By Jaden Conyers
Most individuals have experienced sore muscles at one time or another, and there are many ways to ease tired muscles. A new tool that is becoming known for its use in recovery sessions is the lacrosse ball.
A lacrosse ball can be an excellent tool for massage for several reasons. First, it doesn’t soften under pressure. Second, a lacrosse ball is hard, dense, and its size allows it to be held in the hand to massage tired muscles after a workout. Used correctly, they can not only help relieve pain, but they can improve function.
Using lacrosse balls for a massage is a type of myofascial release that individuals can do themselves. Myofascial therapy stretches and loosens the fascia to enable the tissue beneath to move more freely. This decreases the pressure on muscles and joints that are causing pain. Myofascial release can also help promote blood flow and lymphatic drainage to the muscles that are tense or sore.
Note: Most of these exercises can be done for 30 seconds; however, an exercise may also repeat for 30 seconds on the same muscle or a different section of the same muscle on the same side.
Following are several exercises that may be performed using lacrosse balls.
Those who spend a good amount of the day sitting or in another sedentary position because of work or lifestyle may find their glute muscles can tighten. This tightening of the glutes can, in some instances, cause hip, leg, and back pain.
To remedy this and simultaneously provide more flexibility:
Stand with your back against a wall and a lacrosse ball between your glutes and the wall. Move around a bit till you find a spot that feels tender. Once the spot has been located, relax into the wall, and let the ball apply pressure. Hold for 30 seconds or till the pain reduces, then repeat on the other side.
If you experience neck and upper back or shoulder blade area pain, try massaging your trapezius muscle (the large muscle that runs across your upper back and connects it to your neck and shoulders).
It can be challenging to massage this part of your body yourself, but not with a lacrosse ball. Stand with your back against the wall as in the previous exercise. This time, put the ball on one side of your spine, between your upper back and the wall. As before, move around a bit till you find a tender spot. Relax into that spot to allow the ball to apply pressure for 30 seconds.
Move around more to find any other tender spots and do the same, then repeat on the other side.
If your chest muscles feel tight, you may have back pain, neck pain, or simply poor posture. This exercise will help relieve tight chest muscles and can help improve posture as well as mobility.
Option 1: Lie on a mat on your stomach and place the lacrosse ball under your chest. The ball should be on top of your pectoral muscles, so about two inches below your collar bone on the left side. Let your head rest on your right hand (put it underneath your forehead). Place your left hand on your lower back with your palm facing upward.
Now move slowly to massage your chest in a circular motion while breathing deeply for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Option 2: Stand sideways to a wall, placing the lacrosse ball on your chest. You want it to be close to your armpit so that it rests on the muscle. Lean forward, and then roll the ball slowly around your chest and shoulders. As before, when you find a tender spot, relax and let the pressure of the ball do its work for 30 seconds. You can massage the area with small circles if you wish.
Repeat on the other side if needed.
If the bottoms of your feet hurt, this exercise is for you. This foot massage works on your plantar fascia, which is the group of fascia and connective tissues that connect your heel to the ball of your foot.
Sit in a chair or on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Place the lacrosse ball under the arch of one foot. Lean forward to put your weight on that foot, and slowly roll the ball forward and back along the arch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat with the other foot if needed.
The hamstrings are often weaker than other muscles in our legs and hips. These muscles can develop trigger points that can really benefit from self-massage. This exercise can help when a person has impaired movements in your hips or knees or have back pain.
Sit on a chair or bench where the feet won’t touch the floor. Place the lacrosse ball below the thigh and move it around until a tight spot is located. Lean forward so that the body weight rests on that thigh to increase the pressure. Now slowly straighten and bend that leg for 30 seconds. Check whether other tight spots along the same thigh may be found and, if so, repeat the exercise.
Repeat on the other side if needed.
Note: If you feel a tingling down your leg or shooting pain, don’t press in that spot, as the sciatic nerve runs down the back of the leg through the hamstring muscle.
When to see a health professional
While self-massage using a lacrosse ball can help relieve mild to moderate muscle pain safely, please consult with a health professional if:
- Pain doesn’t improve
- Pain becomes worse
- New symptoms develop
Jaden Conyers is a law enforcement officer who develops healthy methods prisoners can use to burn off extra energy by teaching them the sport of lacrosse. Conyers is also a freelance writer who focuses on the best ways to train for many different sports. For more information, contact PTPEditor@medqor.com.