Massage guns are all the rage in the DIY/at-home health and healing community. In the last year, we've seen tons of companies develop their own versions of the massage gun. Each one claims to be the "best" because of their different amplitude or speed or attachments. To be honest, the large majority of the function pretty similarly and the "best brand" is more of a personal preference at this point. All of the ones I've tried are fairly similar in terms of how well they actually massage you.
But with their growing popularity, most people still don't completely understand why these percussive instruments even work.
Have you ever hit your knee to the point that you thought it was definitely going to bruise and your first instinct was to rub it? That's because when you rub it, you stimulate receptors to decrease pain and create an analgesic sensation. But does rubbing it really "fix" your bruised knee? Not exactly. This idea is called the Gate Control Theory by Malzack and Wall. It is this idea that CAN make massage guns completely useless.
If you're not using a massage gun correctly, you're only rubbing a bruise to make it feel better in the moment. Using it properly and being specific with what muscles your working on and for what purpose turn an expensive hammer into a great at-home healing tool.
Back in November of last year, I did an unboxing video on the Achedaway massage gun. You can watch it above! I had never used a massage gun before and really had no idea what the hype was about. Since trying it for the first time back in November, I've grown to understand and appreciate what this machine can do when used properly. Since then, I have coined the phrase "Mindful Massage Gunning", but what is that?
Using your massage gun mindfully is having an understanding of what muscles need to be RELEASED and which need to be SIMULATED or ACTIVATED. Using it in the proper direction for the proper muscle is key to seeing a long-term improvement (and not just a short-term relief).
So here are my two general rules for Mindful Massage Gunning:
If you want to release a muscle, you move from the origin of the muscle to where it inserts. Now I realize not all of you may be familiar with some of my favorite anatomy nerdy apps like 3D4medical, but a quick Google search or looking on an app such as that one can tell you where each muscle originates and where it inserts.
To tighten, strengthen or stimulate a muscle, you need to move from the insertion point to the origin!
So now that we've been over the basics, let's get to the main topic of this blog which is IT Band pain/Runner's Knee symptoms.
So let's start with what IT Band Syndrome is and what it looks like. Runners frequently complain of this. It typically presents as lateral knee pain either with or without movement. It can feel achy and inflamed. There may also be some snapping or popping in the lateral hip. But why does this happen? Many think that the IT Band gets tight from overuse. And although that may play a role, we believe that SI joint instability is a huge contributing factor. So keeping that in mind, we're going to discuss the muscles you'll want to lengthen and which ones to shorten with the massage gun to reduce some of this discomfort.
Instead of just throwing the massage gun head right onto the IT band, we're actually going to focus on the muscles around the IT band. We'll want to start with lengthening the vastus lateralis working from closer to the hip down toward the knee. Then, we can move to also lengthening the rectus femoris and both heads of the gastroc muscle in the calf. We'll want to lengthen all of the muscles that need to be inhibited first before we work on shortening other muscles.
Once we've inhibited the appropriate muscles, we can move the facilitation portion. We'll want to focus on shortening the vastus medialis oblique (VMO) first. So work your massage gun from the part of the muscle closest to the knee up to the part of the muscle closest to the hip. We can also work on facilitating the hamstring. Just be careful to avoid the adductor muscles. We most definitely do not want to facilitate those guys. And last, but certainly not least, we'll want to facilitate the soleus that runs right along the shin bone.
The other question I get frequently about the massage gun is which head to use. Start with the softer head before moving onto the flat and then lastly the point. You'll move from a head that distributes the percussion into something that makes it more concentrated on a single spot. This should all take about three to four minutes on each side.
If you like the massage gun I am using, you can purchase the Achedaway Massage Gun here. Use our coupon code REHABANDREVIVE for $25 OFF your purchase!
Remember, we heal smarter,
Dr. Justin C. Lin