Massage guns and many handheld massagers are percussive massage devices that apply rapid percussive tapping to soft-tissue areas. At their highest setting, these devices can deliver up to 3,200 percussive beats per minute to any part of the body. Percussive therapy loosens and opens up knotted muscle and increases circulation, which helps the injured muscle heal.
All percussive massagers have three or four attachments, each used for a particular muscle group:
Ball head: Made of hard foam, this is the softest attachment and can be used on any part of the body, but it’s best for tender areas around the neck and spine. For first-time users, this attachment will feel the least uncomfortable.
Flat head: This disc-like attachment is made of smooth, hard plastic, and it’s best for larger muscles, like quads, glutes and pecs. The flat surface gives direct contact to the muscle and feels more intense than the ball head.
Bullet or finger head: This attachment is for targeting a specific tight or painful area.
Two-prong fork: The fork is used for working the trapezius muscles along the neck and upper shoulders. It’s also good for working back muscles on either side of the spine.
If you’ve never used a massage gun or other percussive device before, the intense percussion and vibration may initially be an unpleasant sensation for you.
Vincent advises that beginners should start working on larger muscles — quads, hamstrings, biceps — using the ball head at the lowest setting, until you get a sense of what intensity level you can tolerate. From that point, you can experiment with the other attachments for pinpointing specific problem spots.
There are many instructional videos online you can access for learning the basics. Vincent adds these professional tips:
- Begin by moving the massage gun slowly. When you find a tight or painful spot, hold the gun to it for 30 seconds, then release it and move on. If you feel like you can handle more intensive pressure, change the ball head for the flat or bullet head.
- For larger muscles, move the gun in a circular motion.
- If you’ve hit a particularly sore area, and the percussion is too intense, put a towel on the muscle as a buffer.