Dr. Gary Tanchak, D.C.

Expert Board Member

Education: Palmer College of Chiropractic, Monmouth University

Expertise: Chiropractic, Manual Therapy, Kinesiology


Bio:
Gary Tanchak, DC is a Chiropractor that takes a comprehensive approach to spinal and extremity injuries. He takes the entire body’s biomechanics as well as lifestyle into account when addressing injury, in order to help rid the patient of their pain and keep it from coming back in the future. Dr. Tanchak addresses patient’s injuries through a combination of passive modalities, such as spinal and extremity manipulations, Active Release Technique, and non-surgical spinal decompression.

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are massage guns good for back pain

Are Massage Guns Good for Back Pain? An Expert’s Perspective

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Are massage guns good for back pain? This article will answer this question extensively.

We have had so many of our readers ask us whether a massage gun can relieve lower back pain – a problem that very many people experience. We know how popular massage guns have become. Everyone is using them, and athletes can’t put them down.

But is a massage gun good for back pain?

Well, we have done a few articles explaining what these electronic gadgets can do for sciatica, plantar fasciitis, and neck pain. The quick answer would be, yes, massage guns can help alleviate back pain.

But there are things to learn first. Let’s find out!



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Why Trust Our Advice and a Disclaimer

We understand that there are different reasons for back pain. That is why we combed the internet for more information, and asked our medical experts to give us their insight on the topic.

Although the content in this article should not be considered a medical advice, we made sure that it has been medically reviewed for accuracy.


Are Massage Guns Good For Back Pain?

If you want to know just how rampant back pain is in our current generation, do a quick Google search and see just how many search results you’ll get. The problem stems mostly from our sedentary lifestyles.

You know, when we are not seated at our desks for 10 hours a day, we are on our smartphones scrolling through social media. We are also the generation that is crazily hooked on video games, and we know what that means for our backs.

The poor posture adopted while engaging in these activities leads to not just back pain but neck pain as well. If you want to know how poor posture is an issue today, just go on YouTube and see the amount of videos on the topic.

Can massage guns offer a solution to the problem? Yes, massage guns can be good at alleviating neck and back pain caused by poor posture, among other things (we’ll explore other reasons as we go).

Most cases of back pain are caused by something happening to the muscles in your back – we know that massage guns can provide percussive therapy that is good for most muscles.

Let’s explain how back pain can happen.

back pain What Causes
What causes back pain?

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain may come as a result of many things happening either to the muscles or the spine. Massage guns can only be effective if the cause of the pain isn’t severe. Otherwise, you’ll need to see a doctor for specialized treatment.

Here’s what you can expect when you feel back pain:

  • Muscular problems: Muscular problems that cause lower back pain are due to muscle strains. This happens when the muscle tissue is abnormally pulled or when it’s overstretched or torn because of heavy lifting, repetitive strain, constant bending, or incorrect lifting. The pain can either be mild or severe. In some cases, you will experience stiffness. The muscle may also decondition due to lack of physical activity – when you live a sedentary lifestyle. 
  • Degenerated discs: Intervertebral discs degeneration happens when the disc becomes dehydrated, causing it to lose its normal height. This leads to reduced space between the discs. The reduced space causes a nearby spinal nerve to compress and cause pain along that nerve. When this happens, you will experience shooting pain, numbness or weakness in the rear pelvis extending down the leg (sometimes all the way down to the foot). 
  • Herniated discs: Herniated discs happen when the discs gradually wear out. Sometimes, however, it may happen during heavy lifting, causing the nucleus pulposus (inner contents of the disc) to push against the annulus fibrosus (outer covering of the disc). This is what causes sciatica. 
  • Spondylolisthesis: This is what happens when a vertebra slips over another below it. This happens when the vertebra experiences a high degree of mechanical stress. This often leads to the compression of a nerve root, which causes pain in the lower back – sciatica. 
  • Osteoarthritis: This is an age-related condition that causes abnormal bone growth (bone spurs) and joint inflammation. This can lead to localized back pain and limited movement. This condition often causes sciatica. 
  • Spinal stenosis: This happens when the spinal canal narrows. The narrowing can cause compression of the nerve roots, leading to sciatica. This can be a serious condition that may require specialized treatment.

