It looks like a power drill, moves like a jackhammer and sounds like a machine gun. Handheld massage tools are becoming increasingly popular in locker rooms and on the sidelines, as athletes turn to percussive massage therapy for quick relief for aching muscles.
Percussive massage devices move a dense foam ball, or other attachments back and forth in a woodpecker-like motion at a high frequency. When the vibrations and jabbing movements of the attachment combine and strike the muscle, it relaxes, allowing you to get into deeper layers of the tissue.
The scientific concept behind this type of therapy is based on the gate control theory, which says that a nonpainful stimulus (in this case, vibration) can suppress the feeling of pain. The experience of pain depends on a combination of signals from our nerves, spinal cord, and brain, as they each process pain signals in their own way. Upon injury, pain messages originate in nerves associated with the damaged tissue and flow along the nerves to the spinal cord and then up to the brain. In the gate control theory, before they can reach the brain these pain messages encounter "nerve gates" in the spinal cord that open or close depending upon a number of factors. When the gates are opening, pain messages "get through" easier and pain can be intense. When the gates close, pain messages are prevented from reaching the brain and may not even be experienced.
“This isn’t really massage. It’s actually tricking your nervous system,” says chiropractor Dr. Jason S. Wersland. Healthy nerve impulses will react to pain in milliseconds, he explains. “But if you put something on the area that moves faster, the brain can’t keep up.”
“When a person gets a massage or just uses a foam roller on their own, you can’t get into that spot as effectively,” says physical therapist David Reavy. “The vibration is so fast, you don’t feel the pain and the muscle actually relaxes.”
Percussive therapy is not a new concept. There’s pulsating self-massagers at gift stores that don’t do much, and whole body vibrations are long-used by NASA to help prevent bone loss in astronauts. The big difference between cheap self-massagers and good percussive vibration massage devices is that the good devices will vibrate and also move up and down quickly to cause more of an effect. The concentrated application of a good percussive device can provide benefits beyond the typical myofascial release techniques, such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls and rolling sticks.
The device is easy to use, lightweight and portable, and athletes such as Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Rams defensive back Marcus Peters have been spotted using it to loosen up stiff areas before sessions, and even during competition, to treat and prevent cramps.
Percussive Vibration Massage Devices can:
Help relieve muscle pain, stiffness, and soreness
Our nervous system may become synchronized and result in more force production of the muscle group. The more muscles that are recruited during a movement can increase movement efficiency to reduce overworking certain muscles that can lead to a decrease in muscle damage or soreness.
Increase in range of motion
Increase in muscle recruitment and movement efficiency, range of motion can increase from having the ability to control the movement better.
Increases circulation and blood flow
Vibration therapy leads to increase of skin temperature and blood flow leading to increased nutrients brought to tissues and decreased accumulation of lactic acid in the blood 48-72 hours post exercise.
When to use:
Improve muscle coordination
Increase blood flow and circulation
Decrease muscle pain and soreness
Increase lymphatic drainage
Decrease muscle soreness and tightness
Calm the nervous system and accelerate recovery
ESP will be purchasing one of these devices for the grand prize in a referral contest starting in June. We will also be starting to use one on the floor with our athletes in the month of May, so make sure to ask us for a demo!