Dr. Gary Tanchak, D.C.

Expert Board Member

  • Education: Palmer College of Chiropractic, Monmouth University
  • Expertise: Chiropractic, Manual Therapy, Kinesiology


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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massage gun for pinched nerve

Can You Use A Massage Gun for Pinched Nerve? Will it Help?

Is using a massage gun for pinched nerve a good idea? Can it help? The simple answer is yes, it can. A massage gun is a useful tool for managing pain related to a pinched nerve. The percussive mechanism of massage guns facilitates soft tissue relaxation by increasing circulation to the area being massaged, which in turn reduces inflammation and pain.

I will explain everything in details below but first, let us better understand what medical professionals mean when they say, “pinched nerve.”

What Medical Professionals Mean by Pinched Nerve

Oh, No! Pinched Nerve?

Pinched nerve is not a true medical term, rather it is an umbrella term used many physicians and other medical professionals to describe a number of conditions in which a nerve in the body endures sustained compression from structures such as tight muscles, bones, organs, or connective tissues. 

The location of the pinched nerve dictates the more specific condition with which one might be diagnosed.

pointing at a pinched nerve
A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues.

For example, muscle tension compressing the sciatic nerve will often be referred to as sciatica.

NOTE You may also come across the term Cervical Radiculopathy which is more of the medical term for Pinched nerve.

Do I Have a Pinched Nerve?

Most people have experienced the symptoms of short-term nerve compression. Imagine the last time you sat cross-legged for a long period of time or were sitting during an hours-long car ride. Most of us know the sensation of our leg feeling numb, tingly, or weak. These are all symptoms of nerve compression.

The difference with a pinched nerve is that there is sustained compression that is not readily within our power to correct. Pinched nerves are not uncommon and vary in seriousness and intensity of symptoms.

Generally, the symptoms of a pinched nerve are intense and often painful. Symptoms are sometimes worse while sleeping and can occur along the entire route of the effected nerve. This is why people with sciatica will often experience symptoms from the low back all the way down into their foot.

Pinched Nerve Symptoms

Let’s review the common symptoms of a pinched nerve:

  • Sharp, burning, or aching pain
  • Numbness, tingling, and/or pins and needles sensation
  • Muscle weakness in affected area
  • Feeling like your limb is “asleep”
massage gun help pinched nerve
Usually symptoms of a pinched nerve are intense and often painful.

How Does It Happen?

In some cases, nerve compression occurs as a result of aging which includes changes to our boney structures, muscles, and connective tissues.

It can also occur as a result of the following factors:

  • Acute Injury
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Overuse, stress from repetitive movements
  • Sports, Hobbies
  • Obesity
  • Gender
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor posture
  • Diabetes

Generally, conservative treatments like physical therapy, stretching, exercise, and OTC pain relievers are successful in treating pain associated with a pinched nerve. In instances where conservative treatment methods are unsuccessful more invasive measures may be required.

Pinched nerves not associated with anatomical changes may be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, good posture, and engaging in regular exercise. In general, a pinch nerved that resolves quickly, either on its own or with medical intervention, is not cause for concern as it will not cause damage.

However, continuous compression of a nerve can result in permanent nerve damage and chronic pain.

How Will a Massage Gun Help a Pinched Nerve?

Use of a massage gun is an effective and safe way to manage the symptoms caused by a pinched nerve, if used correctly. However, a massage gun will not solve the underlying issue that is causing the nerve compression.

For example, if muscle tension is the culprit, it is likely due to dysfunctional movement patterns or poor muscle coordination and strength deficits which should be addressed with physical therapy. 

You should always consult a physician or other qualified medical professional if you are experiencing the symptoms of a pinched nerve.

The percussion (vibration) of massage guns facilitate soft and deep tissue relaxation by increasing blood and lymph circulation to the area being massaged. This results in reduced inflammation and pain and a short-term increase in muscle length, which allows for improved mobility at your joints. 

These short-term effects will allow you to complete daily activities with minimal interference. Reduced symptoms will also give you the ability to exercise and participate in other recreational activities in order to address any underlying health issues contributing to the pinched nerve.

RELATED READ Learn more about massage gun benefits here.

