Thursday 3rd March, 2022

Are massage guns effective- debunking the myth

Worried teen using massage gun
Are massage guns actually safe and effective?

Percussion massage and massage guns are no where near as effective as they are claimed to be. Many of the marketing claims you’ll read are false, and marketers actually misrepresent science as false evidence to support their effectiveness. As a result of this misleading marketing too many people waste their money on something that is ineffective and can even hurt them.

In this article I’ll give you a run down on why their claims are false, then show you some alternatives that are far safer and more effective


The myths: marketing claims about massager guns
Massage gun safety concerns
Other concerns about massage guns
The safe effective alternative

The myths: marketing claims about massage guns

As you will see massage guns (percussion massagers) are vibration massagers modified to drive their heads into your muscles .
Marketers claim that this:

  • makes them penetrate better, and
  • adds the benefits of conventional massage.

The reality is this actually:

  • makes the vibration massage a lot less effective,
  • adds little if any conventional massage benefits, and
  • creates a serious risk of damage or injury.

The best way to understand this is by looking at what vibration massage is, then the modifications made to create a percussion massager.

What is vibration massage

Vibration massage is a very safe and effective therapy that has been used by professionals for decades. A vibrating pad is placed on the body. The vibrations penetrate like ultrasound (vibrations at a different frequency) and have their therapeutic effects.

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

Vibration massagers

This pic shows an example of a vibration massager that has been used for decades. The pad at the bottom sits safely of the area to be massaged and can send therapeutic vibrations deep into your muscles.

The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage

The therapeutic effects of the vibrations

As shown in this pic therapeutic vibrations have a host of scientifically proven beneficial effects. For more information please see our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications .

The vibrations need to be at the correct frequency

Most of these beneficial effects require a vibration frequency of 30-60hz (cycles per second). As we will see later, because they drive their heads into your muscles it is unsafe to use a massage gun at this speed.

What is percussion massage (massage guns)

Vibration vs percussion vs conventional

The easiest way to see how massage guns compare with vibration massage is by viewing this diagram.

  • The machine on the left is a vibration massager. You can see that it has a large vibrating plate designed to send vibrations deep into your muscles.
  • The machine on the right is a t-bar which therapists use to apply deep (painful) pressure.
  • The massage gun in the middle is basically a t-bar with a jack-hammer mechanism.

From this you can easily see that:

  1. massage guns deliver far less therapeutic vibrations than a genuine vibration massager, and
  2. massage guns can easily damage or injure you.

With that lets look at the claims and issues regarding percussion massagers or massage guns, or you can skip ahead where we show you how to get something that is safe and actually works.

Marketing myth one: percussion penetrates more deeply

Massage gun marketers claim that driving their head increases penetration. The problem with this is that it is the vibrations that have the therapeutic effect, and they easily penetrate far deeper than the head of any massage gun. On the other hand having the head drive in deeply creates a risk of causing injury.

Earthquake- vibrations can penetrate 10s of km
This example shows how effectively vibrations can penetrate. A professional vibration massager can easily penetrate deep into any muscles

Massage gun marketing myth two: massage guns are backed by science

Massage gun marketers falsely represent that their products are scientifically proven three ways.

  1. Falsely claim the benefits of vibration
  2. Falsely claim added benefits of conventional massage
  3. Modify their massage guns to give misleading results in clinical trials

Falsely claiming the benefits of vibration

Massage gun marketers claim the scientifically proven benefits of vibration. However, they only deliver smaller amounts of vibration and it is at the wrong frequency.

Only small amounts of vibration

As we have seen above, because massager guns are designed to drive their head into the muscle rather than vibrations they only deliver a fraction of the therapeutic vibrations a genuine vibration massager does.

