What is a Handheld Percussion Massager and Are They Safe to Use?


Ahletes use a handheld percussion massager

A handheld percussion massager has short-duration pulses and the bursts of concentrated pressure work deep onto the muscles. This intensity would be difficult with a human hand massage.

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Some of our other articles about Percussion Massagers –

If you are looking for a percussion massager that is a great price here is an article I wrote recently on the Best Percussion Massager for the Price 2020 – Top 5

If you are more serious about performance and recovery after or before a workout here is an article I wrote which has some of the best percussion massagers for athletes – Percussion Massagers: Top 16 Massage Guns Reviewed. Are they Safe, Good for Athletes, Painful, Effective?

A brand leader in percussion massagers is the Pado Pure wave. These handheld massagers are used by professional athletes and chiropractors alike.

They recently updated their massager from the cm5 to the cm7. The cm5 is no longer available to buy new but you could probably find a used one on ebay or even Amazon.

For an in-depth review of the functionality and benefits of both units here is an article I wrote comparing the two –Pado Pure Wave – cm5 vs cm7 Percussion Massager

Most Frequently Asked Questions

[faqs]

If you want to take a closer look go here to read our review of the best percussion massagers for 2020

How do Percussion Massagers work?

Many athletes use handheld percussion massagers after working out because the percussive pulses stimulate blood circulation and tenderize the muscles, therefore helping to prevent soreness and stiffness, 

Theragun G3PRO

Massages from these handheld massagers give a gentle stretch enhancing massage with added flexibility. 

Percussion massagers are very popular with top athletes and celebrities because many say that a percussion therapy massage boosts their recovery, therefore they can continue to workout or play their sport more consistently.

Why use a Handheld Percussion Massager?

Percussion massagers relax thickened connective tissue and help to break down internal scar tissue and adhesions. This improves circulation and helps the lymphatic system. Percussion therapy speeds up and enhances the repair of muscle fibres.

Dr. Jason S. Wersland the inventor of the Theragun, (link is cheaper than Amazon) a popular massage tool which grew in popularity because many top athletes adopted it, stated, “This is going to help you increase your range of motion, at the same time decreasing your pain….  its efficiency is higher because of the frequency and amplitude.” 

Independent research published recently, has identified many health benefits for muscle recovery and strength. Percussion massagers deliver increased oxygen and nutrients into the muscles and tissues which aids repair and a quicker recovery from exercise.

These massagers are often used in rehab units by profession physical therapists for people who had atrophyed muscles. have suffered injury resulting in atrophy of muscles 

There has been extensive research on the results of percussion massagers, as well as lots of anecdotal evidence on the positive benefits especially for athletes.

The intensity of the massage may not be suitable for everyone but if you are in good health, it shouldn’t cause any harm. 

It is also a personal choice, much the same as if you prefer a full body Swedish massage rather than a Shiatsu massage.

The benefits of a human hand deep tissue massage are well known. This is enhanced using a handheld percussion massager because it gives a more effective localized massage.

The rapid pulses that go deep into the tissue are also less painful on muscles when a hand massage would be unbearable.

Do Handheld Percussion Massagers Work?

Percussive massage has been used by a traditional massage therapist for many years due to its positive effects. It is best used when a deep tissue massage is needed.

Electric massagers mimic human touch massage and percussion massagers are some of the most powerful handheld massagers available. They are as effective as a hand massage but are more convenient.

Handheld Percussion Massager Benefits

Athletic Performance
Kyrie Irving nba

Percussion massagers gained popularity when Basketball player Kyrie Irving used percussion treatment  to prevent and treat cramping during the 2017 NBA Finals. He used the Theragun Percussion massager which has now become one of the leading brands.

Recovery

Using a percussion massager speeds up healing of muscles that have not been used due to injury or disease. Muscles that are not used regularly tend to contract so using percussive massage is used by physical therapists working with patients who are fully or partially paralised.

The specific massage stimulates the muscles that would otherwise atrophy and contract causing pain and reduced movement. This also improves reflex responses because the nerves respond to the stimulation from the percussive action.

Reduced Stress Levels

All of us suffer from stress and anxiety due to the pace of life. Using a percussion massager increases blood flow, induces a sense of calmness and well-being, enhances deep breathing thus reducing stress and anxiety.

Relaxation

Any form of massage creates a sense of relaxation and general wellbeing. The percussion massager enhances any form of massage and can have greater effects due to the concentration on one specific area of the body.

Wellness Benefits

Using a percussion massager regularly can reduce blood pressure, improve sleep patterns and the quality of sleep. The specific actions of the massage can eliminate toxins, improving digestive system and immunity. Research has also highlighted these percussive massages improve the balance of the autonomic nervous system.