Can Massage Make a Pinched Nerve Worse?

Any form of massage performed incorrectly can make the symptoms of a pinched nerve worse. That includes incorrect use of a massage gun. So how to use a massage gun for a pinched nerve safely and effectively?

Follow the tips below to use your massage gun correctly.

  • Select the appropriate massage gun for your needs. Read our massage gun reviews and buying guides for help in selecting your device. In a hurry? Check out devices like Ekrin 365 or the B37, both of which are excellent choices for the job.
  • Once you’ve selected your massager, familiarize yourself with it. Test the settings and find an intensity that you find comfortable. 
  • Using a massage gun should NOT be painful. It is okay for it to be intense, but NOT painful.
  • DO NOT place the massage gun directly over the effected nerve. Doing so will likely make your symptoms worse.
  • DO begin by applying gentle pressure to the tissue surrounding the nerve that is causing symptoms or where the symptoms are felt. Increase pressure as tolerated.
  • You may apply increased pressure to areas of denser tissue (i.e., fat, muscle) for a deeper massage.
  • Avoid using the massage gun over bony areas like the elbow or spine.
  • Massage the area/s for about 1-2 minutes at a time. You may notice reddening of the skin or start to feel itchy. This is normal and is due to the increased circulation.
  • Remember, if you experience more pain while using a massage gun, STOP
  • Consult your physician if pain persists because there could be something more serious or complex than a pinched nerve causing your symptoms.

READ MORE Here are more tips on how to use massage gun properly and effectively.

Not Sure Which Massage Gun is Best?

Check out our upcoming post on Massage Guns for Pinched Nerves for help selecting the right device for you.

deep tissue massage for pinched nerve
Using a massage gun (Ekrin 365) for pinched nerves around the neck and back.

Common FAQ

What happens if you let a pinched nerve go untreated?

Leaving a pinched nerve untreated can lead to permanent nerve damage. The results of permanent nerve damage include some of the following: muscle atrophy, decreased sensation, decreased coordination and chronic pain.

Will an EMG show a pinched nerve?

An EMG (electromyography) nerve test provides your specific information about the extent of nerve and/or muscle injury. It can also determine the location of nerve injury and whether or not the damage is reversible.

How long does it take for a pinched nerve to heal?

Pinched nerves generally resolve in 4-6 weeks with conservative treatment such as NSAIDS, acetaminophen, gentle stretching, and physical therapy depending on the severity of symptoms.

Massage Gun for Pinched Nerve – Conclusion

Is using a massage gun for pinched nerve a good idea? Let’s review:

  • Symptoms of a pinched nerve should always be assessed by a physician or qualified medical professional to rule out more serious conditions associated with nerve pain.
  • Physicians and other medical professionals use the phrase “pinched nerve” to describe a number of conditions in which a nerve endures sustained compression from structures such as tight muscles, bones, or connective tissues.
  • Common risk factors for developing a pinched nerve can be avoided by maintaining a healthy weight, good posture, and engaging in regular exercise. However, in some cases, nerve compression is a result of natural aging which includes changes to our boney structures, muscles, and connective tissues. In instances where conservative treatment methods are unsuccessful more invasive measures may be required.
  • Massage guns provide short-term relief of symptoms associated with nerve compression by increasing circulation and reducing inflammation of the affected tissue. Correctly used a massage gun is an effective and safe device for managing pain caused by a pinched nerve.

Article Sources
  1. Cervical Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve). Daniel K. Park, MD, Ian Rodway, MD. (2020)
  2. What To Do For A Pinched Nerve In Your Back. (2021).
  3. Cervical Radiculopathy: Non-operative Treatments and Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection. Alexander C. Simotas, MD. (2020)

NOTE: We only use high-quality sources and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to support the facts within our articles.

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Written by:

Elizabeth Falk, PTA, OPTA, NASM-PES

Elizabeth Falk

Elizabeth Falk, PTA, OPTA, NASM-PES
Elizabeth Falk

Liz is a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in which she holds an A.A.S. degree from St. Louis Community College – Meramec. Liz has advanced training in orthopedic physical therapy through NextGen PT and in movement analysis through Movement Links. She is also a certified NASM-Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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