Massage Guns vs. Foam Rollers - Which One is Better for You?

Massage Guns vs. Foam Rollers - Which One is Better for You?

Massage gun vs foam roller – which muscle recovery tool should you gun for? Foam rollers have been around forever. They've stood the test of time and have become a fixture in yoga studios, gyms, and every serious athlete's fitness routine.

But a device called TheraGun, the world’s first percussive massage gun, burst onto the scene in 2008. It was sleeker, cooler, and flashier than the clunky foam roller. Since then, it has earned recognition as a workout recovery tool. But is it actually any better than a foam roller?

In this guide, you'll learn how these tools work, their different functionalities, and what each does best. You'll also learn how to pick one that fits your needs and lifestyle. Stick to the end, and we'll show you a better way to promote muscle recovery.

Understanding Muscle Recovery

Muscles need to be broken down and challenged constantly before they can grow. And what you do in between workouts can make all the difference. Here's why.

The Importance of Muscle Recovery

During intense workouts, your muscle fibers sustain tiny injuries. Your body gets to work repairing these micro-tears in the hours and days following your workout.

Feeling sore and fatigued is normal while you recover, a phenomenon called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is most common among newbies, but it can also happen when you push your body more than usual or transition to a new training program.

The repair process begins with an inflammatory response. Then your body starts producing more muscle cells to fill in the injuries. But your body actually does more than repair; it fuses fibers together to form new muscle strands, resulting in bigger, stronger muscles. 

Your body is perfectly capable of repairing and growing, but it can only do so when given the right resources.

Common Methods for Enhancing Muscle Recovery

With the right approach and the right tools, you can accelerate the recovery, repair, and growth process. Here are some of them:

  • Sleep and Rest: When you sleep, your body releases growth hormones. These hormones jumpstart your body's healing processes, allowing your muscles to repair and rebuild, ready to take on the next challenge. In short, more sleep equals stronger muscles

  • Massage Gun: A massage gun is a motorized handheld device that uses percussive therapy. It delivers targeted pressure in rapid succession deep into your tissues, promoting muscle recovery.

  • Foam Rolling: Foam rolling is meant to mimic a sports massage. As you roll over your sore muscles, the pressure promotes muscle relaxation and breaks up muscle adhesions & fascia, resulting in increased mobility, less pain, and shorter recovery times. 

  • Stretching and Yoga: Rest is important, but so is staying active. Yoga & other forms of dynamic stretching help to reduce pain & promote recovery without further damaging the muscles. 

  • Cold Therapy: Cold therapy is a mainstay treatment for acute sports injuries for many reasons. It constricts blood vessels and numbs the area, reducing inflammation and temporarily relieving pain.

  • Heat Therapy: Heat therapy helps relax muscles, improve blood circulation, and reduce stiffness. Heat also promotes tissue elasticity, making your muscles more flexible and resistant to injuries.

  • Massage: Massage therapy promotes muscle relaxation, improves blood flow, and removes metabolic waste products.
physical therapist using massage gun on man

What is a Massage Gun?

A massage gun is a handheld massage device that works like a mini jackhammer. It uses percussive therapy to deliver rapid bursts of pressure up to 16 mm deep into your muscle tissue. 

Each gun comes with different head attachments and has adjustable settings so you can customize your massage experience. Higher-end brands like TheraGun and Hypervolt also feature longer battery life and cooling mechanisms for extended use.The theory behind massage guns is that the deep and rapid pulsations break up myofascial adhesions, resulting in improved blood circulation and muscle mobility. 

Like foam rollers, massage guns are best used in a structured pre and post-workout routine. The benefits of incorporating massage guns in your pre and post-workout routine include:

  • Increasing range of motion and joint mobility
  • Reducing injuries
  • Improving muscle performance
  • Reducing soreness and pain
  • Promoting recovery

Pros and Cons of Using a Massage Gun


  • Targeted relief. Massage guns provide precise, targeted relief. This means that a massage gun penetrates target-specific areas to release tight muscles effectively. From pecs to biceps, or hamstrings to quads, a massage gun can provide much-needed relief from muscle tension.
  • Fast results. Because massage guns go deeper into your muscle, they deliver results in less time than other recovery tools. In a 2021 study, researchers found percussive therapy with TheraGun to be more efficient than manual therapy.
  • Portable and convenient. Weighing less than 3 pounds, most massage guns are convenient to use at home, the gym, or while traveling. You can easily carry them in your gym bag or luggage, ensuring that pain relief is always within reach.


  • Pricey. Massage guns can range anywhere from $40 to $600. While expensive guns like Hypervolt and TheraGun have more features, we don't know whether they're any better than the $40 gun.
  • Has a single modality. Massage guns run on a single mode — percussion. While percussive therapy definitely has its uses, it's not appropriate for everyone. In fact, using it incorrectly or for too long can cause muscle damage or aggravate nerve damage and inflammation.

Because of this, people with bone, clotting, nerve, and muscle disorders should avoid massage guns. Pregnant women and elderly people should consult with their provider or a DPT before using a massage gun.

