Do you have one of those massage guns at your house? They used to only be seen on sidelines at sporting events but quickly became an easily accessible consumer craze over the last few years.
Seemingly, everybody and their mother has one now. It takes little to no skill and feels great. But, unfortunately, it’s most peoples' only attempt at addressing their pain.
We see folks try to use massage guns on chronically painful or tight areas for months, even years, before they ever try to get any guidance on how to actually fix the issue. Now that person has an injury that just became a whole lot more complicated to rehabilitate.
This is why you won’t see us using these in the clinic (not to mention that it’s quite possibly the laziest form of "care” and you could be doing it to yourself at home, rather than paying a trained professional to just use a bandaid shortcut that does not address the real issue at hand)
So let’s talk about some other things to look at prior to using your massage gun to best treat your injury.
1) What has changed? – Is there anything in the last few weeks leading up to when you first started experiencing symptoms that has changed? Changes to your workout routine? Changes to the frequency, volume or intensity of workouts or chores around the house? Often times non-traumatic injuries occur due to doing too much too soon or too much of an activity or position that your body wasn’t ready to handle yet due to lack of exposure. Often times minor programming tweaks to your workout or other activities can make a huge difference. Play the long game and try to gradually progress any new variable you introduce.
2) What is the pain pattern? – Does your pain come on when you start an activity and get worse throughout? Or does it only come on once you're done with that activity? Or maybe it’s there when you start but after things get moving, the pain dissipates. These are all important things to consider because it may indicate an opportunity to introduce some movement based approaches into your daily routine prior to, or after you do an activity that elicits symptoms to help you
manage or even eliminate the pain all together. Working with a qualified physical therapist that is familiar with the activities you’re trying to get back to doing pain free is a huge benefit here.
3) Is this thing even helping? – Many people who use a massage gun will tell us how great it makes the injured area feel while using it. For a short while after they are “loosened up”, but symptoms of tightness or pain return quickly once they stop. This causes people to feel like a massage gun junkie and feel helpless as this is the only form of relief they can seem to find. When an area is chronically tight and massage and stretching modalities don’t change this for the long term, your body is likely begging you for some strength in this area! The best way for your body to manufacture stability in an area that is lacking it is to ramp up the resting tension in the muscles around the joint. This leaves you feeling tight and stiff all the time. Strengthening this area over time can actually alleviate your tightness for good by creating a “safe” environment for the joint.
Next time you or your friend picks up a massage gun for the 367th time, try to consider these few things first and work to make changes to address them. And as always, if you need a guide in the best way to go about it, we’ve got your back. Feel free to reach out any time you’d like to talk with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy for free advice!