Ah, how the humble ball can become a best buddy to the common muscle knot!
Unfortunately, no: not everyone knows about the ball thing. But it is a time-honoured simple self-treatment for chronic muscle aches and pains, running a close second to “running a hot bath”.
A massage, lacrosse or trigger ball is a handy, portable tool that can be used to alleviated points of tension.
It’s ideal for the self-treatment of “knots” in your muscles, sore spots of uncertain nature widely known as “trigger points.” Having too many severe, chronic trigger points is myofascial pain syndrome. In this article, we serve up some fun tips on how to use a massage ball, to relieve knots in your muscles. These techniques can be done in conjunction to your manual therapy directed by your physiotherapist – some “homework” some would say!
The basic idea of trigger ball massage
The idea of trigger ball massage, or any massage with any kind of ball, is to apply specific pressure to a stiff or aching spot in a muscle by trapping it between your body and something else: usually the floor, sometimes a wall, or another body part (or a few other creative options like the back of the couch, the bottom of the bathtub, and so on). The point is to use the ball to reach spots that you simply can’t get to with your hands, and every other kind of tool massage is a variation on this theme.
It’s exactly like foam rolling, but less trendy, and more precise. Both have their uses, but if I could only have one, I’d definitely choose the trigger ball for its accuracy and versatility.Trigger ball massage is usually the most useful in the muscles of the back and the hips: places where you can actually lie down on the trigger ball, pinching it between your body and the floor or wall.
The therapeutic goals of trigger ball massage
The goal of trigger ball massage is to achieve a “release” by applying just the right amount of pressure: enough to do some good, but not enough to irritate your nervous system (although it’s quite safe, massage is not harmless). The sensation should be clear and strong and satisfying, what we call “good pain”. If you are wincing or gritting your teeth, you need to be more gentle.
Going to the wall: Most people usually start with the floor, but for many locations working against walls allows much better control over pressure. Plus you usually get a bit of a quads workout!
You need to be able to relax.
Once you have adjusted yourself to achieve the right pressure, relax as much as possible and wait for the sensation to fade to about eighty percent of the original intensity. This is the “release” — a change in the physiological state of the tissues, or a “melting” of the knot. This can take anywhere from ten seconds to several minutes
Trigger ball massage is usually most effective in the muscles of the back, hips and legs. Many other locations are awkward and you may find it difficult or impossible to apply consistent pressure.
Lie down on a trigger ball, placing it in approximately the right location. You do not have to be precise. “Explore” by moving slowly and gently, until you’ve got just the right spot.
The sensation should be clear and strong and satisfying; it should have a relieving, welcome quality — this is what we call “good pain”.
Tips and tricks for longer lasting trigger point release
Trigger point massage often provides only temporary relief. Here are some basic tips and tricks to help make it last as long as possible:
- Treat only a few knots at a time, starting with the worst spots
- Use heat in conjunction with treatment
- Avoid fatiguing the muscle for about 24 hours after treatment
- Move and stretch the muscles after the release of each knot
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