Pain Relief
handheld percussion massagers for pain

If you are used to relying on medication to combat muscle pain you could eradicate this need by using a percussive massager. The intensity and frequency the massagers are great for pain relief.

You don’t need to be a top athlete to benefit from these specialised massage machines. Anyone who experiences muscle pain can benefit immensely from regular use of these convenient handheld massagers.

The National Institute of Health in a recent study concluded – ‘vibration therapy shows clinically early reduction of pain in 48 hours post exercise periods.’

Mobility & Flexibility

Due to increased blood flow, nerve stimulation and break down of scar tissue, mobility and flexibility is significantly increased. This is beneficial to anyone from professional athletes to someone with very limited mobility. 

Convenience

One of the greatest pluses for buying your own percussion massager is convenience. They are small and portable, plus the cost of a traditional massage and the time it takes to go to the masseuse is negated. You have your own massage therapist at your convenience in your home or in your car or bag for when you workout.

Cosmetic Procedures And Scaring

The percussive massage helps to reduce inflammation, break down scar tissue relax muscles post cosmetic surgery.

Medical Applications

There are times when percussive therapy is used for post-surgery treatment, as it’s known to break down internal scar tissue while increasing venous and lymphatic circulation.

This speeds up the healing time. Percussion also treats stiff joints and muscle spasms, as it elongates the muscle fibers. This relaxes both the muscles and fascia, thus preventing any future occurrence of muscle spasms.

Medical Rehabilitation

Percussive massage helps speed up healing for muscles. They are used to treat muscles which have some level of atrophy due to injury, surgery or disease. Many physical therapists use percussion massagers in rehab units to help patients regain movement.

Many paralysis patients gain strength back in their muscles due to the specific stimulation of muscle fibres. blood flow increases and nerves stimulated.

Fibromyalgia

A research study published by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013 -‘The results suggest that deep oscillation massage is safe and well tolarable in patients with FMS.’  

This may be surprising to anyone who knows someone who suffers from FMS as nerve pain and often being touched can cause great pain and discomfort.

Are Percussion Massagers Safe?

As with all massage tools, it is up to the individual to be aware of any side-effects and possible dangers. 

Due to the intensity of the percussion massager it is vital to understand how the machine works and how to use it.

You should also know which parts of the body it can be used and more importantly which parts of the body it should never be used. 

These are a few of the possible side effects reported by medical professionals and users of the equipment.

  • Do not use on the head and face or chest
  • Do not use near or on the front of the neck or on the front of the throat.  It could cause a stroke, or dissection of the internal carotid artery. Though, this is unlikely if you use the massager as directed. There are warnings and directions on each percussion massager,
  • Do not use if you have any sort of blood clot
  • Do not use if you have an implanted medical device unless you have discussed with your doctor
  • Obviously do not use with loose clothing such as scarves as this could cause strangulation or injury
  • Always read the directions, warnings and contraindications before you use the massager
  • Do not use on children or the elderly unless you have medical training or have discussed with your medical practitioner.
  • Do not use for longer than advised

Can You Use A Percussion Massagers While Pregnant?

Do not use unless you have discussed with your medical practitioner and obviously not on the stomach!


How to use Percussion Massagers

Read and understand the manufacturers instructions before use. Discuss using a percussion massager with your medical practitioner if needed.

Take a look at this short video to find out how to apply the massage machine to your body or someone else’s. 

This video is for the Wahl but the technique is basically the same for most percussion massagers.

You should not leave the massager for too long in one area of your body.  Move it slowly over the area.

For a deeper massage of a specific muscle you should be aware not to over do it! But percussion massagers are safe to use for as long as you wish.

How Long Should I Use A Percussion Massager?

You can use a percussion massager as often as you like. They are convenient to use wherever you want and whenever you have time. 

Percussion Massagers vs. Vibration Massagers

A percussion massager can penetrate deeply into the body targeting specific areas.

 A vibrating massager stimulates superficially but is useful for blood flow. This helps health issues such as localised pain, Neuralgia, soreness, and fatigue.

A massage from a vibration massager is low intensity compared with a percussion massager. The percussion massagers give a more powerful and effective deep tissue muscle repair massage.

Professional athletes have been using percussion massagers for years. This is due to the benefits to blood circulation and muscle tissue repair.  Percussion massagers generate 30x more powerful contractions of the muscle. This intensity enhances muscle strength and recovery time. 

If you are an athlete or are working out to build muscle, using a percussion massager you will recover more quickly if you regularly use these types of massagers. 

Infrared percussion massagers basically supercharge relief from muscle pain fast!

Infrared Massager

The handheld percussion massager which also has infrared options can provide the greatest recovery for injured and tired muscles. By focussing on specific areas of the body, healing is more likely and quicker.

Research from the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found infrared heat can double the pain relieving ability of handheld massagers.’The invisible infrared energy penetrates deep into tissues and muscle fibres. This action gives a healing and deep relaxation.

