It’s tough to enjoy a 20-mile bike-ride when your neck starts aching at mile three. It’s challenging to find glee in your latest deadlift PR when your low back is moaning. It’s hard to feel excited about your upcoming half marathon when your hip flexors are pinching.
When you have mounting aches and pains, it’s difficult to focus on what you love about your chosen movement practice… and even harder to go to the next level of performance.
Sure, you can do a series of stretches that might help, but emerging studies show that including self-massage on our therapy balls can offer so much more.
Why Myofascial Massage is Effective for Pain
It’s not just pressure that makes self-myofascial massage so effective. To address those body blind spots that hamstring (pun intended) your athletic enjoyment and progress, a variety of pain relieving, rolling techniques are needed.
A body blind spot is an area of your body that has lost proprioceptive awareness–that you have trouble sensing. Whether it’s jabs of pain you’re feeling, weakness, or numbness, those blind spots make for poor neuromuscular control and inability to properly fire those tissues.
First practice along with Jill Miller in these short videos on your quads, then zero in on one of your achiest spots and recreate the techniques yourself (go to a wall to reduce the amount of pressure if the area is extremely tender–slower is better with this work).
Myofascial Massage Technique #1: Sustained Compression
With sustained compression, you use a Roll Model ball to find the epicenter of tension and apply pressure consistently down into it. Basically, you just rest and breathe on the therapy ball. Try it!
“If there is a restriction or adhesion in a certain part of your myofascia, the muscle cannot function fully, and neither can the joint(s) to which that muscle attaches. Therapy Ball rolling and other self-massage techniques squeeze, knead, compress, and pry loose muscle fibers and their associated fascial tissues that have become adhered to each other. All this turbulence and beneficial commotion within the tissues increases local blood circulation, consequently bathing and ultimately rehydrating the area (known as perfusion)” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 54)
Myofascial Massage Technique #2. Skin Rolling a.k.a. Shear
With this technique, you use the Roll Model ball to wring, pinch, pull and twist the skin and underlying tissues away from the deeper tissues of your body. It doesn’t have to hurt to work! Go gentle and notice the sensations beneath the surface of your skin.
“The grip of the balls takes hold of the skin and its underlying superficial fascia. This grip, coupled with tractioning the ball along the skin, creates a shearing force that transitions the superficial fatty layer several degrees beyond its ‘normal resting range’ atop the deep fascia.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 144)
Myofascial Massage Technique #3: Stripping
When “stripping” with a therapy ball, you move the ball along the grain of the muscle fibers. To do this you need to know the origin and insertion point of the muscle you are targeting. Here on your quads, the muscle fibers run from the hip to the knee, so to “strip” you roll the therapy ball “north and south” (or superior and inferior in anatomy speak) along your upper leg. Check it out.
“[with stripping] The ball rolls to lengthen the myofascia from end to end, much like combing out fine knots in tangled hair. This re-establishes the resting length of the muscle.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 145)
Myofascial Massage Technique #4: CrossFiber
With CrossFiber the therapy ball crisscrosses, or “strums”, the muscle fibers. Again, you need to know the origin and insertion of the muscle you are targeting to be sure you are CrossFibering. You can do this at a perfect right angle to the fibers (like a hashtag), or at an oblique, or diagonal angle.
“CrossFiber teases apart stuck or dehydrated adhesions and stimulates fibroblasts to produce. collagen in the direction of the cross, thus re-establishing the crimpy wave-form of healthy fascia.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 145)
Myofascial Massage Technique #5: Pin and Stretch
To try the pin and stretch technique, plug the therapy ball into the floor, wall, or other hard surface and move a nearby appendage. The ball will “tack down” those superficial tissues while the movement will tease apart the underlying myofascial fibers.
“The pressure into the pinned location on your muscle combined wth the stretch across the rest of the muscle (the muscle’s ‘belly’) returns the fascia to an elastic state and restores full contractile ability to those muscle fibers.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 147)
Myofascial Massage Technique #6: Contract/Relax
This highly effective technique is also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Either pin the therapy ball in one place or move it steadily along a muscle, while activating and relaxing those muscle fibers. Hold each contraction for seven to 30 seconds, then relax again.
“Both contracting and relaxing target the Golgi tendon organ (GTO)–the proprioceptive stretch receptors located in tendons and fascial junctions…when the targeted tissue is contracted, the GTO is stimulated and communicates a quick reflex loop with the spinal cord. When the targeted tissue is relaxed, the entire muscle and its associated connective tissues slacken and release. This allows the muscle and its internal and external fascias to become more pliable and thus helps the ball dig deeper with less resistance to eradicatte trigger points.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 148)
Myofascial Massage Technique #7: Ball Stack
To practice the ball stack technique, use two therapy balls (the same or different sizes) and “sandwich” one of your limbs between them. This will allow you to squeeze the targeted tissue from both directions–doubling down how effective your self-massage is! Try it.
“Stacking adds pressure to larger myofascial continuities and addresses fascias that may be hard to reach with just one ball…The dual-sided approach also quickly addresses tensions in all the tissues associated with the stack.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 151)
Myofascial Massage Technique #8: Ball Plow
We could also call this the “squeegee” technique! With the ball plow you bear weight down into the therapy ball(s), then, gathering up as much soft tissue as possible, plow that tissue in one direction. You can plow through muscles and even attempt to plow over joints (our dense foam rubber balls are soft enough to navigate over bones). This technique is best on broad planes of tissue such as your trapezius or gluteus maximus.
“The one-directional deep shearing motion enhances intramyofascial motion among the planes of tissue being mobilized. This hastens the hydration of the tissues being plowed, resulting in deep warmth and relaxation.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 150)
Myofascial Massage Technique #9: Pin, Spin and Mobilize
Pin, Spin and Mobilize brings together several techniques. First, you pick a spot to place the ball (sustained compression). Next, hold the therapy ball in that spot and twist it (skin rolling/shear). Then, plug that twisted up tissue in place, and mobilize a nearby joint. Continue increasing the tension on the spin as you move the joint. Wow! This is the ultimate wake-up for sleepy tissues. Give it a whirl!
“Pin & spin finds the interrelated tensions that connect soft-tissue motility with joint mobility… the goal is to create as much piling and pinching of multiple fascias at once in the vortex of the twisting ball. This frees up inter- and intrafascial motion, stimulates the flow of fluids, and creates warmth.” (Miller, The Roll Model, P. 149)
The Cumulative Effects of Self-Myofascial Massage
Take a few minutes every day to locate an area of your body that is tender, tight, sleepy or cranky and try out a few of these techniques with a Roll Model therapy ball.
At first, you’ll probably just feel some local relief–which will be awesome. But with time, you might notice an overall shift in how you feel, and how you live in your body.
You might also notice improvements in athletic performance and your body’s ability to regenerate and bounce back from tough workouts.
Let us know how it goes in the comments below!
Ps. You wanna shop this post?
Get the Original YTU therapy balls HERE
Try out the PLUS size therapy balls HERE
Check out the Roll Model Method book HERE
Get a full Read & Knead kit HERE
Interested in video and blog content targeted to your interests?