misrepresented science to promote their machines,
  • discuss the serious safety concerns around massage guns,
  • then finally point you in the right direction to get a safe effective machine you will be very happy with.


What is the difference between massage guns and genuine vibration massagers
Massage gun marketing: false claims and misrepresenting science
Massage gun safety concerns
The ergonomics of a massage gun
Your best alternative: genuine vibration massagers
Advice for professionals

What is the difference between massage guns and genuine vibration massagers

The simplest way to explain the difference between a massage gun and a genuine vibration massager is to first show you what a vibration massager is, then show how massage guns differ.

Vibration massager
Professionals have been using vibration massagers safely and effectively for decades

What is a vibration massager

Vibration massagers are devices designed to send therapeutic vibrations deep into your muscles. The machine pictured is one that has been used by professionals for decades. The pad on the bottom sits on the surface and vibrates. Those vibrations penetrate like ultrasound (vibrations at a different frequency) and have a host of beneficial therapeutic effects. For more information about these effects please see our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications .

What is a massage gun (percussion massager)

Massage gun marketers have modified vibration massagers, making them drive their heads into your muscles rather than vibrations. They called this "percussion massage". The easiest way to explain is to use this diagram.

Vibration vs percussion vs conventional
  • The machine on the left is a genuine vibration massager. You can see that it has the large pad to send copious amounts of therapeutic vibrations deep into your muscles.
  • The tool on the right is a t-bar that massage therapists use to deliver deep (usually painful) pressure.
  • The machine in the middle is a massage gun, or percussion massager. It’s head goes up and down a lot further and is designed to drive into your muscles. Bascially it is a t-bar with a jack-hammer mechanism.

The key differences

As you can see, compared with the vibration massager the massage gun :

  1. delivers far less therapeutic vibrations, and
  2. is much more likely to hurt you.

Massage gun marketing: false claims and misrepresenting science

Massage gun marketers claim that by modifying their machines to drive their heads into your muscles, as well as giving you the benefits of vibration they give better penetration and add the benefits of conventional massage. In this section we will show you that those claims are totally bogus.

Massage guns do not give you worthwhile therapeutic vibration benefits

Compared with a genuine therapeutic vibration massager the vibration benefits you will receive from a massage gun are negligible.

Massage guns deliver less vibrations

As we have seen above, because they are designed to drive their heads in rather than deliver vibrations massage guns deliver far less therapeutic vibrations than a genuine vibration massager.

Massage gun vibrations are the wrong frequency

The get the good therapeutic benefits such as relaxing muscles, increasing blood flow and helping healing you need vibrations from 30-60hz (cycles per second). Serious massage guns drive their heads into your muscles 10-16mm. Driving something into your muscles that far 30-60 times a second could cause carnage. This is why Theraguns are limited to 40hz, but even that is way to fast. A survey of professionals found that most used their massage guns on “slow” or “medium” (1)⁠. This is way outside the frequency range where you would get worthwhile benefits.

Massage guns do not penetrate better

Earthquakes can penetrate 100s of km

Percussion massage advocates claim that by having the head physically driven into the muscle it penetrates better. While their heads do penetrate it is the vibrations that have the therapeutic effects. Like ultrasound (vibrations at a different frquenncy) the vibrations from a genuine therapeutic vibration massager can go right through your body. Therapeutic vibrations can easily penetrate much further than the head of any massage gun.

Massage guns do not give you additional worthwhile conventional massage

To our knowledge there is no evidence that by driving their heads into your muscles massage guns give you worthwhile conventional massage benefits. It is totally unreasonable to believe that these would give you anywhere near the benefits of a proper professional massage therapist.

Massage guns are not proven by clinical trials

Trials of vibrations do not apply

Massage gun marketers refer to trials of therapeutic vibration. However, as we have seen massage guns only deliver smaller amounts of vibration and these are at the wrong frequency.

