Monday 9th October, 2023

Are massage guns worth it- video version

Massage guns are marketed a wonder tool you can use to do self massage and help recover after a workout, but as we know marketers often don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, the internet is full of people who’ll recommend anything they can get an affiliate commission for, and celebrity endorsements are paid for. So, before you part with your hard earned money on something that may be just a gimmick lets look at whether they are worth it.

Video version

Web version

Percussion massage= conventional + vibration?

Massage guns are based on percussion massage which is said to be a wonder therapy that combines conventional massage and vibration massage.

You’re probably familiar with conventional massage, but maybe not vibration massage. Vibration massage is a very effective therapy where a vibrating device like this this is used to send vibrations deep into your muscles, and it’s those vibrations that do all the good things like relax the muscle and increase blood flow. So, lets look at whether massage guns do give you the benefits of both

Vibration vs percussion vs conventional

What does percussion do

If we look at this diagram the machine on the left is a vibration massager. As you can see it has a vibration pad designed to send large amounts of vibration deep into your muscles. The tool on the right is a t-bar, which massage therapists use these to save their thumbs and to apply deep (painful) pressure. As you can see the massage gun in the middle is basically a t-bar with a jack-hammer mechanism. Compared with the vibration massager the head of the massage gun goes up and down a lot more, and is designed to drive into the muscle rather than send in vibrations.

The questionable benefits of percussion

The benefits of vibration

The massage gun marketers will tell you about all the wonderful benefits of vibrations, which are true, but clearly massage guns don’t deliver anywhere near the amount that a proper vibration massager does.

Increased penetration

They’ll also tell you that driving the head in increases penetration, but it;s the vibrations that have the therapeutic effects, and if you've ever used a vibration massager you’ll know that the vibrations can go right through you.

More likely to hurt you

I don’t know of any scientific information that says driving the head in like a jack-hammer does anything worthwhile. Realistically the only thing it’s good for is hurting you. What’s going to happen if you use one of the hard plastic jackhammer heads and drive it into a nerve or blood vessel. Even using a percussion massager on muscles is not safe. There’s a journal report of someone nearly dying from internal bleeding after using one to help recover after a bike ride (2)

What scientists think of percussion massage

It’s not just me that’s saying that it’s a stupid idea driving the head in like a jack-hammer. When they do clinical trials on massage guns the scientists use special damper heads to stop the heads driving in and try and get a by more vibration transfer (1,3) Of course they don’t tell you this when they use the trials for marketing.

Journal: damper attachment used
From journal article: scientists used special damper attachment to stop the head penetrating and increase vibration (1)

The Theragun example

The saving grace is that most of the massage guns that are flooding the market are not strong enough to do any serious damage, but I was speaking recently to a colleague who’d fallen for the marketing and brought a Theragun. They have a powerful jackhammer mechanism that drive the head in 16mm. She was telling me that she could only use it on slow speed, otherwise it would hurt the patients.

The ironic thing about that is that according to science vibrations at that slow speed are practically useless. To get the proper benefits from vibrations you need about 50 hz, which would be about the top speed for the Theragun, but my colleague couldn’t do that because it would hurt people.


So, hopefully you now understand that while massage guns claim to combine the benefits of conventional and vibration massage the reality is that they do neither well and are more likely to hurt you. Stick to either genuine vibration or conventional massage. If you want the hand held device you can use yourself that will need to be a genuine vibration massager. Please see our article How to choose a massager

Personal use vibration massagers are not that common

That said, most genuine vibration massagers are made for professionals to use on their patients, such as those pictured, not personal use.

DrGraeme General Purpose Massager
The General Purpose Massager

Because of that we built our own. This is our General Purpose Massager. The business end delivers copious amounts of therapeutic vibrations. Over the years we’ve sold over 100,000 of these without any advertising, mainly though professionals like chiropractors, osteopaths and physical therapists using them and recommending them to their patients.

General Purpose Massager

The DrGraeme Ultimate Quad Head Massager
The Ultimate Quad Head Massager

More recently we’ve developed our quad head machine that has all the good things the General Purpose Massager has, but can do a much greater area at once and because the front part is larger and flatter you can easily use it like a cushion or chair massager.

Ultimate Quad Head Massager

Hopefully this has been helpful and saved you from wasting your money. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate


  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.

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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