What is Percussive Massage Therapy?

Percussive massage is a massaging technique that utilizes rapid reciprocating motions from a machine, such as a jigsaw or a specialized percussive massager like the JM 2.0.

Also known as tapotement (derived from the French word "tapoter" which means to tap or to drum), the percussive massage technique has its roots as one of the five Swedish massage strokes alongside effleurage (sliding or gliding down the length of the muscle), petrissage (kneading out particular “knots”), friction (cross fiber or alongside fibers), and vibration/shaking.

Recent studies have shown that percussion therapy may be capable of treating muscle fibers up to 30 times more effectively than other traditional regular massages!

Percussive massage therapy has seen a recent spike in popularity, partially due to advancements in products and technology that allow for standard jigsaws to utilize massaging heads to achieve the same goals at faster and more effective speeds (and prices).

What does percussive massage do?

Traditionally performed by hand, there are five different types of percussive massage (tapotement) that make use of various hand angles and capabilities. These types include:

  • Beating with a closed fist LIGHTLY, this isn’t Mortal Kombat! 
  • Slapping via fingers to tap with moderate impact.
  • Hacking using the edge of the hand on the pinky side, kind of like a karate chop of tension relief. 
  • Tapping using just the fingertips.
  • Cupping by gently tapping the area while forming the hand into a cup. 

Although a few of those percussive massage types sound a bit hardcore, they’re ultimately done with low to medium intensity.

The goal of this technique isn't to attack the muscle through impact. The hallmark percussive rapid, short, even sequences of percussive massage help to stimulate the nervous system as well as to release lymphatic build up. Regular percussive massage sessions, whether traditional or through a Jigsaw Massager, can help reduce pain, joint stiffness, and improve muscle function.

What are the benefits of percussive massage?

Percussive massage is a highly efficient means of recovery, muscle strength enhancement, and overall muscle ability optimization.

The benefits go on and on; percussive massage helps:

  • Increase circulation of blood and distribution of oxygen to various parts of your body, in addition to the heightened focus on the local area of choice. 
  • Decreases post-workout muscle pain and cramps, accelerating the body’s ability to recover and heal so you can get back to training. 
  • Relaxes muscle tension by providing a muscular release and comfort from key tension-storing areas such as your back, neck, and shoulders. 
  • Releases lymphatic build up. Your lymphatic system is like a narrow highway that removes extra fluid and waste from your body, and it also plays a critical role in your immune function. By releasing areas of lymphatic congestion, you help your lymphatic system do its job much more efficiently. 
  • Flushes lactic acid, a metabolic byproduct of exercise. According to Stephen M. Roth, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland, contrary to popular belief, the lactic acid buildup is not responsible for muscle soreness in the days after strenuous exercise. The painful sensation around buildup of lactic acid serves to prevent us from overworking our body, triggering a recovery period where the body must clear lactate and other metabolites before returning to optimal performance
  • Reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the post-exercise soreness that starts after 8 to 10 hours post-exercise and peaks within 24 to 48 hours. Vibration therapy (percussive massage) helps improve muscular strength, power development, and kinesthetic awareness and it may also prevent DOMS by preventing sarcoma disruption.
  • It feels good! If you’re busting your butt to push your body to its limits, something tender love and care (TLC) is always a nice reward.

Who should use percussive massages or jigsaw massagers?

Percussive massage is a technique for the people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a world-class athlete or someone looking to get back into shape as their New Year’s Resolution, a percussive or jigsaw massage can help you recover better and get back to optimal training faster.

Percussive and jigsaw massages have become extremely popular among everyone from all-around athletes, bodybuilders, MMA fighters, swimmers, runners, CrossFit athletes, surfers, BMXers, personal trainers, therapists, and even the corporate and entrepreneurial crowds.

Percussive and jigsaw massage can even be done before workouts as a way to quickly warm up muscles!

Jigsaw Percussive Massage: The Best of Man and Machine

In recent years, physiology and athletics pioneers have taken the same concept behind traditional percussive massage therapy via hand and applied it to machines that perform the same motion at faster and more regular rates. These handheld devices act as soft jackhammers that gently work out muscle knots, release muscular tension, and the vibrational friction helps allow for excess lymphatic buildup and lactic acid to drain faster.

Ultimately, the vibration from jigsaw massage allows for the entire body to naturally flush out toxins and replace them with a fresh blood supply that helps to feed the local muscle tissue with much-needed nutrients and oxygen.