What Is Percussion Massage?

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What are these massagers that look like a modified jigsaw? Well, they’re called a percussion massager!I’m a HUGE basketball fan and I’m seeing NBA trainers use percussion massagers on the players regularly now on TV.So you might be wondering…

What is percussion massage? Percussion massage is a type of massage that delivers a series of rapid blows that penetrate deep into the soft tissue to promote pain-relief, relaxation, and tissue repair. This type of massage also improves blood flow and range-of-motion of the muscle. When done by a masseuse, the percussion strokes are applied through a series of quick, light, strikes from the hands and wrist. The more popular option is to use a handheld percussion massager.

So many of us experience muscle pain from either a work out, injury or old age, and a percussion massage can help with this.Let’s dig ​a little deeper into this type of therapy… 

Is Percussion Massage Good for You?

Generally, percussion massage therapy is beneficial to anyone and everyone.

It has a wide range of benefits for athletes, those recovering from injuries, and the everyday person.

Maybe you sit at an office desk all day and have neck and back soreness.

Percussion therapy can help relax your muscles and relieve the pain.

Athletes benefit from the improved oxygen distribution and blood circulation in the body.

This reduces post-workout muscle soreness and cramps, accelerating the body’s ability to recover and heal faster.

It is also an amazing pre-competition warm-up.

Percussive massage gives balance to the targeted muscle group; tones the muscles while relieving tightness, and reduces physical stress on the bones and joints.

So to reiterate, this type of massage benefits regular “Joes,” athletes and certain injuries.​

How Does A Percussion Massager Work?

A percussion massager is a handheld device that looks a little bit like a modified jigsaw.

The TheraGun, Tim Tam, Hypervolt and Pleno M 3.0 are popular percussive therapy massagers out in the market today.

The four machines are quite similar.

The most well-known percussion massager is probably the TheraGun.

It is powered by a 2,000 RPM motor, and has a dense foam ball attached.

The foam ball moves in a back and forth motion at a rate of 33-40 times per second.

The foam ball strikes the muscle repeatedly, relaxing the muscle and allowing you to penetrate deeper into the tissues.

The machine can penetrate deeper into the muscle than you could with just your hands.

The machine has various frequencies that you could adjust according to your specific needs.

We’ll go deeper into exactly how the percussion massagers work in a minute.

Benefits Of Percussion Massage

As I mentioned earlier, there are a variety of benefits and applications for percussion massage therapy. Let’s explore the benefits in more detail.

  1. 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, therefore preventing any future occurrence of muscle spasms.
  1. Enhanced Athletic Performance. World-class trainers use percussion massagers on professional athletes all the time. Basketball superstar Kyrie Irving received percussion treatment during the breaks of the 2017 NBA Finals games, in order to prevent and treat cramping.Also, since this type of massage stretches the muscles and connective tissues, it improves the athletes’ overall responsiveness and performance.Percussion massage generates 30x more powerful contractions of the muscle, which enhances muscle strength and recovery time. The improved blood circulation reduces muscle soreness and fatigue, enabling athletes to perform longer and more frequently.
  1. Rehabilitation. This type of therapy speeds up the rehabilitation process of muscles that have been injured due to disease, injury or surgery. The contractions caused by the percussor strengthen the muscles. This is extremely beneficial for people who can’t participate in physical therapy. It is used on patients with partial or full paralysis to stimulate the muscles, prevent non-use atrophy, and improving reflex responses in which the nerves respond to stimulation.
  1. Wellness Benefits. There are overall health and wellness benefits as well such as: lowering blood pressure; enhancing immunity; improving sleep; eliminating toxins; improving digestion; improved organ/tissue health; improving sleep patterns; and balancing the autonomic nervous system. Great stuff!
  1. Relaxation. LIke most massages, this type of massage is very relaxing and feels amazing.
  1. Reduced Stress Levels. By improving blood and oxygen circulation, percussion massage promotes deeper breathing levels and relaxation; thus, reducing stress and anxiety.
  1. Pain Relief. Percussion massage relieves pain and muscle soreness without the use of drugs. Your brain processes from very specific frequencies and percussion massage interject with those frequencies to cause pain relief.
  1. Convenience. If you get a percussion massager they’re easy to use and portable. So you can bring it with you anywhere. It’s great, it’s like having your own personal masseuse follow you around.
  1. Cosmetic Procedures And Scaring. Percussive massage helps in freeing adhesions, breaking down scar tissue, and decreasing the inflammation that can sometimes follow cosmetic procedures. This accelerates the healing and recovery time of the patient.
  1. Mobility & Flexibility. Flexibility and mobility is improved due to relaxation and stretching of muscles tissues and fascia.

