How to Use a Massage Ball
Massage balls - sometimes called roll and release balls, triggerpoint balls, or myofascial release balls - can work wonders on tight muscles and fascia. These balls rely on the weight of your body to create a gentle yet effective massage and increase the circulation of blood flow.
If you’re healing from an injury or suffer from a chronic pain disorder, your physical therapist will likely recommended that you use a massage ball for recovery or pain management.
But even if you’re in great physical condition, these little balls can a powerful tool for releasing the accumulated tension of every day life.
Because let’s face it, everyday life is stressful.
And where does that stress get stored? In the body.
Developing a self-massage practice with a roller ball can be a game changer for your overall health and well being.
Here are our five favorite ways to use massage balls to relax tight muscles and release accumulated tension in the body.
Plantar (Sole of the Foot) Massage
The feet are often overlooked, despite them supporting our entire body weight! We usually don’t realize just how much tightness and tension is being stored in our feet until we start to massage them.
If you spend a lot of time on your feet, wearing uncomfortable shoes, or doing standing balancing poses in your yoga practice, this gentle massage is a must try.
In a standing position, gently place one foot on top of the massage ball. Start with the ball in the inner arch of your foot and gently roll the ball back, forth, and in small circles moving towards the outer arch.
Depending on how contracted your muscles are, this may feel very light or too strong. Play around with the amount of weight you place on the ball to find a massage that feels good for your body.
Pro tip: Roll while you work! You can also do this massage while seated at your desk.
Tight hamstrings, anyone? 🙋
Start in a seated position with both legs extended in front, or one leg folded underneath. Place the massage ball underneath your extended leg at the top of the hamstring.
Gently roll the ball back and forth underneath your hamstring, using your arms to support your upper body and control the amount of weight applied on the ball.
If you spend a lot of time running or working out your legs, it’s likely that your hamstring muscles are very contracted. Remember, if it’s too intense or creates “bad” pain, back off.
Glute / Outer Hip Massage
According the the yoga practice, we store emotion in our hips. Massaging tight hips can be very cathartic, but slightly painful.
By massaging the gluten and outer hips, we can also help open up the inner hips (groin) as well.
Start in a seated position with one leg straight and one leg bent, with the sole of the foot planted firmly on the floor. Turning the upper body towards the side of the straight leg, use the arms to lift the hips off the ground and place the massage ball directly underneath the outside edge of the glue muscle (note - not on top of the actual hip bone).
Just like in the hamstring massage, you’ll use the arms to keep the upper body lifted and control the amount of pressure you apply onto the ball. Slowly roll the ball back and forth, remembering to breath.
This is a great massage than can be done just about anywhere.
Using the opposite hand, take your massage ball and roll it gently up and down on one side of the neck and tops of the shoulders. If your reach allows, roll the ball in small circles down the back of your shoulders.
If you can’t reach this high up the back but are feeling tension there, you can target this area in a back massage.
A back massage with the roller ball can be done from a supine (laying down) position or standing against the wall. Here are both variations:
This variation can be done with just one ball, focusing on one side of the time.
With your back towards the wall, place one or two balls at the lower back, just above the sacrum. Push against the wall to create more pressure, and bend the legs to move the ball up and down your back.
As in the supine version, take this exercise slowly, pausing in areas of tightness. Readjust the ball(s) with your hands as you make your way to the upper back.
For this variation, you’ll need two massage roller balls and ideally, a yoga mat to practice on.
From a seated position, bend the legs and plant both feet firmly on the mat. Take the two balls and place them on the lower back, just above the sacrum. The balls should be equidistant on each side of the spine.
Next, lay backwards on your mat. Slowly shift the body down the mat, with the hips moving closer to your heels, to roll the balls up the back.
Take several minutes to work through the different sections of the back, pausing at each and taking some small circles with the balls as needed. Use the hands to reposition the balls as needed, being mindful not to roll the balls directly over the spin or shoulder blades.
General Tips for Using a Massage Ball
Whichever way you choose to use your massage ball, be sure to follow these general safety tips:
- Avoid rolling the ball over joints or bone
- Avoid bruised areas or pulled muscles to avoid increasing the injury
- There’s a difference between “good” pain and “bad” pain, and you’ll know the difference when you feel it. If you start to feel “bad” pain, back off.
- Be sure to do all exercise on both sides of the body. After each exercise, notice what feels different from the right side to left. This may be a sign that you are distributing weight unevenly in one side of the body, or compensating for an unjustly elsewhere, which may cause further injury down the line.
- Breathe! Don’t hold you’re breath as you move through these exercises. Instead, breathe through the movements as you would in a yoga asana practice.
- If you encounter a knot or a particularly tight spot, hold the ball there, applying pressure for 5 to 10 deep breaths
- Drink plenty of water after these exercise to flush out any toxins that have been released during the massage.
- If you are working with an injury or chronic pain disease, consult with your doctor / physical therapist / chiropractor prior to experimenting with any of these exercises
Tennis Ball vs. Cork Massage Ball
Massage balls are simple in design yet widely useful. Many people just opt for a tennis or lacrosse ball for this kind roll and release massage.
However, Cork massage balls have several clear advantages, as they were specifically designed for this purpose. Most notably, they are substantially lighter, more durable, and naturally anti-microbial (read: they won’t get smelly).
Furthermore, the Gecko OMie Cork Massage Ball is made of biodegradable, sustainably sourced premium Portuguese cork. The OMies are produced using the leftover pieces of cork after the making of wine stoppers, so they’re truly a zero-waste solution.
Shop the OMie Cork Massage Ball
The OMies are champions of self-love. These cork massage balls are perfect for creating a sense of physical relaxation and release. Throw them in your purse or back pack so you can Roll with the OMies wherever you go!