Percussive Therapy: What It Is and How It Works

Percussive Therapy: What It Is and How It Works

A popular remedy for sore muscles, percussive therapy is a treatment that uses jolts of pressure to provide a soothing, deep tissue massage. Also known as “vibration massage,” this technique has risen in popularity among professional athletes, martial artists and everyday people as a quick and easy way to achieve pain relief. 

Through delivery of vibrations to muscle tissue, percussive therapy provides benefits like increased blood flow, fascia restoration and reduction in lactic acid buildup that lower muscle utility. Useful both to prepare for and recover from any exercise, this method of sore muscle treatment is ideal for anyone who feels they just aren’t performing their best.

Here at Drum, we believe in teaching the restorative powers of percussive therapy, but also in understanding the science and methodology behind this powerful treatment. In this article, we will explore the research behind this treatment so you can get the most out of your percussive therapy. Let’s get started:

Science and Technique

Like most recovery tools, percussive therapy has been refined through years of research.

Shown by some studies to be 30% more effective than a normal massage, percussive therapy is an established, effective way to relieve pain and enhance muscle performance. But how does it work?

First, the user experiences delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) caused by microscopic tears in the muscle. This soreness occurs within 24-72 hours of exercising, and brings symptoms like muscle pain, reduced range of motion, loss of strength and a higher likelihood of future injury. You know the pain you feel after an especially good work out? Usually, this is it.

Next, percussive therapy is used to treat DOMS and its symptoms. Treatment involves a percussion massage gun, a powerful massager with multiple head attachments and calibrated speed settings for ultimate relief.

This massager targets afflicted muscles with a series of rapid bursts of pressure that provide immediate and extended relief. Science shows that these vibrations directly stimulate and oscillate the affected area, teaching the muscles to release tension and begin the healing process. 


Now that you know the basic science, let’s dive into the benefits percussive therapy actually brings you:

Improved Circulation

Percussive therapy boosts blood flow to sore muscles, resulting in reductions of inflammation, tension and pain. The treatment also improves circulation within the muscle group, improving oxygen flow throughout the body. This benefit greatly reduces the chances of cramps, as your body now has the blood and oxygen necessary for speedy recovery.

Increased Range of Motion 

Flexibility is key for healthy exercise, but it is often the first thing to go after a hard workout. 

Loss of flexibility has many negative consequences, including limited mobility and higher chances of injury. Percussive therapy fights this by stretching the muscles, returning them to their limber form. Treatment loosens the affected area, reducing pain and increasing flexibility.

Sore Muscle Relief

Sore, tight muscles also limit performance. Percussive therapy targets this by changing your body’s reaction to muscle tension. 

Usually, after a tough workout, your brain tells your muscles to contract and “harden.” This hardening can often be responsible for the sharp pains associated with DOMS.

Through percussive therapy, the muscles receive a new message: relax and loosen. By providing a direct, vibrational massage to the tender area, the muscles are rewired to soften. This results in a reduction of pain and quicker recovery. 

Fascia Restoration 

Not everyone has heard of fascia, but this doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Our body’s connective tissue, fascia is responsible for protecting our bones, muscles, joints and nerves. Tight fascia, often caused by exercise, brings pain and tension that make daily life and exercise more difficult.

In addition to the muscle itself, percussive therapy reaches the body’s fascia, massaging it to bring relief. This strengthens the fascia, giving it the chance to repair itself after exercise.

Lactic Acid Release

Ever had a massage therapist tell you to drink water after a massage? This is why:

Lactic acid builds up in the body when oxygen is low and the body needs to convert glucose into energy. While this is important, lactic acid build up is actually harmful to the body. It can cause muscle soreness, uncontrollable cramping, difficulty breathing and nausea. 

Using vibration, percussive therapy speeds up the lactic acid cycle and enhances muscle restoration. This process is critical for recovery, and separates percussive therapy from other massage treatments that actually increase lactic acid production.