In the journal “Arthritis Today” they state that one of the best pain relief treatments is the use of heat to reduce the symptoms of arthritis. 

Improved Circulation

The combination of heat and the percussion mechanism on the massager increases blood flow. In turn, this benefits the targeted muscles. 

Increased blood flow means nutrients are more easily carried to injured areas of the body and increases the likelihood of faster healing.

Pain Relief and Beneficial Side Effects

The percussion massagers ability to reach deep into tissues and muscles plus infrared heat, stimulates blood flow. This reduces arthritic pain considerably.

Research highlights side effects of infrared massage. These include, reducing depression and anxiety. They also reduce high blood pressure. Sports injuries heal quicker and they improve the immune system.

Difference Between Shiatsu And Percussion Massagers

Shiatsu Massagers

The Japanese word – Shiatsu is a licensed medical therapy which stands for ‘Finger Pressure’. 

The palm of the hand and fingers apply pressure to the body to induce good relaxation. Handheld massagers that mimic this process have soft rolling balls which applied to the body give a gentle soothing massage.

Percussion handheld massagers mimic ‘tapotement’ or rapid and repeated striking of the body. This is a recognised technique in Swedish massage. These movements by a trained masseuse include

  • Cupping
  • Hacking
  • Plucking
  • Pounding
  • Pummelling
  • Tapping

What You Should Consider When Buying A Percussion Massager?

Once you have decided to buy a percussion massager, there are a few things to consider before choosing the specific model. 

Not all percussion massagers are equally effective. 

Eve Carey, the director of massage therapy at Zeel states:

“You should be familiar with each feature of the massage tool…. higher-end models can offer more application choices,” 

Here are a few things you should look at before buying:

Features – how many, do you understand what each feature/attachment does

Portability – when and where are you planning to use the massager? Will it be portable if you are going to transport to wherever you choose to use it.

Weight – can you use it on your own body or will it be too heavy and awkward.

Effectiveness – do the features and attachments give you the solution to your needs? Some massagers may be too advanced or not give you the results you want. Thus understanding and prior research is essential.

Price – there are a vast array of percussion massagers on the market to choose from ranging from under a $100 to $600 plus.

Best Percussion Massager For Athletes

athleres use handheld percussion massagers

Athletes who work out regularly require fast recovery for aching muscles. By using Percussion Massagers the range of movement and strength is restored quicker, This means athletes can continue high level training for longer with less chances of lasting damage.

Many professional athletes use percussive massage regularly and this has now become more popular with amateur athelets.

Percussion massagers can also increase the range of motion and restore strength at a quicker pace than those athletes who don’t use them.

If you take part is sports, work out regularly or just want to increase your muscle strength using a percussion massager is your best option. Plus its cheaper long-term rather than paying for a personal masseuse.

Percussion Massagers For Sciatica

Self massage for sciatica has been found to be be effective. The sciatic nerve travells from the lower back through the buttocks and down the leg.

In a study from 2014 it was found that using deep tissue massage may be as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs for pain relief.

Percussion Massagers For Cellulite

Anti cellulite massage techniques to remove cellutlite are easy to do in your own home but using a percussion deep tissue massager is more effective and cheaper than going to a regular massage therapist!

An effective deeo tissue massage to remove cellulite is easily achievable with some of these percussion massagers.

Percussion Massagers For For Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot which is caused by inflammation of the tissue along the bottom pf the foot. Deep tissue massage is vey effective as it helps to loosed the ligaments and tendons and helps to relax deep tissues of the foot.

Professional Handheld Percussion Massager

Powerful percussion massagers with more features and stronger pulse mechanism will be more expensive than basic models but if you are an athlets or a physical therapist you will need a more robust handheld percussion massager.

Professional massagers have shorter handles as they are used on another persons body,this can make it difficult to use yourself on your lower back or top of your shoulders.

Percussion massage guns have more power and features than traditional handheld percussion massagers.

Compact Percussion Massager

Smaller percussion massagers can be most useful if you are using them to massage yourself rather than massage another person. They are easily transported but less powerful than a professional massage gun.

Cordless Massager

Cordless massagers have a charging station which makes them easier to use without the electric cord. Some are battery operated but may not have the same power or intensity as a mains massager.

Are Percussion Massagers Worth It?

If you want a deep tissue massage and the convenience of having the massager to hand whenever you want then they are indeed workth it. If you have specific needs which a deep tissue massage would halp these percussion massagers are an excellent choice.

What Is The Best Handheld Percussion Massager?

As you can see from this article there are many factors to consider before buying a percussion massager because there are so many to choose from. Your lifestyle, budget and specific needs will determine which product is best for you.

Read some other reviews of Percussion Massagers below…

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