Beat Post-Game Soccer Soreness - With a Percussion Gun? | Storelli
May 18, 2021
You’ve seen them before.
We’re talking about those ads showing fitness buffs pounding their muscles with a drill-like device as they alternate between smiles and groans. They are using percussion therapy guns (a.k.a. massage guns), one of the latest tools to help athletes recover faster from tough workouts.
You’ve probably wondered whether they’re worth the hype and might have questions about them. Do they work for recovery after soccer games? What does the science behind percussion therapy say anyway? We’ll examine these modern contraptions and whether they can help soccer players recover more effectively after practices and games.
What is Percussion Therapy?
First off, the short answer is yes, percussion therapy guns can help you beat post-game soreness after a soccer game or practice. They can help you recover faster and we’ll explain why it’s effective later. With that said, here’s a 101 on what percussion therapy is and how it works.
Percussion therapy involves the rapid and rhythmic delivery of pressure into the muscles. Massage therapists administer percussion therapy in the form of swift, karate-like ‘hand chops’ a technique used in Swedish massage.
Percussion therapy guns kick things up a notch by delivering these chops (or in their case, “taps”) at significantly faster and more consistent intervals. That explains the drilling motion you’ve seen from the massage guns.
Percussion therapy, whether it’s by means of a human hand or massage gun, appears to hit and stimulate chromatin, a cell nucleus. The result of this is three-fold.
- The percussive taps send messages to the brain that basically say, “Hey, these muscles need pain relief - get ready.” This triggers the nervous system, which prepares the muscles for activity.
- Blood flow to the sore muscles increases, allowing more nutrients and oxygen to reach them. This results in a greater reduction in inflammation and muscle tension.
- Your Golgi tendons, sensory receptors that sense changes in muscle tension, turn on. When these organs switch on, your range of motion increases and muscle tension decreases.
The combination of these effects appear to increase the rate and efficiency of the body’s own recovery ability.
How Massage Guns Work
A well-trained pair of hands can beat muscle tissues until they feel like jelly. But there are limitations. A percussion gun, on the other hand, operates at a much faster frequency and can strike an area 20-40 times per second. Not only do massage guns strike faster than human hands, they also strike at just the right depth (often 16mm). They’re programmed to strike deep enough to trigger muscle recovery, but not so deep that they cause intolerable pain.
Massage guns also excel at something else that human hands don’t - precision targeting. Hand massage and foam rollers generally target a wide area of muscle tissue, sometimes, too wide of an area. The head of a massage gun is small enough in circumference that it will tap away at hyper-targeted regions of sore muscle tissues. As a rule of thumb, the more targeted the therapy, the more effective it is at promoting muscle recovery.
Ultimately, the use of a percussion gun offers plenty of benefits that you’d have to obtain from a combination of therapies including:
- Release of lactic acid
- Increased lymphatic flow
- Breakdown of scar tissue
- Better nerve system activation
- Reduction in stiffness and spasms
- Increased range of motion (ROM)
- Overall sense of wellbeing
We can essentially make this statement about the use of massage guns - they’re a form of percussion therapy on steroids.
What Does Research Say About Massage Guns & Percussion Therapy?
So far, the research checks out - percussion therapy works. Studies have demonstrated that the human hand form of percussion therapy we mentioned above (a.k.a tapotement) can increase athletes’ agility with just a five-minute session. A 2014 study also showed vibration and massage therapy - two components of percussion therapy - can prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine also demonstrated the efficacy of percussion guns. The study found that a five-minute treatment session of the calf muscles with a massage gun increased the range of motion (ROM) of plantar flexor muscles. These muscles can easily stiffen throughout and after a soccer match.
Of course, kinesiologists and sports scientists aren’t the only ones who are touting the benefits of percussion therapy guns. Amateur athletes have conducted their own “research” by testing massage guns out for themselves.
A wide range of celebrities including athletes, musicians and actors swear by percussion guns, including the likes of Kyrie Irving, Olivia Fox and Adam Levine. And plenty of forums and review sites are buzzing with glowing reviews of percussion guns.
Percussion Therapy vs Vibration Therapy
If you plan to do further research on percussion therapy, you may come across the term “vibration therapy”, which some sources use interchangeably with percussion therapy. They’re similar but not synonymous. To save you some confusion, we’ll explain the difference between the two.
