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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An increasingly common question among fans of massage guns is: can you use a massage gun while pregnant? The short answer is – it depends, but you’ll want to keep reading for all of the important details.
In this article we talk about the potential benefits and precautions to consider if you’re planning on using your massage gun during pregnancy.
This article is prepared from a massage gun expert’s point of view. Research is limited on massage guns, but we have reviewed several resources to ensure we’re providing the most reliable and accurate information.
We also test massage guns extensively, and have a transparent process for that. All devices listed in this articles have been personally tested by us.
In addition, this post has been written by a licensed physiotherapist, Dr. Alex Stone, DPT., and reviewed by Gary Tanchak, D.C. We encourage you to check with your medical doctor before using any of the advice given here.
This is an informative post and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.
Important Health Considerations
Safety should always be your first priority during a pregnancy, so it’s important to have regular checkups with your doctor and talk about which activities are safe for you.
If any of the following problems come up during your pregnancy, massage may not be a safe option for you:
High-risk pregnancy or placental complications
High blood pressure or developing preeclampsia
History of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
It’s always important to listen to your body when trying new self-care techniques, massage guns included, so be sure to use caution and be gentle. If something doesn’t feel right, stop and seek further medical advice from your doctor.
Massage Benefits While Pregnant
Massage therapy is a long-time favored treatment during pregnancy because it is effective at managing the aches and pains that come up over time, and can be very relaxing + enjoyable.
In fact, researchers have studied the many benefits of massage therapy during pregnancy. In addition to helping relieve symptoms such as muscle pain and headaches, massage therapy may also improve mood and reduce anxiety by improving the release of “feel-good chemicals” like dopamine and serotonin (1).
Also, reduced pain and improved mood may lead to improved sleep, which improves recovery from daily life and can improve health of both mother and baby in many ways.
But can you use a massage gun while pregnant? There are many factors to consider (keep reading), but massage guns seem to be gaining traction as a treatment option during pregnancy.
Are Massage Guns Safe During Pregnancy?
When it comes to the safety of using massage guns during pregnancy, the details are crucial. Yes, massage guns can be safe and effective for expectant mothers, provided they’re used with care and awareness. However, there are certain considerations you should be aware of.
First and foremost, percussive massage is not recommended during the first trimester of pregnancy. During this time, your baby is going through rapid development – meaning it will be more vulnerable to the risks of miscarriage – and additional stress from traditional massage or use of your massage gun may increase the risk of pregnancy complications (2).
This means that you’ll want to focus on your second and third trimesters for safe use of your massage gun, where concerns of affecting fetal development are much lower. Safety first!
Another important factor is the intensity of your massage gun use. Most things are safe in moderation, but knowing how much is ‘too much’ can be the difference between safe and unsafe treatment. For this reason, it’s important to do your homework and learn best practices to maximize your effectiveness and safety (see ‘how to use a massage gun while pregnant’ below).
In many ways, the effects of your massage gun can be compared to a deep tissue massage. So the question becomes: can you have a deep tissue massage during your pregnancy? If so, where can you have this type of massage?
Let’s shed some light on this topic.
Where (and where not) to Use a Massage Gun While Pregnant
Let’s first talk about the areas you should not be using your massage gun:
Avoid the Abdomen
Hopefully this one is obvious, but you’ll want to make sure you avoid this area because direct percussive force over your abdomen can very easily cause damage to your developing baby. Do not attempt to massage this area with your massage gun at any point in your pregnancy.
Although it might be tempting to go after the aches and pains in your lower back – after all, this is a very common area of discomfort for many women during pregnancy – you will need to avoid your lower back because direct force over this area will also cause unwanted vibration around your developing baby.
While it might seem safe to perform a deep tissue massage on your lower extremities, you should use caution here because of blood clotting risks. Many women are at an increased risk for developing blood clots during their pregnancies because of changes in hormone production and body proportions. Providing a deep tissue massage could dislodge a blood clot and allow it to travel up to the heart or lungs (3).
Okay, now let’s talk about where you can use your massage gun during pregnancy.
Can Use on Neck and Shoulders
Dealing with body changes and pregnancy-related stress can increase tension through your neck and shoulders, and this area usually responds well to a good massage. You may want to look at our in-depth article on using a massage gun for your neck.
Can Use on Arms
Your arms will normally build up tension throughout the day from normal activities like lifting and carrying, or from chipping away at that long list of emails (sound familiar?). Everything from your hands to your shoulders can benefit from massage here, just be sure to avoid sensitive or bony areas.
Can Use on Upper Back
Carrying around more weight at your abdomen often leads to changes in posture, which place more stress on your upper back (also called your thoracic spine). This area responds very well to massage because tension and pain here are usually coming from muscles.
Take special care to avoid using your massage gun directly over your spine. Because your upper back and lower back are directly connected, we don’t recommend going any lower than the bottom of your shoulder blades, to avoid vibrating your abdomen. If you’re unsure about how low to go, talk to your medical doctor.
Guidelines for Using a Massage Gun During Pregnancy
If you know that it is safe to use your massage gun, follow these basic steps for best results:
Hold your massage gun and turn it on, setting it to medium speed.
Gently apply the head of your massager over the desired area at a straight angle (not slanted) and slowly apply pressure until a medium intensity is reached (strong, but not painful).
Slowly move the head around the area while trying to maintain consistent pressure and a straight angle. Small circles are an effective way to evenly cover the ground.
Focus on one area of the body for 1-2 minutes. Do not exceed this amount of time until you are able to wait and assess if your body responds well (no bruising, swelling, or pain afterward).
Adjust your speed and intensity based on your comfort at each body area. Do not push into pain!