Improvement of Internal Scarring  

When a muscle is damaged, it is common for the body to respond with internal scarring, often in the form of adhesions that develop around the muscles. These adhesions bond soft muscles together for protection, but they can also cause serious pain and limited range of motion. 

Percussive therapy targets the body’s internal scarring using vibration to break up these stubborn adhesions. This improves range of motion, reduces pain and speeds up recovery. 

Woman stretching out

Enhanced Lymphatic Drainage

Lymphatic drainage is the body’s way of removing toxins and waste. This promotes the flow of lymph, a natural fluid containing white blood cells that surrounds muscle tissue and moves from the lymphatic system into the bloodstream.

We know it’s a mouthful, but here’s why it’s so important:

Percussive therapy generates lymphatic drainage, causing lymph to flow through the body. 

This has numerous benefits, including a healthier immune system and increased metabolism. Studies also show that lymphatic drainage can reduce symptoms for those suffering with diseases like fibromyalgia, lymphedema and chronic arthritis.

Percussive Therapy in Your Daily Life

Now that you know the benefits of percussive therapy, you might be looking to use this treatment in your life. In order to do this, you’ll need some basic tips and knowledge:

Buying a Percussive Massage Gun

Percussion massage guns are the standard devices used for vibration massage. These therapeutic devices are optimized to deliver an easy, reliable way to make percussive therapy a part of your routine.

There are many percussive massage guns on the market (and a lot of them aren’t great), so it is really important you do your research to find out which one best fits your needs.

Types of Massage Guns

Percussive massage guns can target nearly every muscle group in the body and can be used before, during and after workouts. The treatment works by applying the massage gun head to your affected muscle group, allowing the gun to send the healing, vibrational jolts deep into the target area. 

Customization is a key part of these products, and there are many different ways to configure your massager. The most important customization choice you have to make will come when you decide which head attachment you want to use. 

There are five primary types of percussive massage gun heads: bullet/finger heads, flat heads, ball heads, fork heads and pneumatic heads.

Bullet/finger shaped heads are best for targeting “hard” muscle groups like the thighs and quads, which are more difficult for wider or softer heads to reach.

Flat heads are circular in shape and lie flush against the body. This shape makes these heads ideal for targeting the densest areas of the body, such as the chest and back.

Ball shaped heads are ideal for beginners because of their versatility. This head shape can be used anywhere on the body, but it is noteworthy for being gentle on sensitive areas such as the feet.

Fork heads are two-pronged attachments that are especially effective at bringing relief to the lower body, particularly the calf and achilles tendon. This head shape also is very effective at relieving stiffness and pain in the back.

Pneumatic heads are the most unique of the five options. An air-filled attachment, the pneumatic head delivers vibration while providing more flexibility than other attachments. This head shape is ideal for targeting soft, sensitive tissue.

Using the Drum for Your Percussive Therapy

Backed by our passion for you, the consumer, we have introduced the Drum, an affordable massager designed to cut through the noise and hype of the percussive massage market. 

Equipped with six different head attachments and four different speeds, the Drum is equipped to tackle pain and soreness in any muscle group without adding pain to your wallet.

Using an adaptive pressure system, the Drum sends the ideal level of vibration into your muscles to bring quick but long-lasting relief. Designed to treat the key areas of the body, the gun has over three hours of battery life that allows for up to 12 sessions of 15-minute percussive therapy treatments. 

Want another perk? It’s simple to use. All you have to do is follow these four simple steps:

  1. Turn on the massage gun and test the pressure BEFORE applying to the body.
  2. Gently hover the massage gun back and forth over the affected muscle group.
  3. Hold the gun for 30 seconds over areas with pain, stiffness and tension.
  4. After 2 minutes, move to the next muscle.

Our Challenge To You

If you’ve made it to the end of this article, you know enough to start percussive treatment. It’s not too hard, it’s not too expensive and it WORKS. Unless you’re looking for another excuse, you’ve found the answer to your sore muscles.

Join #teamdrum today.