Massage guns are modified for clinical trials

While massage gun marketers are telling you about how wonderful percussion massage is because massage guns drive their heads into your muscles, when they do clinical trials they modify the machines so they do not do not drive into the muscles (2,3)⁠ They do this so they at least get some benefits and do not hurt any patients. Of course the marketers do not tell you this. For details please see our article Are massage guns scientifically proven .

Massage gun safety concerns

Dangerous use of a massage gun
Driving in heads like a jackhammer can do serious damage

While therapeutic vibrations are very safe, driving heads in is not. Most massage guns come with hard plastic heads that would look at home on a jack-hammer, while powerful massage guns drive their heads in up to 16mm.

Obviously hitting sensitive structures such as nerves and blood vessels with these can cause serious problems, but even if used on muscles they can cause tremendous damage. For example there is a report in a medical journal of a a person who nearly died from internal bleeding after using a massage gun to help recover after riding a bike (4)⁠. There is also another report of a person suffering hemothorax which is the chest cavity filling with blood, usually associated with blunt force trauma (5)⁠.

Massage guns have poor ergonomics

The gun shape as a marketing tool
The gun shape is purely a marketing gimmick with no consideration of ergonomics or effectiveness
Cannot reach with massage gun

Calling the machines “guns” and creating their distinctive shape has been an excellent marketing move, but the reality is that this shape is terrible with regards to ergonomics and usefulness. As you can see from this diagram, like a gun percussion massagers need to be pointed. This makes it impossible to use a massage gun effectively on about one third of your body. This is another example of massage gun makers prioritising gimmicks over doing a good job for you.

Using a quad head
An ergonomic handle makes it easy to use a massager effectively on all your body

Contrast this with a vibration massager with an ergonomically shaped handle that is easy to hold and you can easily use on any part of your body.

Your best alternative: a genuine vibration massager

As we have seen marketers have modified genuine vibration massagers to create a marketing gimmick that is less effective and you cannot even use yourself on a lot of your body. The ironic thing is that because they pay so much for endorsements, sponsorships, commissions and advertising to tell you that this is a good idea they are more expensive than a genuine therapeutic device. You are far better off getting a genuine therapeutic vibration massager. For how to tell the difference please see our article How to choose a massager .

Most vibration massagers are built for professionals to use

That said, most genuine vibration massagers are built to be used by professionals on their patients, not self use. We will picture some examples below

You have a very poor selection of machines built for the public

When it comes to building massagers for the public manufacturers have a long history of focusing on gimmicks and how their machines look on shop shelves rather than there effectiveness and how easy they are to use (6). You will find most machines on the market to be massage guns or ineffective “consumer machines”. Because of this when we were looking for an effective massager for our own patients we built our own.

The General Purpose Massager

We’ve had this machine for over a decade and it’s proved to be extremely effective, economical and reliable. The only shortfall is that you are limited to massaging the region under the single head. More information about the General Purpose Massager

The Ultimate Quad Head Massager

This machine has the same ergonomic shape and effectiveness as the General Purpose Massager, but has four heads so it can massage a much larger area. More information about the 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.


  1. Cheatham SW, Baker RT, Behm DG, Stull K, Kolber MJ. Mechanical percussion devices: A survey of practice patterns among healthcare professionals. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2021;16(3):766–77.
  2. Martin JD of H and WU of winchester. A critical evaluation of percussion muscle gun therapy as a rehabilitation tool focusing on lower limb mobility. A literature review. 2021.
  3. Garc M, Jurado-castro JM, Ben J. Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment on Movement Velocity during Resistance Training. Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 21;18(15):7726.
  4. Chen J, Zhang F, Chen H, Pan H. Rhabdomyolysis After the Use of Percussion Massage Gun : A Case Report. Phys Ther. 2021 Jan 4;101(1)
  5. Masters A, Duarte R, Chiang B, Sarvottam K, Patel K. Hemothorax After Use of Percussion Massage Gun: A Case Report. 2022;A4172–A4172.
  6. McDonagh D, Wilson L, Haslam C, Weightman D. Good vibrations: Do electrical therapeutic massagers work? Ergonomics. 2005;

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

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