I love these little balls. They’re cheap and they travel well. Recently, I had a client who took one on a bus tour to the Czech Republic. She took it to combat her mid back tightness and by the end of the trip all her travelling companions were impressed with it’s effectiveness.
Most people use it for ongoing tightness or a deep aching discomfort. They rarely like using it for acutely tender, sharp pain and I would not recommend using it for that kind of pain.
People often describe tightness building up over time, weeks or months that has rather suddenly turned into pain, like it has reached some kind of tipping point of tolerance and there is no turning back - not without a beach holiday, some meditation or some hands on therapy. Bring on the ball.
But how does it work? It has a local tissue effect due to the compress and decompress movement and also a nervous effect due to the DNIC approach that Todd Hargrove, a Feldenkrais practitioner from the US, writes about eloquently in this BLOG post from a couple of years ago. Using a massage ball is essentially the same approach:
My disclaimers about it’s use are simple:
Use it for a maximum of 90 seconds in one location - nothing much changes after that and you’ll more likely cause injury.
Compress and decompress - that way you’re having a local tissue effect (squeezing and releasing the muscles) and you’re less likely to cause an injury.
Use it only every second day. That way you won’t build up a tolerance to the hard little sucker and start bruising yourself.
I recommend it for the big muscles down either side of the spine, the gluteal (buttock) region and the trapezius muscles.
Here is a little demonstration video we put together to help you get started.