You asked, we answered: Can using a massage gun on your neck cause a stroke?

Man using massage gun on man's neck

Question: Can using a massage gun on your neck cause a stroke?

Answer from Pierre Fayad, MD, neurologist:

While there are only a few reports in medical literature about massage guns causing strokes, there are plenty of reports about the dissection of the cervical arteries leading to a stroke.

A cervical artery dissection occurs when there is a tear or injury to the blood vessels walls in the neck, resulting in separation of the vessel walls layers and narrowing of the inner tubing. This can lead to the formation of a blood clot, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

A massage gun may conceivably cause a cervical artery dissection through the vibration it transmits, especially if used inappropriately or aggressively, on segments of the neck vessels where there are gaps in the muscle and bone coverings.

This would be considered a minimally traumatic injury, as opposed to the direct or indirect traumatic injuries that more often cause neck injuries that lead to dissections, such as those sustained in a car accident.

Nontraumatic cervical artery dissection has been associated with other situations that include:

  • Neck manipulations
  • Individuals self-cracking their necks.
  • Excessive backward extension of the neck over a shampoo bowl or hair dryer at a hair salon.
  • Roller coasters rides
  • Weightlifting that involves excessive physical strain.

The key is to be cautious about excessively extending or twisting your neck. Depending on your unique physiology, rotating your neck suddenly might injure the cervical arteries. 

We are all built differently, and some are more prone to these types of injuries. Therefore, I would exercise caution and moderation when using a massage gun on the neck. They can produce high levels of vibration, and if you use it on a portion of the neck that is not protected by muscle, you could injure yourself.

If you must use a massage gun, set it on a very low vibration and only use it on the muscles you can feel on the back of your neck. Alternatively, you could try a gentle manual massage, heat pads, ice packs or gentle stretches.

Above all, avoid twisting, excessive stretching, extending or flexing the neck.

Find more information about stroke signs, symptoms and risk factors in Advancing Health.