Monday, August 10, 2020

Thera/ Massage And Vibration Guns. Do They Work?

Picture taken by iPhone 11 Pro from Shopee
Earlier in the week, I read an article on the same topic written by CNA Lifestyle. Actually, I already wrote half of the article on that exact same topic last week but decided to publish the article on bicycle lanes in Sigapore since bicycles are much closer to my heart.

The author did a good introduction on what massage or thera guns are and what they do in that article. She also interviewed other health professionals for their thoughts. So my article will be different. It will explain the science behind why thera or massage guns feel so good when you use them. And of course the evidence available.

Thera or massage guns are being advertised with all kinds of benefits like helping with aches, pain and stimulating "muscle recovery". They can certainly vibrate your muscles/ tissues but almost all the medical claims are not totally true.

Vibration therapy definitely is relaxing for most people especially if it's not too strong or sudden or in an uncomfortable location. Sitting in a warm pool with bubble jets (like a jacuzzi) come to mind and I'm sure all of you who tried will agree that it's a pleasant sensation.

And vibration, waves and frequencies are what some physiotherapists already use for treatment. These include ultrasound, electrical (TENs) and magnetic stimulation, infrared radiation and even lasers. The above are mainly microscopic vibrations aimed at cells at the cellular level and a wider range of frequencies and smaller amplitudes.

Even ESWT (or shock wave) uses high intensity waves to smash kidney stones, (used by doctors) and/ or stimulate bone healing. Many other physiotherapists also uses ESWT to treat plantar fasciitis.

An article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that runners who receive daily sessions of vibration therapy on the legs were less sore  and had fewer blood markers associated with soreness compared to runners who did not (Broadbent et al, 2010).

Coarse vibrations have interesting neurological effects too. Vibrations added to really flexible gymnasts appears to increase their flexibility further (Kinser et al, 2008).

One reason why vibrations help is a change in our proprioceptive state. Proprioception is how we sense or judge our position. When the body is being vibrated or shaken, plenty of input goes to our cerebellum in the brain. When there is no danger perceived by the cerebellum, the nervous system send signals for the body to relax. That's why the body calms down and you feel good.

Another reason is the strong and distinctive vibratory sensations are quite the opposite of feeling stiff and tight. Just like splashing cold water on your face when you're hot, vibration feels like a natural remedy to your stiffness.

So patients with conditions like muscle strains, neck pain and especially low back pain with fear being a big part of it may feel better after using massage guns or other vibration therapy.

However, if you have shin splints (will hurt more actually), plantar fasciitis and nerve entrapment issues then they probably will not help.

So, still thinking about splashing your your earned cash on this? Save your money. Or better still come see us in our clinic to treat the cause of your problem.


Broadbent S, Rousseau JJ et al (2010). Vibration Therapy reduces Plasma IL6 And Muscle Soreness After Downhill Running. BJSM. 44(12): 888-894. DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.052100

Kinser AM, Ramsey MW et al (2008). Vibration And Stretching Effects On Flexibility And Explosive Strength In Young Gmynasts. Med Sci Sp Exer. 40(1): 133-140. DOI: 10.1249/mss.0b013e3181586b13.

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