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The Science Behind Percussion Therapy

There are a lot of different at-home massage devices on the market, but not all are built equally. High frequency vibration-based electric massagers have been around for decades. While they can provide a temporary sense of relief, the benefits are superficial and have little research to back up true benefits. Sophisticated, modern massagers such as the Hypervolt use a much lower frequency (less buzzy) but higher in amplitude (travel) percussion technique. This has the advantage of working on tissues beyond a superficial level, restoring sliding surfaces and addressing intramuscular stiffness. It is crucial that people have access to in-home solutions for simple myofascial pain problems, especially with the current decreased access to health care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Percussive devices like the Hypervolt are very safe, especially when a person is applying it to themselves. The advantage of working on yourself is that over-use or injury is highly unlikely. People stop naturally when they have had enough and are in tune with which pressure levels are most comfortable. At our gym for example, we witness hundreds of people everyday use percussion to make themselves feel better, with little guidance. And our teenage daughter's sports teams have access to Hypervolt devices and are able to self-administer percussion therapy very safely and effectively.

When you are experiencing pain it does not automatically mean tissue damage, and percussion therapy can help to alleviate a lot of muscle pain. Pain is a request for a change in behavior. Often the quick use of percussion can change some aspect of how the brain is perceiving a problem area. For many people, percussion is literally on-demand pain relief. Of course, humans are meant to move, a lot. Percussion might best be considered a gateway to pain free movement, or improved ability to move with less pain.

Not all percussion devices are the same. Many are very loud and even noxious to use, were not built to last, or do not have science-backed percussion levels. People should look for a high-quality design that is proven to last many years, as well as a device designed to be quiet.

The ideal percussion device should have variable speeds and treatment head attachment options. Not everyone's body has the same sensitivity to pressure and some people will need more or less pressure for the same effect. The same is true for different areas of the body. The neck and traps may need a softer treatment head and lower intensity while the glutes and hips may need a more aggressive solution.

Every home in America that has people in it can benefit from having a percussion device. It is an at-home massage solution capable of having a huge impact on how you feel and how you move.

Dr. Kelly Starrett, DPT

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