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  • Writer's pictureKirby Clark, MMT

Percussion Therapy

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Have you ever seen the vibrating massage tools? There have been major innovations in percussion devices that are used in therapeutic massage.

So first things first, let's talk about what percussion (or percussive) therapy is. Percussion is defined as massage that uses repetitive, rapid strokes (or taps/blows) to the body for therapeutic purposes. Recall from our discussion a while back about the different massage strokes that the original French term for Percussion is Tapotament. Tapotament has many different forms- Hacking, Slap/Splatting, Cupping, Pounding, Tapping, and Diffused.

The main benefits of Tapotament or Percussion therapy include relieving sore or stiff muscles, increasing Range of Motion (ROM), and increased circulation. However, my favorite benefit of percussion is a jumbling of the nerves effect (this may be more of a personal theory based in lived experience than evidence based fact, so bear with me). I find that clients struggling with fibromyalgia have particularly positive experiences when Tapotament or Percussion is used in their massage session.

You have probably seen these Percussion devices- most people refer to them as "massage guns" out on the market. Although I don't think the words "massage" and "gun" belong together in the same sentence- I call them "Percussion Hammers" or "Percussion Devices". Most brands use the word "vibration" to describe their equipment, but "percussion" is much more accurate... these devices don't rock or oscillate the body. Percussion devices provide the repetitive, rapid pulses of pressure or force that is in the very definition of Percussion!

The percussion devices are frequently marketed for athletic recovery but their uses aren't exclusive to sports massage- they can benefit practically anybody with a sore or stiff body. The more intense settings have a tonifying effect (best used before a strenuous event) and the less intense settings have a sedating effect (better suited for after strenuous events or recovery). These percussion devices require little to no effort from the therapist using them- there's no need to really apply pressure through the device, just gliding slowly with it. Many on the market also come with a variety of attachment heads (my own Percussion Hammer has 4; a fork, a flat, a round, and a bullet- see there's that "gun" language again...).

Percussion devices make receiving and providing the benefits of Percussion/Tapotament easy and efficient. Percussion therapy can be a great addition to your massage practice or massage therapy treatment plan.

Peace and Healing,

Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB

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