Massage Gun Heads: Heal Muscles Faster by Using Correct Head
This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in September of 2020. For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh50jR-jnzI&t=602s
Bob: Today we are going to talk about massage gun heads. Heal muscles faster by using the correct head. This is kind of a tutorial today.
Brad: Sure, well we know these guns are becoming more and more popular. Everyone’s making them, these things are very useful. We like them. But, there are some things we need to know. This one comes with five different attachments, or head attachments that actually come in contact with your skin. And there are different heads for different reasons.
Bob: We’ll give our opinion because we’re not the end all be all here. We just have our opinion on what heads work well for what.
Brad: Yeah, but we’ve used them a lot on ourselves as well as patients and I think our opinion is worthy.
Bob: First off, I want to say Brad, just really quickly, my nephew just bought a massage gun, he spent $40. JUNK. He said, “I should have talked to you first. It’s just junk, it was just terrible.” I mean they used to be $400.
Brad: Yeah, and that would be a good one.
Bob: Now they’ve come down significantly, and it’s to the point where we actually have our own, too.
Brad: Right, we think it is a good price because it’s a good gun. And, we even put our name on it, Bob and Brad. But yeah, the price has come down. You can still get a good massage gun, but probably not for $40.
Bob: No not for $40. All right, let’s get to work, Brad.
Brad: Alright, so there’s three variables that help decide which head to use. Number one is, what size muscle mass are you using it on? For example, if you’re doing your hamstrings versus you elbow, you’re going to use two different heads. Also, the proximity of the massage to a bone. Even if you’re doing your quadriceps, which is a big muscle mass and you get close to your patella (knee cap) where the tendon is, that might change your choice on which head to use. Even though you have a big muscle mass here, you’re not going to use the pointy one when you get close to the bone unless you’re very careful.
Bob: Let me say this about muscle mass too, Brad, now my nephew is a large guy, I mean bulky. So even when he does his bicep or something like that, it’s not like doing my bicep which is hardly any, you know, I’m hitting bone here. He needs different heads probably for his body than I would use.
Brad: Yeah. So it varies from person to person on these. And then, the severity of the injury. If you just injured a muscle and you had a muscle strain or minor tear, you’re not going to get real aggressive on it the first day or two; you’ve got to let it settle down.
Bob: Often what we suggest is like let’s say you torn your muscle at the elbow, we’d have you maybe massage above and below the area soon after and eventually work your way into the injury itself.
Brad: Exactly, and then the tolerance of the user. For example, like if your nephew is using it, he’s probably going to tolerate a lot more than if my grandmother, well my grandmother’s passed, but you know, than an elderly person.
Bob: A slight person or a thin person.
Brad: So keep that in mind too. There is no black and white answers to these, so we’re going to give you some examples. We’ll go through the heads first here, Bob. These are common, each manufacturer may have some variations. But, they’re pretty close. We have a round one (ball), and this is kind of soft, it’s not like a hard plastic, there is some give to it. The air cushioned one, which Bob and I probably think is our favorite, it’s air cushioned and it’s spread out.
Bob: It's very nice, very universal.
Brad: Now, this one is hard plastic (flat), and it’s a flat surface as you can see about that size. I do use this one, not all the time, we’ll get into that. Now, this one is a hard plastic (bullet) and it comes not to a point, but more to a point, that’s going to get in deep to some large muscles.
Bob: Or let’s say you have some scar tissue, you want to get in there and break that up.
Brad: And, this one we call the field goal (fork). This one, neither Bob nor I have really used. I thought about using it once. We’ll maybe talk about it a little bit.
Bob: I mean, we thought that you could go along the spine on each side of the spine.
Brad: Right, you don’t want to hit the bone, the spinous processes, but you’re going to have to have two people. The second person is going to have to do it and do it very carefully.
Bob: Yeah, because otherwise you still could bump up against the spine.
Brad: Right, so anyways, I’m sure when it was made, it had a specific use; we haven’t come up to it yet. To be honest with you these other ones I’ve had, they’ve covered everything very well. Okay, let’s go to the neck. This is, to me, it’s a red flag. You want to turn around once, Bob? If you’re going like the low neck maybe, actually where the shirt line is.
Bob: Well, if you’re going from where the upper trapezius is, absolutely you can use it.
Brad: Right, I’m going to use this borderline of the shirt collar. At the black or down you could use the massage gun. If you’re going up above the shirt collar, DO NOT use a massage gun. They’re too aggressive, you could actually get in and sublux the vertebrae possibly.
Bob: I don’t know. It’s very uncomfortable. It’s like a jackhammer. And the same thing on your head, Brad. You really can’t go up into your head.
Brad: Anything on the neck or higher, you are not going to use it. Not a gun, maybe one of the other ones that are very light, it’s a different story. So number two, let’s go over to the wrist and the elbow. For a lot of people, they don’t have a lot of muscle mass there. If you have tennis elbow, oftentimes the point that you need to get after is close to the bone. So, in this situation, the round ball might be a good option. We’re going to put that in there, turn it on, there’s a three second delay there.
Bob: I want to make sure people are aware of the because the first time I tried to turn this on, I’m like, it doesn’t work. You have to push and hold it.
