If you have tight sore muscles and restricted mobility, you may benefit from including percussion therapy during your next massage session.
Percussion therapy is rapidly gaining popularity in the fields of sports rehabilitation, physical therapy, chiropractic offices, and massage therapist.
In the basic sense, a percussion tool is used to deliver rapid pulsations while gliding gently over the muscles and soft tissues for short durations of time. The effects of this is increased blood flow, releasing of knots and trigger points, warming/softening/lengthening of connective tissue. The goal is to support and increase the benefit of your massage and provide longer lasting results.
I have been interested in percussion tools for awhile now but the deciding moment came when I went for my last chiropractic appointment. Dr West used his Theragun on my upper shoulders and back before performing my adjustments. At first it felt a bit strange but within moments I began to really like it. I spent awhile talking with Dr West about how this has helped when using it with his patients and his thoughts on the therapy in general. When I got back to my office I spent some time doing more research and ultimately bought one of the top professional models for my office.
A percussion tool can help release tight and tense myofascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and bones. By stimulating sensory cells on the skin, the device interrupts the contraction of nearby muscles and, thus, relaxes them. By working the deeper tissues it is thought to help relase myfascial trigger points responsible for sustaining tight sore muscles. Stimulating the cells can also override the sensation of pain – sort of like when you rub your leg after banging into a table leg. Finally, when a muscle becomes tight and sore, blood flow to the area slows. A massage device can help increase that oxygen-rich blood flow, helping the muscle to heal.
Overall Potential Benefits of including Percussion Therapy
Prevents Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
DOMS happens when you engage in a physical activity that stresses your muscles beyond their usual limit. It’s annoying, dreadful, and could last for 24 to 72 hours after your workout. Good thing, percussive therapy can provide a fast remedy.
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, vibration therapy, “improves muscular strength, power development, and kinesthetic awareness.” It also, “effectively improves muscle performance which may prevent DOMS.”
Another 2020 study in the European Review of Ageing and Physical Activity also showed that vibration therapy can improve physical performance. Especially if you’re suffering from sarcopenia, an age-related condition where adults gradually lose muscle mass and strength.
While vibration therapy and percussive therapy are two different forms of treatment (vibration therapy uses, well, vibration; whereas percussive therapy involves thumping or hammering motions in addition to vibration), their mechanisms are similar.
Both types of therapy prevent any muscular damage caused by an eccentric workout. It also reduces the body’s perception of pain by disrupting the pain signals that the brain sends to your body. Thanks to percussive therapy, you don’t have to endure any post-workout aches anymore.
The same study also shows that aside from pain reduction, the vibration also synchronizes your muscle spindles which results in a better range of motion. Once muscles become flexible, they become much less prone to injuries and pains.
Your flexibility may also improve your posture and balance. As published in a 2019 systematic review, combining vibration therapy with physical therapy can enhance your gait speed and walking performance, especially in people who have experienced a stroke and knee osteoarthritis. Sweet!
Increases blood circulation.
Overtraining causes severe muscle pain—we all know that. But did you know that one of the causes is the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles whenever you do an intense workout?
You can counter this effect by increasing blood circulation which vibration therapy helps with as shown in two studies—published in 2011 and 2014. In sports recovery, the increase in blood circulation minimizes muscle tension and inflammation.
Gives way to a better lymphatic flow.
Fewer muscle knots and muscle tightness means better drainage in the lymphatic system. When the lymph moves freely, the body can excrete toxins and waste effectively.
A better lymphatic system means a healthier immune system and improved metabolism. Talk about a positive chain reaction, right?
Offers quick relief to muscle soreness.
This is probably the highlight of it all—it’s fast and effective. Proponents of the 2014 study which compared the effect of vibration therapy and massage in preventing DOMS suggested that, “The difference in time taken for the execution of the treatment can play a pivotal role. [In] situations where time is [of] the essence, vibration can be used.”
And if the above-mentioned benefits were not yet enough, more research reveals that vibration therapy can also improve the muscle strength of adults, activate bone formation, enhance bone strength, and even decrease muscle tremors which can be beneficial to people with Parkinson’s disease.
It can also expedite the rehabilitation process of muscles that suffered from trauma, disease, or surgery. Plus, massage guns are also considered helpful in aiding insomnia, curtailing stress, and surprise surprise—reducing cellulite, as shown in a 2019 study! Now that’s revolutionary work right there.
In practice the device is used where needed by gently gliding over the area working the muscles and connective tissue using one or more of several choices of attachments. Each area recieves no more than a minute or two at the most of treatment time. Just enough to help the area become more receptive to the massage work.
So there you have it. Another great option to help relieve tight sore restricted muscles and improve mobility.