How Can Massage Guns Help With This?

Massage guns can do a lot of things to help with the normal functioning of body muscles.

They can also help with the movement of important body fluids that help with the elimination of toxic waste and oxygen to the tissues. Efficient supply of oxygen to muscle tissues can alleviate pain and help with recovery.

One thing you may have noticed with the causes of lower back pain above, is that in all instances, there is a possibility of sciatica. We discussed a while back how a massage gun can help with sciatica pain.

Here are two ways:

Deep Tissue Massage

The easiest and fastest way to relieve lower back pain is to perform a deep tissue massage. This helps to improve circulation to the muscle tissue.

Good circulation can reduce inflammation and improve the range of motion. When the tissues in the lower back are stretched or torn, the area may become inflamed. This inflamed area will spasm, cramp, and contract tightly. This leads to intense pain.

Massage guns can be used to reduce the blockage caused by inflamed tissues. This eases the pain and helps to quicken the recovery of the tissues. 

We know that hand or manual massage by professionals is preferred when treating lower back pain. However, massage guns can help quicken the process. Chiropractors and physiotherapists have these gadgets with them.

Sometimes visiting these professionals can be expensive. If you know what you are doing, massage guns can make it cheaper.


Myofascial Release

Massage guns are great tools to help with myofascial release. Studies have shown that massage guns can help relieve pain in myofascial tissues when appropriately used.

Myofascial release can help with the treatment of the skeletal muscle by releasing tension and relieving stiffness in your lower back.

This process also works to improve blood and lymphatic circulation. This helps with the stimulation and stretching of lower back muscles.

When combined with exercises (light exercises for those with severe pain caused by serious conditions like herniated discs) and a healthy lifestyle, massage guns can be very effective in calming the pain and spasms in your lower back.

But the pain is not just in your lower back, your upper can be hurt as well. 

is a massage gun good for back pain
Is a massage gun good for back pain? The short answer: Yes.

Is Massage Gun Good For Upper Back Pain?

Upper back pain happens when you experience discomfort in the area between your shoulder blades.

Pain in the upper back is mainly caused by poor posture. When you sit at your computer for much of the day or spend too much time playing video games or scrolling through social media on your smartphone, you may irritate your upper back.

Pain in the upper back manifests sharp, stabbing, achy, or crampy feeling. 

Other causes of upper back pain include:

  • Muscle overuse: When you overuse your back muscle repeating the same activity (such as baseball pitching), you may strain the muscle, cause it to tighten, or cause irritation.
  • Traumatic injury: You may injure yourself in a car accident, slip and fall, get injured at work, lifting incorrectly, or go too hard during workouts. 
  • A herniated disc may cause upper back pain too.
  • It may be scoliosis, fibromyalgia, spinal deformity, or problematic kyphosis. 
  • Lung cancer can also affect bones in your upper back and cause pain. 

What Massage Guns Do To Help For Upper Back Pain

Will a massage gun help for upper back pain?

Massage guns have been proven to reduce muscle strain and overall muscle fatigue. They are fantastic to use after a heavy workout to get your body relaxed and get the muscles to heal faster.

For those who experience upper back pain as a result of a herniated disk or traumatic injury, using massage guns and proper muscle exercises can help with recovery or rehabilitation. 

Another thing worth mentioning here is that pain in the upper back may also result in pain in your neck. That is because the trapezius muscles – the paired muscles that help with your head and shoulder movement – are also part of the upper back.

The key here is to choose the right device and use it properly if you want to alleviate pain in your upper back.

We have published a guide post on choosing the best massage gun for back pain – check it out.

massage gun good for upper lower back pain
Massage guns can help with both upper and lower back pain.

RELATED We already discussed how massage guns can help with neck pain in another post. We also made one about choosing the best massage gun for neck and shoulder pain


Is A Massage Gun Good For Lower Back Pain?

The lower back is the most affected part of the back. As we have discussed above, several things may cause pain in your back. In most cases, however, muscle strains are the cause of that pain.

That pain primarily comes from either:

  • A muscle strain: when fibers in the muscle tear after being overstretched or overused mostly due to repetitive movement or heavy exercise involving lower back muscles. Or,
  • Lumbar sprain: when ligaments tear or get overstretched. 

