How to Use a Massage Gun on Specific Body Parts 

Woman using a massage gun

Verywell / Zackary Angeline

Massage guns have become increasingly popular especially when it comes to stress relief and muscle soreness. People use these tools not only for self massage, but also for their partners to help relieve tension, stiffness, and muscle soreness.

Massage guns also can provide stress relief and relaxation benefits similar to traditional massage therapy all from the comfort of your own home. Below is advice from experts on how to use massage guns on specific body parts, including your arms, legs, back, shoulders, and neck.

How to Use a Massage Gun on Your Arms

Using a massage gun on your arms is one of the more accessible areas for self-massage. The best approach is to spend 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each compartment of the arm, says Johnny Alexander, DC, a sports chiropractor and owner of Warrior NYC. He suggests beginning along the front of your arm moving up and down the bicep area.

Johnny Alexander, DC

Be careful to avoid the front of the elbow since that is a sensitive area.

— Johnny Alexander, DC

"Be careful to avoid the front of the elbow since that is a sensitive area," Dr. Alexander says. "After moving down to the front of your forearms, again, be careful of using too much pressure around the wrist. Afterward, flip your forearm and begin working up the back of your forearm. Skip over the elbow and work the back of your upper arm towards the shoulder."

How to Use a Massage Gun on Your Legs

Much like the arms, the best way to approach the legs is also by compartment, says Dr. Alexander. Begin by working on the anterior thigh by massaging the quads by the hip and working your way down to above the knee.

"Work up and down the front part of the thigh for 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on how sore you are," he says.

He also suggests that before moving down past the knee, you should work the lateral portion of the thigh for the same amount of time and then the medial portion. Use a lower setting for the inside of the thigh due to the groin being a sensitive area.

"After the medial thigh, skip over the knee and head down to the lower leg on the outside of the shin bone," he says. "From here, work down the lateral half of the lower leg avoiding the ankle for the same amount of time as above. Then switch to behind the leg and work your way back up along the back of the lower leg."

Finally, cross the knee again and work up the inside and outside portions of the back of the thigh separately. Spend 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each half to work the different hamstring muscles.

"This will work the entire posterior chain in one fluid motion," Dr. Alexander says.

How to Use a Massage Gun on Your Back and Shoulders 

The back and shoulders are common areas where you may feel stiff and tight, especially if you sit for much of the day. Massage may help relieve tension and stiffness, helping you relax.

"When using a massage gun on the back, it is important to have the positioning right and [to be] comfortable to get the most out of it," says Sandra Gail Frayna, PT, a physical therapist and founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy & Sports.

Frayna indicates that the massage gun head should be positioned at a 90-degree angle with your hand perpendicular to the handle. This will make it easiest to flip the device upside down and reach back to massage up and down your back.

"Begin at the lowest speed and setting and work your way up to allow your muscles to relax into the motion," Frayna says. "Massage for around 30 seconds to 2 minutes per area."

Sandra Gail Frayna, PT

After the initial session, pay attention to how your muscles feel in order to determine how much pressure to use for future usage, as it is easy to further shock or even injure yourself in this sensitive area.

— Sandra Gail Frayna, PT

For the shoulder and neck area, it is crucial to begin with light pressure, massaging the shoulder muscle tissue and up the neck.

"After the initial session, pay attention to how your muscles feel in order to determine how much pressure to use for future usage, as it is easy to further shock or even injure yourself in this sensitive area," Frayna says.

How to Use a Massage Gun on Your Neck

Neck tightness and stiffness are common, especially if you sit or work at a desk much of the day. To use a massage gun to reduce neck stiffness, you must only apply it on the back of your (or someone else's) neck and avoid the spine. The muscles you are targeting in your neck include the trapezius muscles, levator scapulae, and sternocleidomastoid.

"These [muscles] are known to tense up easily and cause pain," says Frayna, "but it is important to be very gentle on these and focus the vibrations only on the aforementioned muscles."

Keep in mind, using a massage gun on your neck or a partner's neck requires more careful use. If you have a history of strokes, you should not use a massage gun on your neck. Speak to a healthcare provider if you have had a stroke or you are concerned about your risk factors.

Where Should You Not Use a Massage Gun

Practicing safety precautions when using a massage gun can help you avoid potential damage or injury to tissues as well as other concerns. For instance, a massage gun should never be used in the front part of the neck or directly on the spine. Other sensitive areas you should avoid using a massage gun include the carotid artery, the kidneys, knees, and ankles, Frayna says.

"Start on a low setting to allow your muscles to get used to the sensation and remain in control," explains Frayna.

While the massage gun is an excellent tool for relieving post-exercise soreness after a workout, Dr. Alexander indicates that if you ever have pain or issues with deeper tissues, then it would be best to consult a healthcare professional for a further examination before using a massage gun.

A Word From Verywell

Massage guns are valuable tools that may provide some relief from tension, similar to traditional massage therapy. If you are considering utilizing a massage for post-workout soreness or for general pain and discomfort, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider first to determine if massage is right for you. They can let you know if you have an issue or injury that may benefit from other types of treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you cause damage with a massage gun? 

    You can cause damage with a massage gun. To prevent injury or damage, avoid the front of the neck, spine, carotid artery, kidneys, knees, elbows, and ankles. You also should refrain from using a massage gun on injured areas, bruises, wounds, or painful areas.

  • Is it safe to use a massage gun every day? 

    As long you use a massage gun in a safe and correct manner, you can use one every day. However, you may get more benefit from the massage gun if you rotate your treatment methods for sore muscles. You might try massage one day and a foam roller the next.

  • Are massage guns good for inflammation? 

    Massage guns may help with inflammation. Studies show relief or lessened delayed onset muscle soreness from massage.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.