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  • Writer's pictureMary Brooking

Massage ball tip: Pop one in your suitcase this summer!

Massage balls make an ideal travel companion whether for the summer holidays or at any time. They are small, light & easy to pack and can be hugely effective at creating positive change in our soft tissue and how our body is feeling. 



Our bodies are made up of multiple layers of connective tissue (fascia) that weave and wind their way around every part of our body, connecting us from head to toe.  Repetitive movements from exercise or holding any position or posture for a long time, such as sitting at a desk, can lead to tension and adhesions in muscles and connective tissue.


Massage balls improve the slide and glide between fascial layers which translates into ease of movement, release of tension, and reduction of discomfort or pain. As the balls roll along the skin, they create a force that heats and lengthens tissue to effect these changes. Pressure from the ball also creates compression which helps break down areas of tightness and improves blood flow so also reducing pain or discomfort and increasing range of motion.


Tennis balls, lacrosse balls, hockey balls, golf balls - they will all work as well as massage balls. Just remember that the harder and smaller the ball the more intense its impact will be - so a golf ball should be used much more cautiously than a tennis ball.


What do I do with my ball?

  • Start with a light pressure/touch, for about 20-30 seconds as feels comfortable.  You can do this frequently through the day if you want to, or just once.

  • Options then include:

    • Keep pressure on the sore/tight spot.

    • Roll around gently.

    • Keep pressure on the site and try moving the muscle or area gently while under pressure (e.g. if the ball is at edge of the shoulder blade - move your arm up & down, across chest).

  • Start with just a few places, keeping well away from bony areas. 

  • Once you have the correct spot (and you will know when), hold it there and try to relax until any initial ache has lessened a little. When pressing too firmly, the sensation can be too painful for you to relax which makes it harder for the benefits to be achieved. It could also potentially irritate the area.

  • You are looking for a “good pain” - "oooo" not "aaarrrggghhhh". Bad pain is clenching jaws or hands , short or shallow breathing, tension in the entire body, tingling, burning or numbness.


Ideas for specific areas of the body

Feet:




  • Place ball on the ground

  • Press into the ball with your foot and begin to roll toe to heel and back. Switch sides

  • Place ball under the center of the foot, in the inner arch

  • Start to sway the foot back and forth, mobilizing the ankle 

  • Roll the ball to the toe mounds (the ball of the foot) and repeat the motion above, rolling the ball from side to side

  • Change sides and repeat


Calves: 



  • Sit on the floor and place a ball under your calf muscle at the back of your lower leg. 

  • Use your hands to support your body, and lift your foot from the floor. Roll the ball up and down the back of your leg

  • In a tender spot point and then flex your foot to make the release deeper


Hamstring:



  • Sit on a chair or similar, with the knees bent to around ninety degrees

  • Place a ball under your hamstring at the back of your thigh. Move your leg over the ball to create a massage to the hamstring muscle. Focus on areas that feel tight, moving between the areas closer to your hip and your knee.

  • No need to press down or apply additional pressure to your leg

  • DO NOT use the ball behind knee

  • Then try and keep the hamstrings relaxed while contracting the quads to straighten the knee gradually


Glutes:



  • Stand up and place a ball between your buttocks and the wall

  • Bend your knees slightly to move the ball in circles around your butt, applying pressure towards the wall to make the stretch stronger. 

  • Let  the balls slowly move from the side of the hip to towards the sacrum, reset and repeat

  • Contract and relax with breath. Inhale, hold the breath, squeeze the glute while pushing your knee into the ground, exhale and release completely

  • Move the balls in towards the sacrum and repeat contract/ relax

  • Switch sides and repeat slow roll and contract/ relax


Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)



  • Stand up and place a ball between the lateral anterior portion of your hip and the wall. (Where the coin pocket on jeans is or half way between the bony bit at the front of your pelvis and the bony bit at the side of your hip

  • Bend your knees so as to move the ball up and down

  • Rotate your pelvis towards and away from the way so as to move the ball side to side

  • Lean in to create extra pressure


Rotator cuff/shoulder:




  • Place tennis ball between back of shoulder and wall with arm by side

  • Then bring arm across chest and back, raise and lower elbow

  • Bend knee to change position of ball


Upper trapezius/Shoulders:



  • Lay on your back, with knees bent and place either balls in the upper trapezius (exactly where you'd want a friend to grab and massage out the tension)

  • Lift your hips up towards the ceiling into a hip bridge

  • Lift your arms up over your head and towards the floor

  • Shift your ribcage and arms from side to side 

  • Breathe and be slow



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