There are very few people who don’t like a body massage. I don’t fall into this group as I find massages therapeutic, though not always relaxing when it is being done, especially when it involves deep tissues.
Not everyone can afford to indulge in sybaritic pleasures and sip hot ginger tea clad in an Egyptian cotton robe, so the next best thing to do is a self-massage.
Depending on which body part you want to work on, only one tool is needed – a golf (for feet) or tennis ball (for bigger muscles).
These two types of balls enable you to reach smaller areas and muscle groups, but you must be able to tolerate a bit of pain and discomfort.
Soothing sore muscles
At some point, all of us suffer from muscle soreness after a workout (or even from sitting in front of the computer).
Delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS, is commonly experienced after novel and unaccustomed exercises, particularly after performing eccentric contractions.
Both exercise newbies and trained athletes can experience DOMS, which often peaks 48 hours after exercise and usually subsides a few days later.
There are multiple remedies to alleviate DOMS and among them is a massage.
A ball massage is a form of self-myofascial release. Fascia is the thin sheath of connective tissue that covers all the muscles and organs of the body, and is responsible for connecting muscle groups.
In a normal healthy state, myofascia is relaxed and flexible, but when it is damaged, it’s like a pull in a sweater, where it can affect other areas of the body, sometimes for years.
A tight fascia can pull the body out of alignment and increase pressure on muscles and joints, causing pain and poor movement patterns.
The goal of myofascial therapy is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that the underlying tissue can move freely.
For example, if you have tight hamstrings, sit on the floor, place the tennis ball under the thighs, and roll it back and forth, using your hands to support your body.
You can also sit on a chair, letting your legs dangle, place a golf ball under one thigh and move it around until you find a tender spot.
Stop at that point and lean forward slightly. Slowly extend and bend your knees a few times, then move on to another area. This can easily be done in the office.
A tight hamstring can contribute to hip, knee or back pain.
The sensation you should feel when performing self myofascial release is a satisfying “good” pain.
If you feel like screaming or are gritting your teeth, you need to apply less pressure.
After all, you control the pressure and no one is forcing you to go past your pain threshold.
On the onset of pain, the tendency for most of us is to contract the muscle. Once you’ve found the right pressure, exhale and relax the muscle as much as you can, and wait for the tightness to fade to about 80% of the original sensation.
This should take anywhere between 15 seconds to a minute or two.
Continue holding the pressure until you feel the knot “melt” away. Then move on to the next body part.
It’s important that you only do one body part at a time or you’ll definitely be in agony and yelling expletives.
Tackling plantar fasciitis
One self-massage I’ve taught to many students with plantar faciitis woes is using a golf ball.
This condition, which causes heel pain, is a result of inflammation around the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).
It occurs commonly from a repetitive strain injury to the ligament of the sole of the foot, for example, from excessive running or walking, inadequate foot gear and a hard landing after jumping.
Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing pain, usually when you take your first step in the morning.
Once you start moving more, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting.
Just sit down on a chair, put the golf ball under the affected side of the feet, and slowly roll it back and forth along the arch of your foot. It only takes a few minutes.
If you can withstand the pain, apply more pressure. Then do the other leg.
If your pain is really bad, you can also put the golf ball in the freezer so that it’s cold when you want to use it.
The relief you get from this easy method is indescribable!
Of course, nothing beats the human touch of a masseur for that warmth and comfort, but self-massages using a ball can soothe muscle soreness just as effectively.
Massages are recommended after a workout or when you are terribly fatigued, but you can also do them whenever you remember throughout the day.
Just like stretching, the best results are seen after consistent practice.