The muscles responsible for supporting your lower back include the hip, buttock, pelvis, and hamstring muscles. When these muscles are strained, you may feel pain or tightness in your lower back, which may extend to your buttocks and down the legs. 

But massage guns can help repair torn and overstretched muscles and ligaments. When used properly, the percussive therapy from these gadgets may alleviate the pain.

Is a massage gun good for lower back pain then? Yes, the massage helps with the movement or body fluids that help heal and recover these muscles and ligaments. Percussion massage guns are not the silver bullet per se, but they can be effective if you can use them properly.


Is Theragun Good For Back Pain?

Readers often ask us – does Theragun help with back pain?

Yes, Theragun massage guns can be pretty effective in helping ease back pain.

As we have already discussed here, massage guns are a worthy consideration for treating your back pain. Theraguns are top-of-the-shelf massage guns. They are the top name in the massage gun industry.

In fact, Theragun started the whole percussive therapy devices industry. Their very first massage gun was designed to help with muscle injury recovery.

A chiropractor, Dr. Jason Wersland was looking for a solution to his pain after a motorcycle accident when he came up with the first massage gun. Over time, Theragun has evolved to become the leader in the industry.

holding theragun pro massager
Theragun Pro
Dr. Jason Wersland Theragun
Dr. Jason Wersland, Theragun’s founder.

The devices feature:

  • Superb ergonomics – the triangular shape allows for multiple ways to hold the device.
  • High amplitude – amplitude means the distance the massage gun head covers as it moves back and forth. The large Theraguns (Pro, Elite and Prime) all have a 16mm amplitude – the highest in the business. Only a few brands have been able to replicate this successfully (e.g. Achedaway Pro). We cover all of them in our post covering high amplitude massage guns.

If you want to buy a Theragun to treat your back pain, you should know that their high amplitude is sometimes considered to be aggressive or hard-punching. That means they may be a little painful to use while treating some injuries.

However, they are very effective in what they do. Their main disadvantage is that they are very expensive and can be pretty loud as well.

TIP You can read our guide on the best massage gun for back pain, where we talk about Theraguns. We also list affordable alternatives with similar characteristics but quieter.


Is Hypervolt Good For Back Pain?

As long as the pain in your back is muscle-related, Hypervolts, just like Theraguns, can be pretty effective in treating you.

Apart from Theragun, Hypervolts are the second most popular massage guns in the business.

Hyperice recently released Hypervolt 2 and Hypervolt 2 Pro. Hypervolt 2 has a 12mm amplitude, while Hypervolt 2 Pro has a 14mm amplitude. Both devices can thus be referred to as percussive devices.

They are not as punchy as Theraguns. Also, their ergonomics are not as good as Theragun’s. In fact, we know many Hypervolt alternatives with better ergonomics.

TIP You can read about which Hypervolt is good for back pain in our best massage gun for back pain post.

is hypervolt good for back pain
Hypervolt can be pretty effective in treating your back pain.

Are Massage Guns Good for Back Pain – Summary

So, are massage guns good for back pain? Massage guns can indeed help ease tightness or pain in your back.

Although there are many causes of back pain, massage guns can be very effective for muscle problems.

We recommend talking to your doctor first to identify the cause of your discomfort. Once you know what it is, you can read our recommendation on which gun is the best.

Related Buyer’s Guide: Best Massage Guns for Back Pain in 2022.


References

  1. Brent A. Bauer, M.D. (2019). Myofascial release therapy: Can it relieve back pain?
    Link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/expert-answers/myofascial-release/faq-20058136
  2. Lisa M. Doherty, NP (2012). Back Pain in a Patient With Lung Cancer. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts. doi:10.6004/jadpro.2012.3.3.10
    Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4093317/
  3. Castro-Sánchez AM, Matarán-Peñarrocha GA, Granero-Molina J, et al. Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:1-9. doi:10.1155/2011/561753
    Link: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2011/561753/
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Luke

Luke is a Biomedical Engineer, an entrepreneur and an avid sportsman. On this blog, he personally reviews the devices, does tons of research and plans the content roadmap. He also works with our Experts and Fact-Checkers to ensure that we only publish thorough, verified information.

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