How to do a Jigsaw Massage (or Percussive Massage) for Hamstrings
Are your hamstrings being knotty or nice?
Either way - jigsaw and percussive massage have you covered.
Traditionally performed by hand, percussive massage utilizes rapid movements of soft blows in a constant and consistent rhythm to help stimulate blood flow to a particular muscle group, as well as stimulate the nervous system to release lymphatic and lactic acid build up.
A Jigsaw percussive massage mimics this traditional massaging technique with a machine (a jigsaw rig) and a human-impact friendly head. It has rapidly grown in popularity and is used by athletes and personal trainers around the world.
Get Familiar with Hamstring Anatomy
You should never go in “blind” to any physical activity that involves significant exertion or outside pressure because you can increase the chance of overexerting yourself and causing injury. Additionally, being aware of the general anatomy of the muscle groups you’ll be massaging makes the experience much more pleasant since you can essentially visualize what spots to hit and what spots to avoid.
Hamstrings get their more casual name from a combination between the Old English “ham or hom,” which refers to the bend of the knee, and string, which refers to tendons.
Image via: https://healthjade.com/hamstring-injury/
This string-like muscle group is actually three muscles in the back of your thigh: the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris muscles. These muscles are anchored in your “sitting bone”, or the ischium and the first two (semitendinosus and semimembranosus) insert on the side of your leg below the knee, and the third (biceps femoris) inserts on the outside of your leg, below the knee.
Hamstrings play a critical role in any physical movement and are heavily engaged in sports that involve bending the knee, and those that require sprinting with sudden stops and starts, jumping, and climbing.
Hamstrings are powerful and explosive muscles, but they can be strained or injured for a variety of reasons that include:
- General muscle tightness: tight muscles can lead to a higher chance of injury, which makes post-exercise recovery such as stretching and other forms like massage paramount for hamstrings.
- Muscle imbalances: this is when one opposing muscle group (in this case, the quadriceps) is much stronger than the other (hamstrings). The quadriceps tend to be much more powerful than hamstrings, and during high-intensity or extended exercise, the weaker hamstrings in an individual with a muscle imbalance may fatigue much faster than the quadriceps leading to strain and injury.
It’s very important you know the difference between a severely injured hamstring and general soreness!
Percussive and jigsaw massage is great for recovery and middle to late-stage rehabilitation, but they shouldn’t be done to newly injured or torn muscles. Beyond the immense pain that could result from improper treatment, you could end up adding weeks to your overall recovery process.
If you’ve strained your hamstring during a sprint, you’d noticed a sudden and sharp pain (or a popping or tearing sensation) in the posterior of your leg. You’ll be essentially forced to either stop, hop on your good leg, or fall. You’ll experience tenderness and swelling within a few hours, and potentially a bruising or discoloration and the general weakness of putting weight on your injured leg.
If you think you may have injured your leg, get a professional medical or certified trainer opinion before any DIY massaging.
How to use Jigsaw Massage or Percussive Massage for Hamstrings
Hamstrings, especially when sore, can be a very sensitive area for people. You should have a general understanding of you or your partner’s sensitivity to reduce the amount of discomfort.
The concept behind either using a Jigsaw massager or administering a percussive massage by hand is similar. Both techniques aren’t designed for “digging” into your muscle, it’s about the consistent and constant rhythmic pressure that helps stimulate a positive physiological response.
There isn’t a single standard way to massage your hamstrings with a massager, and the only wrong ways are those that can injure you. Here’s the general gist of massaging your hamstrings with built-in flexibility for personal preference:
If you are performing the massage on yourself:
- Start by either standing or laying down on your stomach. You will essentially be reaching back to massage the posterior of your leg, so make sure you are doing so from a point of comfort and not overexerting yourself past your range of mobility. Thankfully, you only have to hold down the trigger on a jigsaw massager, but you should still be mindful of the weight distribution.
- If standing: You can bend your torso forward to create some light tension and hamstring flexing. You can also bend your knee and slightly kick back your leg.
- If laying down: You can either keep your knee extended or bent. Your hamstrings won’t be as engaged as standing up, but that’s perfectly okay and it comes down to your personal preference.
- Run the jigsaw massager up and down the hamstrings slowly. Take your time and allow the jigsaw to do its magic. The sweet spot seems to be a range of 20 to 30+ seconds of running the Jigsaw through the length of the muscle. You don’t necessarily need to focus on any of the three hamstring muscles.
- Listen to your body and go for what feels good or knotty. People tend to store a lot of tension right underneath the butt, around where the hamstrings connect with the sitting bone, and then slightly above the knee. However, you shouldn’t exert too much pressure on the back of the knee as there are many nerve endings that you could cause damage to.