A lacrosse ball massage can be very therapeutic, although painful at times. I had heard that lacrosse balls were a myofascial release tool. However, after research for this series of articles, I came to the conclusion that many myofascial release tools do not, in fact, provide a true myofascial release. Of the products I tried, The Orb is the closest to actually providing myofascial release. Because of its somewhat grippy surface, the skin is able to glide over the fascia, which is an important element in deciding if something truly gives myofascial release.
Tools like foam rollers, tennis balls, The Orb, and lacrosse balls can still be very helpful and provide muscular relief. Of the four listed tools, lacrosse balls provide the deepest massage. This is probably because lacrosse balls are small and dense. They provide a lot of resistance to your weight and that weight is only distributed over a small area. Therefore, it can be really intense.
The right amount of pain
When working on releasing tight spots in the body, the questions arises What is the right amount of pain?.
First, imagine that your tight spots are all a bunch of targets in your body. The true center of the tight spot or knot, is the bullseye. When releasing tension, it is best not to aim for the bullseye. Instead, aim for the surrounding rings. As those areas loosen up, the knot (your bullseye) will be more amenable to relaxation.
Now, to answer the question above. If your muscles feel like they can continue to relax when you breathe, you are in a good spot. When you feel your body tensing instead of relaxing, you are in a bad spot and you need to move the ball.
When I begin on the lacrosse ball, I feel like my muscle is a stiff board that sits on top of the ball. As I breathe and relax, the muscle softens and begins to drape around the ball. However, if I hit a very tight and sore spot, my muscle will not soften and relax. Instead of it changing from a board to a drape, it changes from a board to an iron beam.
If you come across a spot that tenses up, don’t try to work on it. Leave it alone, work the area around it, and come back to it tomorrow. Eventually, the area around the knot will have loosened up enough that you can work on relieving the tension.
Standing Lacrosse Ball Exercises
- Foot. Stand or sit in a chair and roll the ball under your feet. Of all the deep massage tools, I’ve found that lacrosse balls work best for my feet.
- Pectoralis minor/major (chest). Stand facing the wall, and place the ball diagonally up from your armpit. Roll on anything that is not bone. Don’t try to roll on your clavicle (collar bone) or sternum (breast bone).
- Upper trapezius (tight muscle between your shoulder and your neck). Stand with your back toward the wall. Hinge forward from your waist and stick your bottom against the wall. (This will help you catch the ball if it falls.) Place the ball firmly on your back and lean into it. Bend your knees, pivot, do whatever feels right to get you the massage you need. Keep in mind that as you bend your knees, the ball will travel up your body toward your head.
- Middle trapezius (muscles between the shoulder blades and spine). When you finish with the upper trapezius rolling, place your bottom against the wall and lean forward slightly. This should create enough space so that the ball can roll down your back a little bit. Bend your knees, pivot, do whatever feels right to get you the massage you need. Keep in mind that as you bend your knees, the ball will travel up your body toward your head.
Prone Lacrosse Ball Exercises (On Your Back)
- Spine. Begin on your back with your knees bent. Place the ball on the muscle at the bottom of your neck and top of your shoulder. You can roll in a linear path, do circles, or whatever you think feels right. Do not roll on bone. Don’t forget to do both sides.
- Glutes. Begin on your back with your knees bent. Place the ball under your butt cheek. You can roll in a linear path, do circles, or whatever you think feels right. Do not roll on bone. Don’t forget to do both sides.
- Piriformis. Beneath the glutes are your piriformis. To find the top of the piriformis, place the ball about an inch away from the midpoint of your sacrum (tailbone). The muscle runs diagonally so to stay on it as you roll, you have to use your hands and feet to scoot you back an inch and rotate slightly into the ball. As you continue, you rotate deeper and deeper into the ball. I will go over this very well in the video.
- Quadratus lumborum (low back). From the bottom rib to the top of the pelvis runs the quadratus lumborum. You can roll the muscle in a linear pattern, but don’t forget to work on the sides of your body, particularly the edge of the pelvis. As the ball comes toward the side of your pelvis, you will rotate into the ball.
How do you use the lacrosse ball for massage? Let us know in the comments below.
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Here is a video for visual learners.