Is This Therapy Safe For Those With Injuries?

Percussion massage is relatively safe, but it’s not for everyone. As always, be sure you consult your doctor.

Since intensity can be high it could make certain conditions or pain worse.

Some of the circumstances and conditions where percussion therapy should not be used are:

  • lumbar injuries
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • pregnancy
  • advanced level of diabetes
  • certain types of chronic back pain or injuries
  • when ttaking blood thinning medication

What Are The Various Percussion Massage Machines?

There are various percussion massage machines in the market. They differ by the intensity of the vibration they produce and along which side it produces it from.

Some produce vertical vibrations upward or downward, while other machines vibration back and forth, and even sideways.

Some percussors have set programs for specific muscle groups and tissues of the body.

Here are some of the more popular percussion massage machines available in the market.

1. TheraGun

This is a hand-held, battery operated, professional grade percussion therapy device. It has a rugged look and kind of looks like a jigsaw.

It provides deep percussive massage to reduce muscle and joints pain, improve mobility and enhance performance.

It’s designed for both professional and personal use. It is portable, light-weight and easy to use with a compact design.

Here are the features of the TheraGun G2PRO:

  • 20 Minute Battery Life. People have found the TheraGun to last around 20 minutes. There are other machines that last a bit longer.
  • One Speed. Other machines have multiple speeds, which enables you to customize the intensity to you or your patients’ liking.
  • Adjustable Head. This is a great feature that gives you more flexibility to hit your muscles at different angles and positions.
  • 2,400 Percussions Per Minute. There are other machines that have more and some that have less than this.
  • Strong. This machine is strong and good for those that need a more deep tissue massage.
  • Very Loud. When compared to most other machines the TheraGun is probably the loudest, but it’s also on of the strongest in terms of the percussions.

The ThereGun comes with two batteries, a new carrying case, 3 originals and 1 brand new unique foams attachments that allow you to customize your treatment according to your needs and specifications.

The standard ball is ideal for general use.

The large ball is good for large muscle types (quads, glutes etc.) and for extreme muscle and joint soreness.

The cone is good for trigger points and tiny muscle areas (feet, wrist etc.).

The moistener is for sensitive muscles or bony areas that require a more gentle impact.

It runs at 110 and 220 Volts, so you can use it overseas without needing a converter. You’ll only need an adapter.

Update May 30, 2019: Theragun has come out with a new model, the G3PRO. You can learn more about the Theragun G3PRO here.

2. Hypervolt

The Hypervolt is a sleek looking device that looks more like a laser gun rather than a jigsaw.

It’s also designed for both professional and personal use.

It is similar to a foam roller, which means you can use it for both recovery and activation.

It has the following features:

  • 3 Speed Settings. These deliver up to 3200 percussions per minute. The lowest setting is meant for post- exercise to relax the muscles and to allow you to hit areas that are more sensitive while the other two higher settings are ideal for your pre- workout routine to ensure the muscles are warmed up and loosening really tight knots.
  • Four Head Attachments. These help to focus on the specific areas like trigger points. The differenct attachments are:
    • Ball. The ball has the greatest surface area. The best attachment to start with.
    • Fork. This is used to work around a specific muscle group like the achilles tendon.
    • Flat Head. Has a smaller surface area so it’s more suited for smaller areas like the wrist.
    • Bullet. It is used to pinpoint very specific areas.
  • Long Battery Life. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts for up to 3 hours, making it a better choice for workouts and long runs. The battery is removable. In order to maximize the battery life you should turn it off when you’re not using it.
  • Quieter Than Most Percussion Massagers. They Hypervolt has a Quiet Glide Technology, which works like a piston, rotating and then moving the ball up and down, making it really quiet.
  • Non-Adjustable Head. Unlike the TheraGun, the head is not adjustable.
  • 3,200 Percussions Per Minute.