Brad: Right, it’s not an on/off switch, it’s press and hold. On this gun, it’s very common with the other guns too, this one has five different levels of intensity. It just turned off, now I have to push and hold it for one thousand one, one thousand two. All right, I’m going to go at level four. Now, if I went up by the point of the elbow and it was pretty sore close to the bone, I might want to go down on the muscle and I can work here. Now, the neat thing about this round head is you can change the intensity by the angle. I can go crosswise, and you still can get a cross friction massage, which you can do with your hands manually. And then the more you go in head on, the deeper it gets.
Brad: Now, this is probably too aggressive for me; I’m going to go back to the muscle and actually I’m thinking I’m going to go to the air filled (air cushion). Let’s get this going now. There, that feels much better.
Bob: And the thing about this with the air filled, let’s say you mistakenly hit the bone, it can tolerate that.
Brad: Yeah, I’m right over the bone right now, and it does not hurt. If you had tennis elbow, it would probably hurt, you wouldn’t do this over the bone.
Bob: It’s be too much. So, yeah, whenever you’re flirting around those bones, especially if it’s a smaller area like this, you’re going to probably use the air filled I think. But, the ball does serve a nice purpose of intense, less intense.
Brad: Yep, you know, when in doubt, I would start with the air filled. That’s always the go-to one for me, and then if I’m not happy with it, then I go on to something else.
Bob: You see these heads just pop in and pop out by the way.
Brad: Yep, it’s just the resistance interference fit. Let’s go to the thigh. You know, the quadriceps or the hamstrings, most people have much more muscle mass there. Right now I’ve got a hamstring issue, I’m actually almost recovered from it, but I’ve been using the flat one that’s hard. I was considering going to the more aggressive one (the bullet) with the point to get into that muscle, but I found this was working well, so I didn’t want to get more aggressive.
Bob: I would have guessed the bullet.
Brad: Yeah, I was thinking about it. Now, I just want to show you, what I find with these is I like to do it over a little clothing when you have the smooth hard one (flat head) because it slides so well.
Bob: Now, are you going to be able to see this against dark pants?
Brad: I usually do it on my hamstring but because of the color, the black on black, I’ll just do it down here, and it just slides over the material, that really makes a difference as far as the ease of doing this. It feels great, Bob, and I don’t have any problem in this area, but I’m telling you I’d do this for a while just to enjoy it.
Bob: So I guess the pointer (bullet), that would probably slide over also.
Brad: Oh yeah, because that is the hard plastic as well. But you know, that one, we can switch over to that one. You know, I don’t have a pair of white pants for modeling here.
Bob: You can just pull up the pant leg and do it on your calf.
Brad: Oh sure, good idea. And I have done this on my calf.
Bob: I had torn part of my calf muscle last winter, and I spent a lot of time with a massage gun. I mean, I would do it before I worked out, and I would also do it later in the day.
Brad: That’s a good point, Bob. Actually I do the massage gun on my hamstrings and then I stretch and then I run. Now, this is a good point right here. I was going over the calf muscle here and I get into this spot. I don’t know if I’ve got an injury there, or if it’s just sensitive, but that is painful. I’m not going to go there too deep. Over to one side more, I can push in deep and I can get into that muscle really good with this pointy one. And you can work angles with this. You’ll find out after you work with this for a while, what you can do and how to work it.
Bob: I would like to say really there’s no wrong answer to these things. You know, you’re going to experiment and find out which one works for you. My nephew that’s going to be getting one of these guns, he’s a big guy, like I said, and he wants to use it prior to softball, he’s a big softball player. And he wants to get his muscles loose before he does that. Let me take, can I have that round one? So I had quadriceps tendonitis.
Brad: Oh yes, I remember this. That was early on when we first started using guns.
Bob: Yeah, and what’s interesting about this, it was not getting better. I was doing everything, I was doing eccentric strengthening, all the things they tell you to do. I started doing the massage, and what’s interesting, it didn’t start getting better until I started working right onto the bone a little bit.
Brad: So right where that tendon connects.
Bob: You’re right, it works better on the side with that.
Brad: Yeah, when you get to the bone.
Bob: Yeah, so I actually went over the bone and it seemed like that’s where the injury was, the damage.
Brad: The scar tissue was there and we needed to break that up finally.
Bob: And it got better rapidly 90% better. And then over time, it got 100% better.
Brad: And we’ve had that experience with other people, patients, people commenting, cross friction or the massage gun, it’s like it just got better really quickly.
Bob: Yeah it did. Once you break that scar tissue up. You know these massage guns can be used, like we said, before and after if you have an injury to warm it up.
Brad: Well, one more tool in the bucket, isn’t it?
Bob: Yeah, one last thing I was going to say, at first we were a little reluctant to use mechanical devices when we were seeing people. We used to all so it by hand, and what we found is a lot of people prefer these. And a lot of people end up getting them themselves then.
Brad: And us as therapists, your fingers don’t get so worn out. You know, a few minutes working aggressively can really take a toll. Especially as you get a little older, Bob. Not that we are, but if you were an older therapist.
Bob: We’re elders. That means we are wise.
Brad: Take care, enjoy.
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