For personal fitness and general health, it's really important to maintain your health by preventing and healing injuries. Many health professionals recommend one of three main methods: massage guns, foam rollers and stretching. Sore and stiff muscles ruin workouts and weekend leisure, so it's very important to find methods that aid in your muscle and joint recovery.
Overall, it comes down to preference, however, we've found that dynamic and kinetic stretching works best before a workout, massage guns work best during/in-between workouts and foam rollers are great for after. All three are effective ways to fix Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness(DOMS), so our honest recommendation is to get all three if possible, to train and massage your body in ways that most suit the condition.
To help you decide what you should prioritize, my colleagues and I have tested each tool based on three criteria: benefits, risks and cost. This way, we can test them out and help you determine what works best for you.
Rapidly increasing in popularity, massage guns are the newest of the three to the fitness realm. Handheld percussion massagers use repetitive pressure to relax and stretch muscle fibers. Studies have found that after 3 minutes of massage-gun use, there was greatly increased blood-flow to the target area. This helps with healing and oxygenation of the muscles, decreasing the likelihood of pain, spasms and cramps. Also, handheld massage guns can reach deep tissue, unlike conventional stretching or rolling, providing more versatility for pain relief.
However, the main risk is further damaging sprained and pulled muscles. If a cold muscle gets hit with a lot of pressure, you are more likely to cause more damage. The most ideal situation, would be to stretch on your own first, then use the massage gun for pain relief during the workout, to minimize injury while maximizing pain relief.
Handheld massage guns are, usually, more expensive than the other options but with great versatility, portability and a higher degree of effectiveness, it's well worth it. With a perfect balance of power and price, the "Deep Muscle Massager" is our recommendation:
Using your own weight, you effectively stretch while applying safe pressure to the target areas. Break up scar tissue by rolling your muscles rather than stretching, increasing pain relief. Also, using a roller increases your mobility and flexibility, giving you a relaxing and engaging way to warm up your muscles and prevent injury.
There are still risks to using a foam roller though, for people with high blood pressure, pregnancy or osteoporosis. Foam rollers should be used lightly and slowly at first, to ensure your safety. Also, foam rollers can not and should not be used for joint pain, since they stretch muscles effectively but could cause damage to joints.
Foam rollers are cost effective, costing less than $50. There are lots of options that can suit your needs, it's simply a matter of personal preference!
Static and dynamic stretches both accomplish the same purpose: gently stretching your muscles to warm them up. With no specialized equipment or backgrounds, these are simple and easy to do at the beginning of workouts. If you decide not to purchase the other two pieces of equipment, its always recommended to stretch before and after workouts. There are several benefits to stretching, including:
- Improve flexibility
- Improves posture
- Reduces stress
- Decreases risk of lower back pain
A big risk comes when an individual doesn't stretch frequently, and pushes themselves too hard. Lengthening a muscle through stretching is easy but delicate work and overextending could cause injury. Stretching too suddenly will overextend a cold muscle.