How to Use a Massage Gun

Working 8 hours at your desk job can do a number on your shoulders, neck, and back. Over time, tension will cause discomfort and potentially a postural hunch. 

To manage your neck & shoulder pain with a percussive massage gun:

  1. Start by finding a comfortable position.

  2. Pick a rounded or pointed head attachment.

  3. Position the device directly over your trapezius muscle.

  4. Start with a lower intensity and glide the massage gun over your shoulder, up the back of your neck. Make sure to avoid your spine.
  5. Spend no more than 2 minutes massaging each target muscle.

  6. Repeat the process on the other side. 

woman using rolflex foam roller to massage arm

What is a foam roller?

A foam roller is a versatile massage tool designed for effective self-myofascial release (SMR). Traditional foam rollers feature a cylindrical foam tube that uses your body weight to apply pressure to various areas of your body.

Then there’s the Rolflex Pro. The Rolflex deep tissue foam roller is an SMR and muscle recovery tool designed by athletes for athletes. It features two adjustable pressure handles, as well as stability, and contoured therapy rollers of varying densities. 

As you foam roll, sensors within your muscle fibers kick your body into a state of relaxation. This is where the benefits of foam rolling come rolling in. When your body relaxes, you access a wider range of motion, blood circulation improves, and muscles are freed from adhesions.

By incorporating foam rolling into your pre and post-workout routine, you can experience benefits like:

  • Improved form and mobility
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Better pain management
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Shorter recovery times

Pros and Cons of Using a Foam Roller


  • Broad coverage. Traditional foam rollers range from 12 to 36 inches in length, with varying widths & densities. Their larger size enables you to treat a larger surface area than a massage gun, meaning you can roll away muscle tension and soreness with one sweeping motion.

  • Budget-friendly. Foam rollers start at $10, a much more affordable option compared to percussion guns. At higher prices of up to $50, you'll get additional features like textured surfaces, and vibrating modes.

  • Provides a gentler, safer approach. Foam rolling can hurt, especially if your muscles are extra tight. But it's the type of hurt that feels good as your muscles start to loosen up. Overall, foam rollers offer a gentler, more relaxing experience compared to massage guns. 
  • Custom control. And with the Rolflex’s adjustable handles, you’re fully in charge of the intensity of your massage.

  • Wide-ranging benefits. Most people use foam rollers to reduce soreness, increase their ROM, and treat injuries. But what many don't know is that they can also use foam rollers to improve their posture, core strength, and stability.


  • Limited precision and less stimulation. Foam rollers provide a broader area of contact. This makes it challenging to address specific trigger points or muscle soreness. That’s why we designed the Rolflex Foam Roller, to give you more control over your muscle recovery.
  • Bulky and difficult to use. Foam rollers may not be the most travel-friendly option due to their bulky size. Their larger dimensions mean you can't pack them in a suitcase or carry-on bag and use them on the go. Again, the Rolflex solves this issue; it can easily fit in a small backpack without taking up all of the space.

How to Use a Foam Roller

Running injuries are inevitable if you want to compete at a high level. But they don’t have to slow you down. Here’s how to use the Rolflex Pro to treat muscle soreness, injuries, and general discomfort:

  1. Fit the Rolflex foam roller over the target muscle group on your arm or leg.

  2. Adjust the grip so that you can comfortably apply pressure and initiate SMR.

  3. Grip the Rolflex with both hands, then move the roller back & forth over the muscle for at least 20 seconds. Make a mental note of any trigger points (extra sensitive areas on the muscle) as you do this. 

  4. After 20 seconds, place the roller directly over one of the trigger points. While maintaining that position & pressure, flex the muscle 5-10 times – this will break up the fascial tissue and restore full mobility. 

  5. Repeat this process as needed for every muscle group in your arms & legs. 

Massage Gun vs. Foam Roller: Which One is Better for You?


This really depends on your definition of efficiency. Are you looking for deep and precise targeting and faster results? Then get a massage gun.

Or are you looking for a versatile tool that hits all the right spots with a gentle, controlled massage? A foam roller is your best bet.

Though these tools function quite differently from one another, they do accomplish the same goals. Both tools can significantly improve pain perception, reduce post-workout fatigue, and shorten recovery times.


Massage guns are a pricier investment. If budget is a concern, then foam rollers are generally the more cost-effective option. And if you opt  for a cheaper gun instead of a TheraGun, you may find that it breaks after just a few weeks of use. 


If portability and on-demand pain relief are essential, a massage gun is an excellent choice. Compared to a massage gun, most foam rollers are nearly impossible to travel with – they’re far too large for both carry-on & checked luggage.

When choosing a muscle recovery tool, consider its cost, portability, ease of use, and their unique features. It’s also important to consider any physical limitations that you may have.

Ultimately, the best recovery tool is the one that meets your needs. Massage guns are great for targeting specific problem spots, and require very little energy expenditure to use. 

On the other hand, foam rollers are perfect for overall muscle soreness because they cover different muscle groups at once. And with tools like the Rolflex, you can foam roll your arms & legs at whichever angle & pressure you like for a comprehensive and controlled muscle recovery so you can focus on your workout and not on how sore you feel.

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