What is Percussive Therapy and When Should I Use It?

What is Percussive Therapy and when should I use it?

Harry Deol

29th April 2021

Percussive Therapy is a relatively modern wellness modality. It innovatively combines pressure and vibration therapy which both go back thousands of years. The result is an effective deep muscle treatment that can be used to aid warm-up, activate your muscles mid-workout, improve recovery and potentially treat injuries.


Percussive Therapy is the rapid and repetitive application of pressure perpendicular to the body by a high power massage gun. These powerful and repetitive strikes cause deep tissue vibrations which have many effects including relieving pain, improving movement and aiding recovery.


It’s important to understand what Percussive Therapy is, as not all massage guns are Percussive Therapy devices. Therefore they have different benefits. On top of this it isn’t just limited to boosting recovery. In fact, these devices can be used to improve your well-being and training in multiple ways.


  • "It’s important to understand what Percussive Therapy is, as not all massage guns are Percussive Therapy devices. Therefore they have different benefits."


What is Percussive Therapy?

Percussive Therapy originates from Tapotement. This is a massage technique where the body is tapped rhythmically by the fingers or sides of the hand rapidly and repeatedly. 

The repetitive striking of your muscles is replicated with the head of the massage gun. 


Percussive Therapy is specifically composed of three aspects

1. Frequency - The number of times the device strikes your body (RPM). 

2. Torque - The amount of power you can apply to the body

3. Amplitude - The distance the massage gun head travels (the larger the distance the deeper the massage)

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What's the Difference Between Percussive Therapy and Vibration Therapy Massage Guns?

Massage guns are generally similar in torque and frequency unless they are knock off devices. However, it is the amplitude which separates Percussive Therapy from Vibration Therapy devices.



Percussive Therapy devices have a higher amplitude of up to 16 mm which delivers deep tissue therapy to maximise your therapeutic benefits. It reaches 60% deeper into your muscle then consumer-grade vibration massagers. This produces deeper massage-like benefits. (Source)


As we have said before, Percussive Therapy combines pressure with vibration therapy. 


Vibration Therapy massage guns are higher in frequency and lower in amplitude which provide a more constant less powerful stimulus. They have similar benefits to Percussive Therapy devices, mainly reducing pain and increase circulation. 


The more continuous (high frequency) and shallow pressure (low amplitude) the massage gun the more the device leans towards Vibrational Therapy benefits. By keeping in constant or close contact with skin, vibration tools provide a constant stimulus. This has the effect of numbing the area under treatment as the nervous system adapts by ignoring this constant stimulus.


Percussive Therapy with its larger amplitude punches deeper into the muscle and then withdraws from it. Your body cannot adapt to this on-off stimulus, so your nervous system is constantly stimulated.


Percussive Therapy is therefore considered to reduce pain and increase circulation more effectively due to its deeper penetration. Rather than numbing an area, the constant stimulation of your sensory (sensing) nerves overrides pain in that area. This gives you the potential to increase your mobility by being able to move your muscles more freely through their range of motion.


More powerful Percussive Therapy devices with their higher amplitudes have been shown to have larger and more long term blood circulation benefits. These devices altered fluid distribution within the muscles while less powerful devices did not.


This suggests that larger amplitude devices provide greater muscular benefits due to their deeper penetration.

Key Differences


Vibration Therapy (VT)

Percussive Therapy (PT)

Superficial muscle massage

Deep tissue massage

Increase blood & lymph flow

More blood & lymph flow compared to (VT)

Numbs the muscle due to a constant stimulus 

Overrides pain signals and releases 'feel good' chemicals improving feeling and movement

Percussive Therapy (PT)

Improved health of your muscles and soft tissues

If your needs are sports related then a Percussive Therapy device is recommended. It will more effectively reduce pain, increase circulation and improve muscular function by reaching deeper into the muscle. This will allow you to optimise your body for that next session. Many cheap and low quality massage guns claim to be Percussive Therapy devices despite being significantly lower in amplitude and delivering different benefits. This is why it is important to be aware of the differences and how they relate to your goals. 

When Should I Use Percussive Therapy?

Percussive Therapy can be used to aid your warm-up routine, boost recovery after your workout,  reactivate or prepare your muscles during your workout, generally treat tension and soreness as well as to potentially help recovery from injury. 


1. Aid your warm-up before exercise

When done between exercises, Percussive Therapy helps resupply fatigues muscles with glucose oxygen and moves waste products away. This promotes muscular recovery in between exercises. Percussive Therapy warms up your muscles whilst increasing circulation which helps prime them for exercise. A reduction in muscle stiffness and soreness also helps loosen your muscles, improving your mobility.

Percussive Therapy also sends electrical signals towards the spine from your muscles which increases muscle activation for the workout ahead. (Source)Always remember that this is no substitute for a cardiovascular warm-up and dynamic stretches. Together these get your heart pumping up to speed and get your muscles ready for sport specific movements, preventing pulled muscles.

These devices are here to compliment and not replace your warm-up routine.

2. Prepare muscles for exercise and helps them maintain performance during workouts

When done between exercises, Percussive Therapy helps resupply fatigues muscles with glucose  oxygen and moves waste products away. This promotes muscular recovery in between exercises. Additionally it helps reduce stiffness and stimulates your muscles fibres to increase muscle activation. This can be used when certain muscles become fatigued or to prepare muscles for a new exercise.

3. Recover better post-workout

Increased blood and lymph flow helps supply fatigued muscles and rid the body of metabolic waste. This enhances and speeds up your recovery for that next workout. Relaxation of your muscles and a reduction in pain decreases tension and soreness. Improvement of your soft tissue health during recovery leaves your muscles feel less stiff and more mobile.This allows you to recover better and train more effectively for that next session so you can improve performance.

4. Potentially help rehabilitation and injury treatment

The ability of Percussive Therapy to increase circulation, reduce pain and tension as well as improving soft tissue health means it can help muscles recover from injury.

However, each injury is different and it is advised to seek professional advice from a doctor first. Percussive Therapy massage guns are powerful devices and can have the effect of worsening an injury if used incorrectly. Luckily, top end Percussive Therapy devices like the Theragun Prime have apps with specific routines based on injuries, activities and ailments. Click here to check it out!

Or click here to check out our massage gun range!


Bibliography

https://www.theragun.com/us/en-us/therabody-university/

https://www.theragun.com/us/en-us/faq/theragun-devices/faq-devices-7.html?fdid=faq-theragun-devices&csortb1=sortOrder&csortd1=1



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