Friday 29th March, 2024

Your guide to vibration massage

Vibration massage
Your complete guide to using vibration massage

Vibration massage has been used by professionals for decades, but more recently personal use machines have made this therapy available for home use. In this article we will discuss what vibration massage is and what it does, then give you practical advice on how to choose a suitable machine and use it properly.


What is vibration massage
What does vibration massage do
How to choose a suitable machine
How to use a vibration massager properly
Some examples of uses and benefits
Answers to common questions

Ultrasound being used
Vibration massagers send in vibrations like ultrasound, but are much safer

What is vibration massage

Vibration massage is a therapy where the pad of a therapeutic vibration massager is placed on the surface causing vibrations to penetrate and have a host of therapeutic effects such as relax muscles, increase blood flow and improve healing. The vibrations penetrate the same way as ultrasound (vibrations at a different frequent), but vibration massage is much safer.

The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage

What does vibration massage do

The vibrations from a vibration massager penetrate deeply into your muscles and have a host of proven beneficial effects as shown in this diagram. For detail please see our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications . Because of this vibration massage has a host clinical and other uses such as those following. We discuss each further in our examples section.

  • Trigger points and “muscle knots”
  • Treating pain such as back, neck and shoulder
  • Chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia
  • Rehabilitation and healing
  • Sports and exercise: warmups, recovery, increasing performance
  • cellulite massage
  • Health and wellness

How to choose a suitable machine

Example vibration massage
Example of a professional vibration massager

This picture shows a genuine vibration massager similar to those that have been used by professionals for decades. The key features are:

Vibration pad

You can see the vibration pad that is designed to sit on the surface and send in vibrations. To give effective vibration transfer these pads need to go up and down about 5mm, and have a strong motor and mechanism to drive them.

Vibration “speed”

As discussed in our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications , the frequency where most therapeutic benefits occur is in the 40-50 hz (cycles per second) range. The massager needs to be able to run comfortably at this speed. If specifications are given in rpm this is 2400-3000 rpm.


We've got a separate article on how to choose a massager , however you will find that most genuine vibration massagers are built for professionals to use on their patients, not personal use. As discussed below you WILL NOT get worthwhile benefits from most personal use machines sold to the public. These include “consumer massagers” and massage guns or percussion massagers. Because of this, to get something decent for our patients we built our own (see below)

Consumer grade massager
Testing a consumer grade massager fitted with a proper professional massager head

“Consumer massagers”

A study conducted a few years ago found that manufacturers of massagers built for the public to use at home were concerned about how their machines looked on shop shelves rather than how they worked: resulting an machines that looked good but had little therapeutic benefit (1). As an example the factory that builds our massagers sent us the machine pictured. Like most of these types of machines it came with a host of cheap gimmick shaped plastic heads, so we glued on a decent one. When we tried it the head only went up and down 1-2mm rather than the 4-5mm needed for effective vibration transfer. Where a proper professional machine will send vibrations right through you this machine just “buzzed” the surface.

Massage guns (percussion massagers)

Massage guns are designed to drive their heads into your muscles rather than deliver vibrations. Because of this they deliver less vibrations, and they are at the wrong frequency.

Vibration vs percussion vs conventional
Massage guns deliver less vibrations

The easiest way to explain is to use this diagram.

  • 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.
  • It is easy to see from this why massage guns deliver less vibrations and are more likely to hurt you.
Massage guns cannot be used at the therapeutic frequencies

We have see that for most of the benefits the effective frequency is around 50hz. “Professional” massage guns drive their heads into your muscles 12-16mm. Driving something 12-16mm into your muscles 50 times a second would cause tremendous damage so Because of this Theraguns have a maximum of 40hz, but even that is way too fast. A survey of professionals found that most used their massage guns on “slow” or “medium” (2). This means they are operating way outside the effective therapeutic frequency range.

We built our own personal use vibration massagers

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

How to use a vibration massager properly

Using a vibration massager is very easy. In this section:

  • Basic usage
  • What not to do
  • How to get better results

Basic usage

We have a full list of hints and precautions in our vibration massage usage guide , but basically all you need to do is sit the vibrating pad on where you want to massage and let the vibrations penetrate.

Basic mistake: using conventional massage techniques
You do not use conventional massage techniques with vibration massage

What not to do

The biggest mistake we see people make (including professionals) is to use the techniques they have been shown for conventional massage. These include pressing in and rubbing. As this pic shows this is a bit like using axe techniques with a chainsaw.

How to get better results

The best speed settings

Our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications discusses the best vibration frequencies to get each of the therapeutic effects, but in general about 50 hz does most very well. This is about 85-90% of full power on one of our general Purpose Massagers.

Using effective protocols

In the section below we give links to articles with specific advice and protocols for using vibration massage in a wide variety of conditions.

Answers to common questions

Is vibration massage safe?

Vibration massage has been used by professionals for decades and is very safe. However, if you use a massage gun or percussion massager they are designed to drive their heads into your muscles rather than sit on the surface and send in vibrations. As discussed in this article , massage guns have actually caused life threatening injuries.

Why do vibration massagers feel so good

Vibration massagers will relax your muscles, eliminating tension. They will also help flush your muscles with blood, removing wastes and bringing in fresh nutrients. Also, unlike massage guns a genuine vibration massage does not “pummel” your muscles.

Professional at desk


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. McDonagh D, Wilson L, Haslam C, Weightman D. Good vibrations: Do electrical therapeutic massagers work? Ergonomics. 2005;
  2. 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.

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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