Tennis Ball Massage for Myofascial Pain Syndrome
As you may know, at GUS we are big fans of the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies. Joe Weir and I were talking about one “humble” but very popular tool for trigger-point self-therapy and for self-massage in general, as is discussed here:
You can find a great deal of information on trigger points on that site, btw. Both Joe and I know how useful it is but we were also discussing it’s limitations.
The thing is most people use a tennis ball on the floor. They roll around on it to target the thighs and glute medius..things like that. While I have done this quite a few times myself there are a few problems/limitations:
1. If you weigh a lot the tennis ball will collapse.
So, you can use a lacrosse ball or you can purchase a self-massage ball of some kind, which are available in different degrees of firmness. This could be useful because if you are new too to self-massage something like a lacrosse ball may be too hard for you.
The website a just linked mentions a “Kong” pet toy as a massage tool. Which may work also but I would think this would be awkward since they are not perfectly round. But whatever the case:
2. Lying on a ball and rolling around on it is very difficult because you can’t adjust the pressure that well. With all your body weight pressing down on a tender spot centered on a ball you will be concentrating more on getting some of your weight off than you will on getting the ball in the right spot.
Which brings us to…
3. This method is more “self-massage” than “trigger-point” therapy. The ball is really a step up from a foam roller. A foam roller is general myofascial release and works over large areas of the tissue. While you can stop and concentrate the rolling over the more tender spots, or pause over those areas, as some sources recommend (whole nother subject) you need something smaller and more accurate to really target specific details. So in comes the tennis ball or other ball.
But when it comes to honing in on trigger points, the best tools are really the fingers of a trained expert. The second best tools are your own fingers. But for self-massage there are many areas of the body where using your own fingers is just not practical. Either because you cannot reach or because it is difficult to get the leverage you need to apply enough pressure.
So we need a tool which is both accurate enough and allows us to reach and apply the pressure we need. We need to be able to easily control the amount of pressure we are using.
Before I get into that tool I want to remind you of a great trick for using a tennis ball on your back without having to lay on it and roll around. Clair Davies mentions this in the TPT Workbook. Simply put your ball inside a long sock. Use the end of the sock as a handle and place the ball between your back and a wall. This way you can keep the ball from falling as you use the wall to apply pressure and work the problem areas on your back.
But to really get at my trigger points I use my fingers. When my fingers don’t work I use my Thera Cane self massager. If possible I am more addicted to my Thera Cane than I was to my foam roller when I first got one. It allows you to reach and pinpoint the knots in your back and elsewhere while giving you the leverage to control the pressure. Clair Davies gives tips for when and how to use the Thera Cane in the Trigger Point Workbook.
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