In a time when going to a massage therapist (or anywhere) may seem too risky, it’s helpful to have ways to relieve sore areas in our bodies on our own. There are lots of home self-care techniques that I recommend to my clients. Yoga and stretching are helpful, of course. Unwinding is great! But what about that knife of pain between your shoulders that stretching doesn’t touch and unwinding hasn’t shaken loose? May I introduce to you the amazing yellow ball.
Now, the reality is, you can use just about any ball of any size or hardness. You can use foam rollers and other shapes too – but this 4 inch yellow ball (that I bought many years ago on Amazon) has been a lifesaver to me over the years.
Here’s how it works: wherever you have a sore spot, put the yellow ball under it and lie on it – or put it against something and lean into it. Here’s the secret: don’t push or force – just let your body sink in, allowing your body’s tissues to soften gently onto the ball. Most people find it more comfortable to do in bed. You can do it on the floor, but it may be more painful because on a hard floor, there’s no give under the ball. You may be able to do it on the couch, but the couch may have too much give. You’ll have to experiment and see what works best for you.
Here’s the other secret: it can take your myofascial tissue (that surrounds your muscles and is the webbing that holds your body together) 5-7 minutes to release. So, you need to relax, breathe, and sink in for 5-7 minutes to get the best results/relief. A lot of the time, when people are stretching, they rush through. Mistake! One minute really isn’t going to do it. You have to give your body’s tissues time to release!
Once you release one spot of pain, you can move the ball to another spot. I will often stick a ball behind my back while I’m sitting (I’ve got one there now!) or even driving (just be sure it doesn’t drop at your feet while driving!). What the pressure of the ball does is allows restrictions in the myofascial tissue to release – which relaxes the tension and takes pressure off of pain sensitive nerves. It can make a huge difference in how we feel and in many cases even in our range of motion.
You can try it with a tennis ball. I’ve found that to be a little too small and hard. I’ve used a yoga ball successfully – it’s a little bigger than the 4″ ball. In desperate situations, I’ve even used a water bottle or a rolled up towel.
To learn more about myofascial release and its benefits, check out John Barnes’ website. If you’d like some coaching around self-care techniques or individualized suggestions for specific areas, I’m happy to help – just contact me!