Theragun is credited as the original massage gun expert, and they have many great (but expensive) options for doing percussive massage therapy at home. If you can afford the high ticket price, they may be the best massage gun option for you during your pregnancy.
But remember: while Theragun products are great for almost any job, they are high-amplitude devices (16mm) and in our opinion, they can feel a bit punchy for some. Their high amplitude makes them best suited for a true deep-tissue massage, but remember that this means they percuss less intensively (up to 2450 hits per minute).
The main difference between Theragun models is their stall force (the force required to stop the motor from revving). For an in-depth analysis, you can read our comparison of Theragun models.
We believe the best Theragun for women during pregnancy is the Theragun Prime.
We chose Theragun Prime as our top pick because it checks most of our boxes without breaking the bank – that is, you’ll get a good massage that isn’t completely overpowering.
We also think that the Theragun mini is a nice option for relieving some muscle tension while keeping your massage on the gentle side.
More powerful Theragun models like the Elite and PRO may have useful features like an adjustable arm and spare batteries, but they likely won’t get very much use during your pregnancy.
Why not? This is because you won’t be massaging the largest muscle groups in your body – your hips and thighs – so you won’t have much use for the industry-leading stall force of the PRO and Elite models.
Are There any Downsides to Theragun?
The most obvious downside to the Theragun brand is their price. While they deliver on a lot of features like stall force and amplitude, they’re also some of the most expensive options on the market today. You can check current prices at Therabody.com
Theragun started the massage gun industry, but their innovation is constantly being challenged by the competition. There are now many less-expensive options that come with similar benefits.
As far as warranties go, Theragun doesn’t offer much. You can get a one-year warranty with most models, and a two-year warranty with the PRO model.
While higher-level models come equipped with several attachments and a carrying case, lower-tier models are more bare-bones. For example, the Prime model does not come with a case, and the mini model only comes with the standard ball attachment (and a pouch).
Choosing the Hypervolt Model for Expectant Mothers
We tested all this Hypervolt devices.
Theragun isn’t the only established massage gun name in the market today, and Hyperice’s Hypervolt may be considered their top competitor. We cover the details of main differences between the two in our Theragun vs Hypervolt post.
The big difference between Hypervolt and Theragun products lies in their stroke length and speed. Theragun products tend to be more ‘punchy’ because of their longer stroke length, whereas Hypervolts feel more ‘vibrational’ because they have a shorter stroke length with higher speed.
In fact, even the new Hypervolt 2 and 2 Pro models clock in at 12mm and 14mm stroke length, respectively – not quite matching up to their Theragun counterparts.
However, these devices have a higher speed than similar Theragun options, giving more of a vibrational massage in comparison (2700 hits per minute versus Theragun’s 2450 hits per minute – we measured and verified both these speed). For some people, such a setup actually feels more intense.
Because of how easily it stalls, we aren’t big fans of Hyperice’s miniature option: the Hypervolt Go 2. Just know that there are better-performing options at the same price point (see “cheaper alternatives” below).
Considering the available options, we believe the Hypervolt 2 is the best choice during pregnancy.
We chose the Hypervolt 2 because in our tests, it checked some of our boxes without hitting the premium price point of the Hypervolt 2 Pro.
More importantly, it has a stroke length of 12mm – a kind of sweet spot. It will be well enough for use on your arms and back.
Is the Hypervolt 2 Pro really that bad? Well, because of its high price point relative to the 14mm stroke length, it might not be the most practical option for most future moms looking to get a good massage.
However, the Hypervolt 2 Pro could be used in its full capacity after pregnancy has ended, including areas like the hips and thighs where more force can be helpful, adding more value to the original purchase.
Attachments: Their Importance
Based on our experience with both brands’ products, we think Hypervolt attachments are better varied than Theragun options overall, but keep in mind that they’re all hard plastic with the exception of the standard semi-soft ball.
If you want a really soft attachment for sensitive areas, you’ll have to get the Theragun SuperSoft attachment. It only comes included with the Theragun PRO model, or you need to buy it separately.
Theraguns SuperSoft attachment (on the left) and Hypervolts massage heads (right).
Cheaper Alternatives Worth Recommending
Having experimented with most options on the market today, we can recommend some strong competition at a lower price point.
Ekrin Athletics – Lightweight and Ergonomic
Ekrin is a young and aspiring American brand that offers many great, slightly more vibrational alternatives to Theragun and Hypverolt.
Our Ekrin 365 and B37 massage guns compared side by side.
Opove – A High Amplitude Option
Opove also offers some reasonable and high-amplitude options, like the Apex and M3 Pro 2.
The former has a 14.5mm amplitude, so it will be more similar to high-end options like the Hypervolt 2 Pro and mid-range Theraguns. The latter has 12mm, so not as punchy, and feels more like Ekrin devices, or Hypervolt 2.
While the M3 Pro 2 uses the classic T-shape, the Apex uses an angled handle for improved ergonomics. Both models come with assorted attachments similar to the Hypervolt Pro, and both come with a carrying case.
First two photos: Opove Apex. The other two show Opove M3 Pro 2.
The truth is, there just isn’t enough research yet to know exactly how massage gun use compares to a traditional hands-on massage. However, your massage gun (when used safely) might be a great addition to a pregnancy exercise routine, healthy diet, and good lifestyle habits during your pregnancy.
If you’re still unsure about using your massage gun during pregnancy, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a licensed massage therapist who specializes in pregnancy care. This, along with the guidance of your medical doctor, should help ensure the best outcomes during your pregnancy.
If you have experience with using your massage gun during pregnancy, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Alex Stone is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA). He currently practices orthopedics in Bellevue Washington and manages an online health coaching business via social media (@dr.alexstone). He is passionate about health science education and general health/wellness optimization.
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