Having a ball as you relieve your sore and tight muscles
Who can benefit from myofascial ball therapy? EVERYONE! Tennis balls are one of the most recommended physical therapy tools for recovery and rehabilitation of soft tissue dysfunction. They are simple to use, readily available, and one of the most inexpensive physical therapy tools you can buy. “How-to” videos, pictures, and articles for treatment routines covering virtually every part of the body are available online for free. These resources are good to take a look at and offer techniques to treat specific areas, but you don't really need much instruction. The basic procedure is to identify and target the sore and tight areas of your body, and with the ball supported by the floor or a wall, let that targeted area SLOWLY sink onto the ball. You will feel some discomfort as the tissue fibers are being released from their contracted state. Concentrate on relaxing as much as possible and hold the area for at least 10 seconds. Release the pressure, take a breath and repeat. At least 10 seconds is beneficial, but longer periods are recommended. You can remain stationary, or shifting your body slightly as you continue to relax, roll around on the targeted area.
You can also buy the "Elaine Petrone Method" or the "Miracle Ball Method" that comes with a instructional dvd and two soft inflated 4" diameter balls and is available just about everywhere.
Various balls are used for physical therapy rehabilitation of shoulder and back injuries, IT Band syndrome, hips, glutes, quads, and calves to break down scar tissue, reduce pain and improve range of motion. They are recommended for day-to-day self maintenance to ANYONE engaged in an active fitness regimen to improve elasticity, remove toxins held within soft tissues as they increase blood circulation and reduce recovery time from exercise. Ball therapy release is beneficial for people that are inactive as well as will and stretch and stimulate atrophied and inactive muscle tissue.
Trigger point ball therapy can release the tight knotted sore muscles brought on by work that involves repetitive motion such as bending over, sitting at a desk, or driving. Also known as "small ball therapy," it will provide the deep soft tissue penetration for trigger point and self-myofascial release, as well as accomplish various degrees of joint mobilization. "Fitball" & "Peanut Ball" therapy is a associated with pilates & yoga and uses a larger, softer, more flexible ball which is good for stretching and myofascial release but not trigger point therapy.
Essentially, using what is known as Tennis Ball Therapy, a person will use their body weight against the balls to provide the soft tissue manipulation (massage) and joint mobilization. The ball can be placed on the floor or table and treat the entire body, on chairs (hamstrings & glutes), or against a wall (back, shoulders, arms.) You can keep a few balls handy in the car or at work and use them anytime throughout the day when you have a few free minutes.
What type of ball should you use for tennis ball therapy? The type and size of therapy balls a person uses depends on that individual's needs and the portion of the body that will be treated. An active 30 year old attending crossfit 3+ times a week may require dense hard balls to effectively treat most of their body, and a 55 year old that sits at a desk for hours may require softer balls to achieve the best therapy. Although any ball is better than none, everyone should have a variety of sizes and densities to work the different areas of the body. Myofascial therapy balls can be as small as a lacrosse ball or as large as a basketball (both are great to use and provide different levels of therapeutic manipulation.)
MyoTools offers low cost therapy balls MyoBalls, made of closed cell foam in a variety of sizes and densities to accommodate different parts of the body and degrees of penetration needed for trigger point and myofascial release. They are lightweight, nontoxic, recyclable, and are easily and quickly cleaned by washing and towel drying.
"Many times I've heard claims that the material of a massage tool is “special,” and found the claim to be as inflated as the price. But these balls not only do feel kind of special to me, but they are inexpensive as well"
Paul Ingraham, RMT http://www.saveyourself.ca
The lightweight and compact ShiatsuBag was created for tennis ball massage using multiple balls of varying density and size which provides several advantages over a single ball. It provides a platform of balls that simultaneously conforms to any supporting surface and to your body, allowing you to relax and maximize the myofascial and trigger point release of each area. It combines the benefits of both foam rolling and tennis ball therapy and can be easily modified for your individual needs.
Why trigger points form is not completely understood but they are an accumulation of microscopic sacromeres (component of muscle fiber) remaining in a contracted state with restricted blood flow which means the waste products remain while the tissue is starved of oxygen rich blood. There are several types of trigger points, each with different characteristics as they develop over time. The challenge of effectively self treating them is pinpointing their location. Larger painful knots may be easy enough to find, however some trigger points refer pain via nerves to other locations and treating those spots will do nothing to eliminate the cause.
The best method to break down the contracted sacromeres is by gradually applying increasing pressure to the trigger point. A person trained in trigger point therapy reportedly can pinpoint not just the obvious knots, but also the latent and referral trigger points. The most common areas in the human body that trigger points tend to be concentrated have been "mapped" and published charts are available.
Besides using therapy balls for self treatment, a number of other self-massage and self-myofascial products are recommended. The most commo is the foam-roller readily available at most sporting goods and fitness shops. Foam rollers provide great self massage and self myofascial release (SMFR) and are able to locate trigger points with their "widescan" capability. However, they really don't do a good job of trigger point release due to the fact they don't allow the user to precisely apply slow increasing concentrated pressure to small targeted areas. For instance, because of their large surface area in contact with the body, they cannot effectively penetrate recessed "pockets" such as between the vertebrae and scapula.
The "Rumble Roller," a modified foam roller that has protruding "thumbs" is much better at pinpointing triggerpoints than the typical foam roller, but it does cost significantly more ($45-70) and they are not usually stocked in local stores. Another new product called "The Grid Revolutionary Roller" makes similar claims, but its design is not nearly as good and it costs about the same ($45.00) as the small size Rumble Roller. Another is called "Travel Roller."
However, neither of these products can conform to the irregular areas areas of the body that a Shiatsubag can, such as the sides of the neck, the face, and the masseter (jaw muscle) where trigger points are also concentrated.