5 Tips For Myofascial Release With A Massage Ball

5 Tips For Myofascial Release With A Massage Ball

Hi, it's Dr. Joe. Anyone who follows my channel knows I do a lot of videos on myofascial release therapy, showing you how to transform muscle rigidity into muscle elasticity by safely breaking up fascial adhesion buildups—also known as scar tissue—using light hand pressure and fascia care tools such as a massage ball.

Oftentimes I use our Ocramed Health Tai Chi Massage Ball Max, designed with firm spikes for deeper muscle penetration, perfect for isolating and breaking up scar tissue inside large muscle groups like the hamstrings, shoulders, and glutes. 

Today I want to teach you my top five tips on how to use a massage ball to relieve muscle pain so you can get the most out of your therapy sessions.

Before we dive into this week’s myofascial release techniques, if you haven't done so already, take a moment right now and visit my website www.ocramedhealth.com. Our awesome Tai Chi Max Massage Balls are in stock, and we offer other multi-purpose fascia massage tools, so take a look when you get a chance.

The other thing I'd really appreciate—it's funny, this year. I'm really hoping after six years of health and fitness videos to finally reach 100,000 Youtube subscribers by the end of 2024, so if you've been enjoying the content, I’d really appreciate you taking a second right now to subscribe to my channel, OcraMed Health on YouTube, and of course, click the little bell so you’re notified every time I upload a video you might find useful. 

Also, at the end of today's video, if you find the information helpful, I'd appreciate a thumbs up.

1. Warm Up The Muscles Before Fascial Release Work

So tip number one, make sure your muscles are completely warmed up before performing any manual massage work. We want blood flowing into the soft tissue before you start penetrating muscles with a spiky massage ball. You wouldn't walk into a gym and immediately hit the bench press before stretching out your chest, and you should apply the same mindset to massage ball therapy. 

The worst time of day to use a massage ball for myofascial release therapy is first thing in the morning. Lots of patients tell me they do this, and I always recommend another alternative such as early evenings when the muscles are already warmed up.

Typically they start doing rolling work with a massage ball as soon as they're out of bed in the morning due to convenience. Or worse, patients have told me they leave a massage ball on their bed stand, and before even getting out of bed, they put the ball under their piriformis and start rolling while still in the bed! 

The muscles are like taffy in the morning, that's the best way I can explain it. At this time of day, there's very low blood flow in the muscle and soft tissue, making mornings the worst time for any type of fascial release work. 

We want to make sure we've been moving around already, getting lots of blood flowing, and I promise you, the best time of day to do myofascial release with a massage ball is right after a workout.

If you're not working out that day—or maybe you want to do massage ball work before you work out—then make sure you've properly warmed up your muscles. Go on the treadmill for 10 or 15 minutes; do some jumping jacks; try some stretching exercises. 

If you're at home, take a moist heating pad—for example, say if you want to work on your quadriceps, put the moist heating pad over your quadriceps for 10 or 15 minutes and you’ll stimulate the blood flow. 

But do whatever you need to properly warm up before performing trigger point and myofascial release work with a massage ball.

2. Don’t Overdo It With A Massage Ball

Tip number two, gauge your pressure. In other words, you don't want to start off the very first day of self myofascial release therapy by taking an extra firm spiky massage ball and putting full pressure—let alone your full body weight—on the ball. 

For example, you’re on the ground to work on your piriformis muscle and your entire body weight is on a massage ball. This is too much, too quickly, especially if you're new at doing soft tissue work or if you have a tender injury with a lot of adhesion buildup. 

I'll let you in on a little myofascial release secret…It takes time to break up adhesions in the soft tissue, so you're not going to accomplish everything in one day. I think patients sometimes think placing as much pressure on a massage ball as they can will result in a faster recovery, and that's really not true. 

You're not going to bring up the months—if not years—of built up scar tissue in one session…It's impossible. I recommend gauging your pressure sensitivity and pacing your myofascial release therapy for maximum benefits. 

Say if the issue is with my piriformis muscle. Maybe, initially, I'll take a massage ball and my hand and put light pressure on the muscle by hand while simultaneously leaning into the ball which is against the wall, assessing how I feel before the next session. 

Slowly, I’ll start increasing how much pressure I put on the massage ball, eventually using the ball on the ground where I’ll actually begin putting body weight on. And initially, I gauge the amount of body weight I place on the ball by using my arms for leverage, making treatment a gradual process.

Don't put all of your body weight on a massage ball—for any muscle group—right away, as this is an easy way to injure yourself, or—if you’re lucky—become really sore. Then during next day’s treatment, you may aggravate the soft tissue injury more, ending up with a lot of bruising on the myofascial areas. 

It’s not unusual when using a spiky massage ball to end up with a little discoloration and bruising in the skin, but we don't want that. If this does happen, don’t panic, but know if you use too much pressure too quickly you can cause bruising inside the myofascial tissues. 

And then—because you've made it so sore—you’ll need to take off a few days to recover from treatment before working on it again. No matter where on your body you perform self myofascial release, concentrate on gradually increasing the pressure on fascial tissues for the best results. 

Work on it, see how you feel the next day. If you feel okay during tomorrow’s session, put a little more pressure on the trigger point.

