Best Massage guns for soothing aching muscles
Do massage guns really work?
The best massage guns help aid muscle recovery after exercise. We asked Vic Paterson, a soft tissue therapist and co-founder of State 11 Soft Tissue Therapy, to explain how they work in simple terms.
“It’s called a massage gun, but it’s not a massage as you might get from a professional,” she says. “Instead, it’s percussive therapy – pounding, jigging and whacking the muscle. This helps reduce muscle soreness by increasing blood flow to the area, which in turn can help reduce inflammation and soreness.”
How do you use a massage gun?
Using a massage gun couldn’t be easier. Simply switch it on, move it slowly over your muscles and let it do its stuff. There’s no need to apply extra pressure to enjoy an effective massage.
“Like any piece of medical equipment, you have to be careful when using a massage gun,” says Paterson. “It should come with instructions for safe use, but in short: don’t turn it up to full and stick it on your neck!”
“Start at the lowest setting and avoid bone, because that’ll hurt. Instead, concentrate on the big, meaty muscles like the biceps, triceps, thighs and glutes, and don’t use it for too long – it’ll only make things sorer! Don’t use it on strains or sprains and speak to your doctor first if you have osteoporosis or high blood pressure.”
How often should you use a massage gun?
Massage guns can be used pre-, during and post-workout. Incorporate yours into your warm-up routine to promote blood flow, focusing on each muscle group for 15 to 30 seconds. If your body feels tight while exercising, pause for another short massage to help force lactic acid and toxins out of your muscles. Once you finish your fitness session, use the massage gun more intensely, spending up to two minutes on each muscle group.
How do I choose a massage gun?
Massage guns are expensive — even our ‘budget’ buy costing £49. Before you part with your cash, ask yourself why you’re buying one, and make sure you know what factors to consider. If you mainly want a massage gun for relaxation purposes, a less ‘punchy’ model will likely suffice, and you won’t need to spend so much.
If you’re a serious athlete wanting a powerful machine, note the amplitude – the higher the number, measured in millimetres, the more deeply the massage gun can hit.
Look for a massage gun with a choice of low, medium and high speed settings. These are usually measured in rpm or ppm, which stands for revolutions or percussions per minute.
Choose a model that comes with multiple massage heads, from the standard ball head for bigger muscle groups to cone, wedge and thumb heads for working on smaller and more sensitive areas.
If you’re planning to take your massage gun to the gym with you, consider its weight, portability and battery life.
How we test
At the Good Housekeeping Institute, our expert tester trialled a range of massage guns over a three-week period. They used them after undertaking a wide variety of exercises, from weightlifting and running to HIIT and yoga.
Our tester considered how easy it was to control, how smoothly it moved over skin and if the different massage head attachments were effective, as well as the practicality of each massage gun’s design and how intuitive the controls were.
Here are the massage guns they said “Yes!” to:
RUNNER-UP MASSAGE GUN
Muscle Gun Carbon
This well-designed massage gun earned an instant thumbs up for its long, curved handle that helped our testers reach all their aching muscles. It proved extremely powerful and effective, gliding across skin without pulling for a relaxing massaging experience.
It’s a little bulky and heavy, and the handle vibrates heavily at high speed, but it comes with a decent range of massage heads, a comprehensive user guide and a robust carry case. The accompanying app is basic, but it offered some helpful technique tips. In short: it’s a solid all-round buy at a fair price for the quality.
Weight: Not given
Speed settings: 5
Battery life: Up to 5 hours
Warranty: 2 years
Included accessories: 4 massage heads, charger, recovery massage oil, carry case