How to Use Balls to Massage Your Back
Check with Your Doctor First
I'm not a doctor, nor am I medically trained. If you have any type of medical condition, check with your doctor first before attempting self-massage. I've used Franklin balls to relieve tight muscles in my back as part of my pilates practice for the last five years. It works for me, but your experience may vary.
How to Use Balls for Self-Massage
Self-massage can help you relieve stress and muscle pain. It can also help you to recover from exercise more quickly. If you have muscle tension in your back, try lying on top of a small ball! The idea is to place a tennis ball or similarly sized ball at the area of tension and lie down on top of it. Using the ball to apply pressure to certain "trigger points" will cause your muscles to relax. To give yourself a back massage using the ball method, you will need two balls—either two tennis or Franklin balls, or one set of BakBalls.
- Position the balls, one on either side of the spine, so that they work the muscles along the spine. Place the balls on the floor and lie down on them. Reposition the balls so that they press against your shoulder muscle, below the base of your neck. Do not position the balls against the vertebrae in your neck. You can move the balls outward as necessary, to best fit the part of your shoulders where you hold tension.
- Lie quietly for 2–5 minutes in this position. You shouldn't feel pain, but you should feel the ball working your "trigger point." Breathe regularly and try to visualize the tension releasing.
- Move the balls a bit lower down your spine, maintaining contact with the muscles that follow the spine. Try to locate a spot where you feel tension.
- Lie quietly for 2–5 minutes, breathing regularly.
- Continue to work the balls down your spine, repositioning the balls each time, taking 2–5 minutes in each position. You may feel your spine adjust, but this should not be painful. If you do feel any pain, stop immediately and reposition the balls.
- The last position should be at the top of your glutes. You may wish to move the balls further apart, depending upon where you feel tension.
When you are done with your massage, get up slowly and check in with your body. You can repeat this practice daily to help relieve muscle tension.
What Kind of Balls Are Best for Self-Massage?
To try this at home, you'll need access to one or two balls:
- Tennis balls - These work well, but can be hard and painful to sensitive people. They are more commonly available and can be purchased at any store that carries sporting goods.
- Franklin Balls - These balls are specifically designed to support the Franklin Method, which uses imagery and tools to achieve body alignment and improved body function. Franklin Balls are available through online order or in some specialty stores. They are especially useful for self-massage.
- BakBalls - This gadget looks like two balls stuck together, and are specifically designed to be worked along the muscles of your back.
- Textured children's play balls - Toy balls can be used, but are often not up to the pressure of full body weight over extended periods of time. That said, some toy balls come in great textures, including soft spikes and round bumps or knobs.
You will also need a clear area on the floor where you can comfortably lie down.
Benefit of Franklin Balls
Franklin Balls are made of a resilient plastic material that has a nice "give" to it. They are slightly larger in diameter than a tennis ball and can be inflated using a pump with a needle-type attachment. You can get textured Franklin Balls or smooth Franklin Balls. The smooth ball is nice for those who don't need a great deal of pressure or who are more sensitive. The textured Franklin Ball is good for providing a deeper massage.
You can use these on other parts of your body as well, such as your feet for improving balance. It's not necessary to put Franklin Balls in a sock or to otherwise contain them when using them for massage. Simply place them where you want them as they don't typically roll away when you place your body weight on them.
Benefit of BakBalls
The benefit of Bakballs is that the design helps to keep the balls evenly positioned on either side of the spine. They also feel more consistent in terms of pressure than tennis balls, which can feel too hard. Their overall size also seems to be a better fit for pressing into trigger points. The downside is that since the gadget is a single piece, you can't move the two balls further apart to reach different areas of the muscle. That said, you can simply move the whole gadget to one side of the spine to hit a larger muscle area, and then move back to the other side.