Back in the days when I was able to venture out into the world and get massages, I could always count on any massage therapist to ask why my upper back was so tight. I never had a more interesting answer than simply to say that it’s because I sit hunched at a desk all day. Their look of concern was genuine.
In addition to getting up to stretch more often, their advice to me was that I needed to get a self-massage tool that could easily reach the areas of my upper back that are the tightest. (And consequently, the areas that hurt the most while I’m being worked on.)
Massage balls of any kind are versatile products that can be rolled onto nearly any muscle group of the body, administering a deep-tissue massage feel. They work similarly to a foam roller to help facilitate muscle recovery using self-myofascial release — one study of this effect showed that using a self-massage device like a foam roller can increase one’s range of hip motion and reduce the delay of muscle soreness, particularly after HIIT workouts.
So why not opt for a foam roller? Nikki Pebbles, fitness instructor and founder of the Rock Your Body Method says both are great devices for recovery, however, “The major difference would be that foam rollers massage a bigger area of your body. Foam rolling is a simple and effective solution to help loosen and relieve muscles, but a massage ball gives you a much deeper, targeted massage and you’ll be able to pinpoint smaller spots on your body.”
The spiky massage ball I use looks a little like a dog toy — it’s firm, plastic, and no bigger than a tennis ball. For help with daily desk-sitting muscle recovery, I lean against the wall, using my weight to hold the ball in place against my shoulder blades, then gently rock from side to side so that it digs right into the crevices of my upper back. Doing this for a few minutes every night definitely hurts, but in a much-needed, tension-releasing way.
After working out, the spiky massage ball feels great when rolled along my triceps, calves, the arches of my feet, and especially the glutes! In addition to stretching before and after working up a sweat on the mat, a few minutes with rolling the massage ball around can help lessen the pain I feel the next day.
Some fitness massage tools can be shockingly pricey, with very limiting options for how to use them. My spiky massage ball, conversely, is ridiculously cheap and super versatile, and it couldn’t be easier to use.