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  • Handheld Massagers

  • I have had more and more patients asking me about what I think of percussion massagers and handheld massagers such as Thera guns, percussion massagers, vibrating rollers, and spheres.  With the increasing accessibility of these devices also come some questions.

    handheld massagers

    Do handheld massagers loosen muscles and fascia?

    Most people reach for those devices to relieve pain and spasm.  The better question is why do you have the pain, the spasm, the knots in your muscles?  Massagers may loosen muscles and trigger points temporarily, but they do not address the source of the problem.  Fascia surrounds all body organs, blood vessels, bone, nerve fibers, and muscles.  While you may be releasing some muscle tension, when hammering into the painful/tense area, you may be also causing the tearing of fascia, blood vessels, creating inflammation, and irritating nerves.  There are no benefits of tearing facia and muscle fiber unless facia and muscle fibers are realigned to heal in a proper way.  

    Can handheld massagers help with pain relief?

    You can gain some temporary pain relief from using handheld massagers.  Think about the time you banged your shin and you stopped to rib it or hold it.  The simple act of touching and rubbing excites sensory nerves in the body that inhibit pain fiber activity, causing a distraction and thus reducing the perception of pain.  Note that massagers are not as effective as the human touch.  Since massaging or hitting on a painful area increases blood flow, you may also be causing undue inflammatory response that may actually produce the opposite effect – an increase in pain.

    Do handheld massagers increase Range Of Motion (ROM)

    That depends on the injury and whether or not you want to increase the ROM.  If you sprained a joint, the muscles crossing that joint tighten up and act as a natural brace to protect it.  The joint may also be misaligned or subluxated.  When you bang on the muscle with the massager you may actually cause even more subluxation/misalignment.  I never recommend using percussion massagers on a sprained or strained joint in the first 48-72 hours. See your chiropractor first before using percussion instruments on a sprained/strained muscle or joint.

    Do handheld massagers increase blood flow?

    Yes, they do.  The question is whether increased blood flow is needed.  In the first 48-72 hours of injury, we want to decrease blood flow, apply ice, and rest to decrease inflammation.  In the case of a back injury for example you may be treating yourself for muscle spasm, but the cause of the spasm may be aggravation of a spinal disc or nerve.  Way too often I see people coming to my office after using handheld instruments with more severe symptoms than they started with. Easily preventable.  Check with your chiropractor before you start treating yourself.

    Can I be injured by using handheld massagers?

    The short answer is, yes. When using a massage gun you want to be extra careful to avoid major arteries, nerves, lymphatic vessels, ligaments, tendons, and internal organs. Don’t buy into a no pain no gain or hurts-so-good mentality.  Rather, we believe in slow, measured, self-induced pressure, or better yet, checking in with your trusted chiropractor first is more beneficial.

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