Have you ever seen or heard of a person using a ball or a foam roller to help with muscle pain and wondered what exactly they were doing? Well, let’s dive in to understand the benefits of self-massage utilizing a lacrosse or tennis ball and identify which one would work best for you!
First of all, what is fascia and what does “myo” mean? Fascia is a type of connective tissue found throughout the body that covers, supports, and protects muscle, bone, organs, and even nerves. The term “Myo” is the anatomical term to describe muscle. So if we were to put the two terms together, it essentially means connective tissue of the muscle. Sometimes with trauma, inflammation or habitual poor posture, this fascia can become sticky, restricting the smooth natural glide of a muscle creating “knots” or trigger points. A trigger point in massage therapy is defined as a local irritable spot within a taut band of tissue in the muscle often accompanied by referral pain, a twitch response in the muscle when worked on, and sometimes nausea or chills. This may sound like a lot, but the fun thing is that it’s manageable! You can always visit your local massage therapist but if that isn’t an option for you right now, the following technique can help relieve some of that irritation and pain. By applying a ball over a tender area and rolling over it, this is helping increase blood flow by providing nutrients, oxygen, and healing cells to the area. It will also help break down adhesions and decrease the discomfort that may come with a trigger point. You may even find that after a while it will increase your range of motion as well, improving your functionality day by day! Myofascial self massages can be very beneficial especially when paired with professional therapeutic services.
Anybody can enjoy the benefits of this type of self-care. The great thing about it is that you are the one who is in charge of the therapy session and can instantly change the location you are working on as well as the depth that you think feels best at that moment in time.
Anywhere you like! Your body will tell you how it is feeling, so use pain or discomfort as your guide. A registered massage therapist suggested tactic is to start at your mid-back in the rhomboid area, move up to the traps, and even finish in the front working the pectoral region. Slowly working different areas of the body will bring tender spots to the foreground of your attention that may need to be worked on.
Any time you like! When you wake up, on your lunch break, when you get home, at the gym, or before. you go to bed. You can spend as little as 30 seconds on an area or even up to 10 minutes for larger muscle groups. You can start every other day to see how your body responds post-treatment, but you can do this every day and even multiple times a day. The great thing about a lacrosse or tennis ball is that they are small enough to keep in your bag, side table, gym bag, or car! You can literally bring one with you wherever you go.
There are many ways and positions that you can perform myofascial release on yourself. Try it sitting, standing, lying down, face-up, face down or on your side. There’s no right or wrong with it so you can be creative with it! Place the ball over the area that you plan to work on, apply some body weight over the ball, and at this point, you can keep the ball stationary, roll over the area, or pin the muscle and apply a slow stretch to the target muscle. You may find that some days you may need to focus on one spot more than another. When performing this, it is normal for it to be somewhat uncomfortable, that being said there’s good pain and bad pain, so listen to your body and ease off when it may feel like it’s too much. When experiencing any outstanding muscle pain it is recommended to consult a professional that can provide muscle therapy.
So Which one is best?
If this is going to be your first time using a ball for myofascial release you may want to start off with a ball that is a bit softer and malleable like a tennis ball. If you find that even a tennis ball is too intense, even try a foam stress ball. If you are using a tennis ball at the moment and find that it doesn’t target areas deep enough, this is where a lacrosse ball may be more beneficial for you as they are denser and less malleable and can target deeper muscle fibers. If you start with a ball that is too dense, you may find yourself working at a pain level that is too high. When this happens the time spent over the area is decreased, therefore, limiting the benefits that can be achieved. The key point is to work with a ball that allows you to work at a manageable pain level where you can work the area for a longer period of time.