When Harvey Paige gets angry or upset, the US Army veteran tosses a pair of Roll Model® Therapy Balls on the ground and gets to work. After a few minutes of using the balls to release tension in his body—anywhere from his feet to his shoulders—he feels calmer. Paige, 39, was introduced to the Roll Model® Therapy Balls last year on Project Odyssey, the Wounded Warrior Project’s retreat program for combat veterans. (coming soon… Paige’s inspiring story “How a Warrior Unwinds”). He is one of hundreds of veterans who have discovered the Roll Model® Therapy Balls through the Wounded Warrior Project and who now use them in their daily life.
The collaboration between WWP’s Project Odyssey and Tune Up Fitness’ the Roll Model® Method happened on accident. Greg Hancock, Combat Stress Recovery Specialist (CSRS) and a U.S. Navy veteran, was leading an Odyssey at a Pennsylvania site and came across a self-massage class at the local gym. He decided to bring his group to the class, which featured The Roll Model® Method and Roll Model® Therapy Balls. “I was instantly sold on the balls’ effectiveness,” Hancock says. “I went straight to the club’s gift shop and bought a set of Therapy Balls for everyone on the Odyssey.”
Hancock then enrolled in The Roll Model® Method Training Programs and became a fully certified Roll Model Method® Practitioner, and now includes a session on how to use the balls in every Odyssey he leads. Hancock has introduced the balls to other Odyssey leaders and is working to spread the message of their benefits throughout the Wounded Warrior Project. Already, three WWP regions have incorporated “The Roll Model® – The Science of Rolling” training into their annual regional huddles.
“Using the Tune Up Balls is a win-win situation. There is a mindfulness piece of it, but also we can address physical pain and tension in the body that a lot of veterans have from injury and PTSD,” Hancock says. Fellow Odyssey leader Brooksi Bottari is also a CSRS and veteran, as well as a licensed mental health therapist and massage therapist. Like Hancock, Bottari immediately took a liking to the Roll Model® Therapy Balls for helping combat veterans. “One of the main tenets of trauma work is mind-body connection. Everyone with post-traumatic stress has bodily symptoms. Some of it is by virtue of being physically injured, but even outside of that, the natural response to trauma is going to be in the body. You can’t separate one from the other,” says Bottari.
The ability to address both the physical and emotional effects of trauma lies equally in the effectiveness of the Roll Model® Therapy Balls and in the competence of practitioners, says The Roll Model® Method founder Jill Miller. “Practitioners trained in The Roll Model® Method are excellent at facilitating a safe space that allows for vets to let down their guard mentally and emotionally and reduce whole-body-bracing—that unconscious tension that keeps us protected,” says Miller. “On a simple level, the first sensation of using the balls is slightly unpleasant, but with the correct application and guidance, stiffness and knots in a participant’s body dissolve. They not only have a renewed sense of freedom in tissues, but often this is coupled by permission to release emotions, as well.”
Among The Roll Model® Method tools is the Coregeous® Ball, an inflatable ball that is used primarily to massage areas of the trunk in conjunction with deep breathing. “By massaging areas that the Vagus nerve innervates, this practice can have a profound effect on improving the body’s relaxation response,” Miller says. Another important benefit of the balls is the autonomy they provide for veterans, particularly those who are wary of another person putting hands on them. “Some veterans we work with have experienced sexual trauma and have trust issues. What’s so nice with these balls is that you are in control,” Hancock says. Both Hancock and Bottari have been thrilled to offer Warriors a portable, user-friendly tool that allows them to take a safe, immediate, hands-on approach toward addressing restrictions in their minds and bodies. “Roll Model® Therapy Balls respond to your body’s physical and emotional response to trauma,” says Bottari. “If you can have something available to you that offers this, I think there’s a lot of value to that.”