Vibration therapy is a more generalized treatment that applies shockwaves to the entire body, typically, by means of a platform that patients stand, sit or lie on. Percussion therapy targets specific areas and works at different frequencies. Vibration therapy does increase blood flow and relaxes muscles, but percussion therapy works deeper, hitting trigger points and soft tissues more thoroughly.
Some forms of vibration therapy are more targeted and resemble percussion therapy more. However, these vibration therapeutics work faster than percussion devices and deliver smaller strikes.
To sum it up, the difference between the two is this: depth and speed. Of course, if you see two devices, one labelled as a vibration application and the other, a percussion application, you’ll be correct to assume they work differently. Vibration and percussion devices will often work at different frequencies and amplitudes for varying effects.
Percussion Gun Therapy for Soccer Players
If Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd use percussion guns, there’s no doubt that they can benefit you and most soccer players. Just think about all of the maneuvers that take place in a single match: there’s cutting, running, jumping, twisting, kicking, sliding, tackling, punching (for goalkeepers) - the list goes on.
The body takes a beating executing all of these maneuvers. Lactic acid builds up over the course of a match due to aerobic fatigue and muscle strain occurs as a result of repetitive and sudden movements. Percussion guns can undo much of that damage. Sore hamstrings, calves and quads, none of which are strangers to soccer players, can heal faster with the beating drum of a percussion gun.
With that said, we recommend these guns more for older youth and adult players with demanding playing schedules. They definitely come in handy if you aren’t able to get regular massage therapy or if you miss a foam rolling session.
Kids and younger teen players tend to play lighter volumes of soccer and the demands for recovery aren’t as high. Besides, the whippersnappers have youth on their side - adequate rest and nutrition is all their already fast-recovering bodies need.
Our Storelli percussion massage gun provides deep tissue stimulation with adjustable settings to help you feel loose, limber and less sore after games.
Does Percussion Therapy Replace Other Forms of Recovery?
A massage gun won’t replace stretching and conditioning, but it serves as a great addition to your recovery toolkit. They’re like nutritional supplements - you wouldn’t completely do away with whole foods to feast on a diet of protein shakes and multivitamins. They’re merely there to “fill in the gaps”, to replace the minerals and nutrients your diet lacks or doesn’t provide enough of.
The same goes for percussion therapy guns. They’re handy tools to help you accelerate your recovery, especially when you’re pressed for time and don’t have immediate access to a massage therapist. However, you should still practice dynamic stretching, neuromuscular drills, and eat a mineral and protein-rich diet, the foundations of effective recovery. Actual massage therapy, chiropractic treatment and foam rolling also have their own advantages that a percussion gun can’t replicate, so don’t skip them altogether.
As chiropractor and percussion gun pioneer, Dr. Jason Wersland says: “It’s [just] an additional resource to have...go to your therapist when you can and use percussion therapy on yourself in between”.
Do Percussion Therapy Guns Have Limits?
As was mentioned in the preceding section, massage guns can’t aren’t all-in-one replacements for other recovery protocols. Nagging, persisting injuries might benefit more from the hands of a skilled practitioner. As Caitlin Moreland, P.T., DPT, says: "My hands give me necessary information about a patient's body and manifest therapeutic touch for my patients, neither of which could be done with a massage gun."
Human hands can detect muscles knots, tension and other physical signs of strain - percussion guns can’t. Therefore, beating away at tissue that may have deep-seated injuries isn’t beneficial for someone who needs treatment from a massage therapist. Nevertheless, a massage gun can supplement treatment when a skilled practitioner is out of reach.
Percussion Therapy - Melt Soreness Away With the Beat of a Drum
Soccer isn’t a game for the weak. True, you’re not sparring against an opponent with iron fists or getting clothes-lined by a 300-pound lineman, but 90 minutes on the pitch is hard on the body. For those of you with demanding playing schedules and limited time for recovery, a percussion therapy gun will do wonders for you.
These devices will accelerate your body’s ability to heal from strain, so that you’re not in a constant state of soreness. In combination with a good diet, conditioning and hand massage, you’ll feel less post-game aches and pains thanks to the rhythmic chop of a percussion gun.
Are you ready to ramp up your recovery time and ability? Check out our very own percussion gun therapy and see how it can help you beat post-game soreness.