If you are someone who is getting into exercise, you may have heard about the importance of recovery. Even the most seasoned athletes confess that they know recovery is crucial for their performance, but still are unsure of the best tools for their individual needs. While it may have been acceptable in the past to finish your workout with a half hearted quad stretch, we now know that our bodies need much more than that to maintain (or increase!) optimal function. Today, we wanted to compare the benefits of scraping and massage guns (aka percussive therapy): two of the most popular tools used by clinicians and consumers.
What is Muscle Scraping and Percussive Therapy?
Both scraping and percussive therapy are techniques heavily utilized by clinicians to help restore or maintain movement. Recovery tools are seen as an upgrade from traditional massage because their unique designs provide myofascial release that cannot be seen without tools or through normal stretching alone.
Muscle scraping is a popular technique used by clinicians and consumers to increase blood flow to an injured area. It’s inspired by one of the oldest techniques in Chinese medicine called Gua Sha which translates to scraping away (Gua) energy blockages (Sha). Scraping has been known to improve function in areas where healing has slowed due to adhesions or poor circulation from injury. The mechanical process elicits an inflammation signal to the body which promotes blood flow and improves healing time. Scraping provides near-instant relief to soft tissue injuries and is beneficial for people experiencing tightness and tension from repetitive movements. Scraping has also been proven as an effective proactive treatment, as the process of scraping can lengthen tendons and can prevent injuries.
Percussive therapy has become increasingly popular in the form of handheld tools such as massage guns. Percussive therapy targets sore muscles through a series of short pulses that work to improve lymphatic drainage and desensitizes the bodies perception to pain (see gate control theory). These devices provide rapid bursts of pressure and can reduce the impact of delayed onset muscle soreness( DOMs) and improve range of motion.
What’s the difference?
Lasting Range of Motion (ROM) Benefits: While a massage gun is a great post workout tool to combat muscle tightness and see instant improvement to ROM, the result is not lasting because this type of therapy does not lengthen the soft tissue the same way that scraping can.
Scraping offers similar benefits with tension relief, but has also been shown to lengthen the soft tissue which can improve ROM long term, while preventing injuries proactively. This means that not only can you feel better in the moment, but the impact of using the tools has long term benefits as well.
Increased blood flow (and thereby recovery): Percussive therapy works as a method that applies rapid-fire force to the area where you are using the tool. The motion offers a continuous ‘on and off’ repetitive pulse to the skin which can provide relaxation benefits.
Scraping creates a very localized pressure that only a refined treatment edge of a scraper can produce. Percussive products by comparison are blunt (and you wouldn’t want anything sharp rapidly firing into your skin any way). For this reason, you’ll often see Petechiae (bright red spots) form while you scrape. This is an indication that stagnant blood vessels are being broken up, leading to the reconstruction of new vessels. This increases blood flow and recovery that percussion massagers (or other recovery tools) aren’t able to match.
Price: Both options have products with a variety of prices. Massage guns are priced anywhere from $100 – $599. The more expensive gadgets are usually due to their speed, power and noise.
Scraping tools also vary in price. Old, traditional brands marketed towards Clinicians can be seen charging $595 per tool. Sidekick’s scrapers are much more affordable, with the most popular tool, the Echo, priced at $135, while offering more features and quality than any alternatives. This includes a multi-treatment edge tool, patented Comfort Grip, Medical-Grade Stainless Steel and much more. Learn more here.
Benefits of both tools:
The benefits you can get from using either (or both) tools is:
- Easy to use with instruction
- Quick relief from pain and tension
- Cost effective when compared to multiple visits to see a clinician, and a perfect solution to ensure recovery is not neglected while we are all spending more time at home.
- Reduced hand fatigue and improved experience for clinicians and consumers alike.
- Both are designed to help athletes perform better and recover faster, and those benefits translate to the average consumer or fit person as well!
Why we recommend Scraping:
While scraping and percussive therapy share a lot of benefits, both techniques are completely different. You can tell by simply noticing the bright red spots you’ll often get when scraping (known as Petechiae), that never occur with percussive therapy.
Since the techniques are so different, the results are also different. Many people have found relief through scraping despite having tried dozens of other recovery techniques.
A popular reason to choose scraping is due to it’s pin-point precision. Often you have one specific knot in your muscle that you want to target, and your scraper allows you to work precisely in and around that knot. A percussion massager is relatively blunt when compared with a Sidekick scraper.
We love scraping because it provides a connection with your body that you can’t get from percussive therapy. The connection allows for biofeedback, which is a useful self assessment tool that will allow you to understand, scan and assess areas that require treatment. When you are scraping, you can move the tool over your body and based on how it feels, you can understand where your body needs it most. The act of scraping can be incredibly Zen, and many people have mentioned they find the repetition and connection with their body to be soothing in addition to the tension relief benefits that it provides.
The highest quality scraper is much more affordable than an entry level percussive tool, and does not require additional maintenance or batteries. Scrapers are silent compared to percussive guns and the tools are smaller, lighter and more travel friendly. Scraping tools don’t have parts that may break down or wear out over time. If you take care of your tool, it will stay in the same condition you bought it in for years to come. Percussive tools also should not be used on the neck, and scraping tools are a safe and effective way to provide neck pain relief from soft tissue injuries and tech neck.
The bottom line is both of these tools are great options for your routine and can actually compliment one another as a part of your recovery stack. They both can lead to relief and feelings of relaxation, and both have mechanisms that can contribute to quicker recovery by stimulating blood flow to the treatment area, allowing for faster healing times. Both tools are easy to learn how to use and will quickly pay for themselves if you have to book fewer sessions with your physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapist. With that said, both techniques are different and if nothing else has worked for your muscle relief, then you will want to give muscle scraping a try.