Percussion therapy is a form of soft tissue manipulation and is intended to reduce muscle soreness and increase muscle length. There is some debate as to whether percussive massage devices increase muscle activation or force output.
A main component that percussive therapy is intended to influence is fascia. Fascia is the soft tissue component of connective tissue that surrounds each muscle and organ in the body. When fascia becomes tight it can result in a loss of pliability, preventing the fascia from reaching its full length. This in turn reduces joint range of movement, muscle length and soft tissue extensibility. To help regain pliability within tight fascia, myo-fascial release techniques are used which can include direct, indirect and self release techniques.
So what does the evidence say? Percussive devices have shown to be effective in increasing joint range of motion and reducing the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness. There is currently no evidence to suggest that it can positively influence muscle activation and force output.
Knowing this, hand-held percussive devices can be used as part of a structured warm-up before exercise. It can also be used in a rehabilitative setting due to the ability to reduce perceived pain and release tight or restrictive fascia whilst simultaneously increasing range of motion.
Martin, J. (2021). A critical evaluation of percussion massage gun devices as a rehabilitation tool focusing on lower limb mobility: A literature review. Research Gate. 10.31236.