3. Spiky Massage Ball Uses And Benefits

Tip number three, for self myofascial release therapy, I strongly recommend a spiky massage ball rather than a smooth massage ball—and for good reason. And I get this question a lot…I'll do a video with the Tai Chi Massage Ball Max and patients commonly write in saying, "I don't have that…Can I use a tennis ball?...Or a lacrosse ball?...Or other types of massage balls?"

You could use any of the best myofascial care tools, but to get the most effective trigger point therapy, the spiky massage ball is definitely the most versatile fascial massage tool. But you want to remember, when working on an area with scar tissue, there's a good chance the scar tissue is not on the surface superficially. 

The adhesions are deep, especially inside larger muscle groups. In certain areas of the body the muscles have different layers, and with any deep tissue massage technique, our goal is to penetrate the bottom muscle layers, and unfortunately, a smooth massage ball doesn’t work for fast injury treatment. 

 

 

I have a lacrosse ball and a piece of paper towel. Imagine the paper towel is my quadricep and I’m going to place firm pressure and rub really hard with the ball, making circles—back and forth, then side to side. 

Using a smooth massage ball to perform this myofascial release technique on my quadricep probably generated a lot of great blood flow, but I'm really only scraping fascia on the surface of the soft tissue. 

Now, if I was to undergo the same demonstration with a spiky massage ball, spending time digging around inside this paper towel, you're going to notice a difference. I got holes in the paper towel now.

I probably used the lacrosse ball longer than the spiky massage ball, but I still put holes through the paper towel, so in other words, I got more depth of penetration using the spiky massage ball. Bottom line, if I want to dig deeper into soft tissue, a spiky massage ball is best. 

4. Safely Perform Self Myofascial Release

Tip number four, when you're performing self myofascial release with the massage ball, be real careful to stay off of any bony areas. The ball is meant to penetrate the soft tissue, and you want to stay off anything bony such as your collar bone and tibia. 

You don't have to be an experienced myofascial therapist to know when the massage ball is on the soft tissue or on a bone. If I'm massaging the piriformis, around this muscle is where your teal bone is located (also known as your sacrum). 

Another example, you have the upper part of your femur, your hip, and if you are rolling on a massage ball, when you come near or put pressure on the femur, you’ll experience immediate discomfort.

A spiky massage ball is not meant for rolling, and there's really no purpose in rolling over your sacrum or any other bone

If I'm rolling, doing some work on my shoulder or my pec area—pec minor, pec major, your clavicle, your collarbone, you don't want to be putting any pressure on those bony areas. And this myofascial release tip probably has everyone's saying, "Yeah, I know." But sometimes patients tell me the day after treatment, "Oh, Dr. Joe, my tailbone is so sore." 

You have to be careful. You want to stay on the soft tissue, and like I said, the more time you dedicate to the work, the better and faster the pain relief. Safety is important so please everybody, stay off bones when using a massage ball.

5. Choose The Best Massage Ball For The Trigger Point

And the fifth and final myofascial release tip is making sure you choose the right size massage ball for the particular area of the body you're working on. This kind of gets back to tip number four. If you use the wrong size massage ball, you might accidentally strike those bony areas we’re looking to avoid. 

So always consider the size of the ball relative to the size of the trigger point. When people tell me they're doing myofascial release with a foam roller, I don't get it. Why are foam rollers a popular fascial release tool? Other than—I get it, foam rollers, if you roll the calf, roll the hamstrings, warming up the soft tissue to generate blood flow, sure, makes sense to me, but you’re really not doing real myofascial release therapy. 

Even if I wanted to use a foam roller on my lower body, for say, the piriformis, your piriformis is sitting between your sacrum, your tailbone, and your hip, so on the average person you don’t have much space to work around without causing more pain or discomfort.

If you're going to perform a deep tissue massage with a foam roller on your piriformis, talk about rolling on bone. When you're rolling on the piriformis, you're also rolling over your sacrum and your hip joint. 

I'm not a big fan of using a foam roller for self myofascial release—as you can tell—but when it comes to hitting the spot, massage balls—when we choose the best size ball for the job—is the way to go. 

Now, if we’re massaging the piriformis I’ll probably choose a Tai Chi Max Ball which is a great massage ball when you need to dig deep into larger muscle groups. However, I may not choose a large massage ball if doing myofascial release on my achilles or if I want to massage the lower part of my calf. Muscles like those, I grab a regular size Tai Chi Ball, maybe even a mini massage ball which is best at digging into smaller muscles. 

A lot of times choosing the best myofascial release techniques depends on the size of your body. If you're 6'2" and you weigh 240 lbs, chances are you could probably use the Tai Chi Max on most soft tissue areas because you're a larger individual. If you're a smaller individual, you may only need the Max Ball for the lower body, and on the upper body you might use a small massage ball. 

So choosing the right size massage ball is important. Sometimes it's just trial and error to find out what fascial care tools are best for your body.

Ocramed Health Is Your Myofascial Release Specialist

I hope everyone found these five tips helpful and from learning them you’ll become a more effective myofascial release therapist. Best of luck to everybody. Stay young and train hard! 

If you haven't done so already, take a moment, please, and visit my website, www.ocramedhealth.com, where we offer popular fascial release tools like our Tai Chi Massage Balls.

I would really, really appreciate hitting 100,000 subscribers by the end of 2024, so subscribe to Ocramed Health on Youtube where you’ll find free myofascial release tips and techniques from a professional soft tissue expert. 

If you have any questions regarding injuries, diet, or exercises, don’t hesitate to reach out. I do the best I can to get back to everybody. 

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