Update June 4, 2019: Check out our in-depth review of the Hypervolt and find out whether the hype surrounding it is warranted. 

3. TimTam

This device is very strong and looks more like a jigsaw rather than laser gun. Looks quite similar to the TheraGun and operates very similarly as well.

Here’s what to know about the TimTam:

  • Rubber Head. This machine had a rubber head, which makes it easy to clean and quick to dry. This is important if you using the machine on multiple patients during the day. In contrast, the TheraGun has a more porous head, which means it take longer to dry after cleaning.
  • 90 Degree Articulating Head. The 90-degree articulation gives the user more angle options to hit the specific affected areas. It is also helpful for the professionals who use it on patients, as it gives them multiple angles and ways to apply pressure and treat the affected areas.
  • Round Therapy Head. This is for general uses only but there are other interchangeable tips that can be bought depending on your needs. These are the warm up tip, used for warming up broad muscle groups and a trigger point tip used for specific problematic area targeting.
  • 1 Li-on Battery. Comes with a standard 12V lithium-ion battery, charger and a carrying case.
  • Threaded Shaft. The TimTam comes with a patent-pending threaded shaft and ensures durability and excellent performance.
  • Loud. This machine is louder than the Hypervolt but quieter than the TheraGun.
  • 2,000 Percussions Per Minute.
  • Strong. The strength of the percussions is similar to the TheraGun, and therefore more suited for those that want a deeper massage.

Update January 1, 2019: We tested this badboy and reviewed how it really performs and what it can do. It’s awesome by the way, check out our TimTam review here

4. Pleno M 3.0

The Pleno is another percussive therapy massager that looks like a jigsaw.

Pleno M3.0 features:

  • 6 Speeds. The Pleno has the most speed options of the four massagers mentioned. This gives you the ultimate flexibility to adjust the massage to your needs.
  • 4 Attachments. Large circular ball for large muscle groups (quads, glutes etc.). Standard ball for general use. Cone for trigger points.
  • 2,600 Percussion Per Minute. This is the second most percussions per minute of the four machines. The Hypervolt has the most at 3,200 per minute.

Hypervolt vs Theragun vs TimTam

The three best known percussion massagers on the market right now are Hypervolt, Theragun, and the TimTam. So the question is, which one is the best?

The Hypervolt differs from the other two in design and the percussions it produces. If we want to be technical about it, it vibrates rather than percusses.

Although, the Hypervolt has the the highest percussions per minute at 3200 it has a shorter amplitude which makes the blows less powerful.

If you’re a sucker for design, the Hypervolt will call out to you.

Personally, I am partial to the Theragun, specifically the G3Pro. It’s the highest priced among the three but it is well worth it. There is nothing else to buy as you get the full set, extra batteries, a premium carrying case, and 6 head attachments.

The percussions are powerful at 40 percussions per second with up to 60 pounds of pressure. What’s also great about the Theragun is the adjustable arm, it can be adjusted to 4 angles to better hit those hard to reach areas.

Bias and personal preferences aside, the clear winner in this review is the TimTam. It hits all the key target areas when choosing a percussion massager – power, performance, and price.

The TimTam is powerful with 2500 strokes per minute. It is comparable to the Theragun’s performance is best appreciated in slow motion. See the power of the TimTam’s blows in the video below.

Performance-wise, the TimTam can do everything the Hypervolt and Theragun could. The clincher is the price which is basically a third of the Theragun.

So in the question of Hypervolt vs Theragun vs TimTam. The clear winner is the TimTam.

Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at MindBodyPal is a team of experts led by Tyson Chiu. We love tacos, lattes and Funky Fridays.