Massage guns have the wrong frequency vibrations

As mentioned above to get the best therapeutic effects the vibrations need to be from 30-60hz. However, driving a massager head into your muscles 30-60 times a second can do tremendous damage. Because of this the well known Theraguns are limited to 40 hz, but even this is way to fast. A survey of professionals found that most used their massage guns set on “slow” or “medium” which means their vibrations are way outside the useful therapeutic range (1)⁠.

Falsely claiming the added benefits of conventional massage

Massage gun marketers claim that by driving their head in it adds the benefits of conventional massage. However, they do not provide any scientific evidence that shows these benefits.

Modifying massage guns for clinical trials

Massage gun marketers claim their machines are superior because they drive their heads into your muscles. However, when they do clinical trials they modify their machines so they do not drive their heads into the muscles and act more like a genuine vibration massager. Of course you are not told this. For more information 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

Massage guns come with hard plastic heads designed for penetration and drive their heads into your muscles up to 16mm. Looking at this pic I found online it is easy to see the potential to damage muscles and aggravate injuries, and if you don’t know the anatomy there’s also a very real risk of damaging sensitive structures such as nerves and blood vessels. Allow me to illustrate just how dangerous they can be with a couple of examples from the scientific journals.

Massive internal bleeding

In one report a person using a massage gun to help recover after riding a bike nearly died from massive internal bleeding and rhabdomyolysis (the toxic effect of the damaged tissue) (2)⁠.


A massage gun user suffered from Hemothorax which is a collection of blood around the lungs that usually results from blunt force trauma (3)⁠.

Other concerns about massage guns

Aiming a massage gun

Poor ergonomics and difficulty to reach much of your body

There are a couple of things I need to quickly mention. The first is that calling the machines guns and having their distinctive shape has been good for marketing, but ergonomically and usage wise it’s a stupid shape. You can’t reach a lot of your body with them.

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

Compare this with a machine that has a proper shaped handle that lets you easily use it anywhere.

Alibaba listing of massage gun
Alibaba (manufacturer's portal) has tens of thousands of listing like this. Sellers can buy massagers for under $10 and sell them to you.

The flood of poor quality ineffective copies

The second is with massage guns becoming a fad there are thousands of factories in China with no expertise or even interest in making serious therapeutic equipment making things that look the part, but are practically useless.

The safe effective alternative

So that’s the reality of massage guns and percussion massage. I said at the start that I'll give you you an effective alternative. That alternative is to use genuine vibration massagers that haven’t been modified. Because their heads don’t penetrate they they’re much safer, and because they’re designed to send vibrations in deep all those good scientific studies actually apply to them. These pics are of some professional machines that have been around for a long time and do a great job. They’re expensive, but but in the next section I'll show you some serious machines that are easy to use and reasonably priced.

Professional vibration massager- massator
Professional vibration massager: example two
Professional vibration massager
Vibration massager
Dr Graeme's comments

Some serious machines that are affordable and easy to use

A while back we realised it would be extremely useful for our patients to be able to use genuine vibration massage at home, but the only way to get something serious that would do a good job was to get one of these professional machines. The problem was that as well as being expensive their handles were shaped to be used by a professional, not on yourself. That’s when we decided to do like Henry Ford did with cars: make them so they were affordable and practical for everyone rather than professionals. These are our two main machines.

DrGraeme General Purpose Massager
DrGraeme General Purpose Massager

The General Purpose Massager

The first is our General Purpose Massager which as you can see has a proper ergonomic handle that makes it extremely easy to use. It’s so effective that as well as personal use it’s used by thousands of professionals in their own clinics and in about 15 university courses. Best of all it’s very affordable. More information

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

The Ultimate Quad Head Massager

The other one is our new quad head massager. This one has all the good things of the General Purpose Massager, plus you can obviously massager a much larger area at one time. As well as that it’s got a special dual offset rocker mechanism with a damper. What that means is that it’s incredibly smooth and it sends the vibrations deep into your muscles rather than vibrate the machine, and if you accidentally go over a bony part it won’t do any harm. More information


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. 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)
  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.

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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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