The spiky massage ball was first created in Denmark in an attempt to encourage psychiatric patients out of their depressed mental states using stimulating massage.
The design is fairly simple, being a ball that is made from a tough durable plastic that is covered with spikes which have rounded ends. The balls come in a variety of sizes.
These days, the balls are used by different therapists, including massage therapists and physiotherapists, to help relieve muscle tightness in specific areas of the body.
They are becoming increasingly popular because they allow you to perform massage exercises by yourself at home, either under the supervision and instruction of a therapist, or not.
The balls work by stimulating the tissues directly beneath the skin and improving circulation, which combined with calm, relaxed breathing helps to release tension in your muscles.
There are a few varieties of massage balls available. Here we will take a look at some of the most commonly available types and what each one is specifically designed to do:
Round spiky massage balls – these ones are perhaps the most common type available on the market. They come in a variety of sizes, but are usually between 6cm and 10cm in diameter.
Some can be denser than others and are perfect for sitting on and rolling, or standing on to massage your feet. They also work very well if you want to lean against them with extra pressure to achieve a deep massage effect. Other spiky massage balls are softer and designed to provide a gentler massage to more delicate areas.
The larger balls are meant to be used primarily on large muscle groups, such as your glutes, but can also be used to provide a general, all-over massage, without needing to focus too heavily on any particular muscle group.
The smaller balls are designed to provide more focused massage to specific areas, but also work very well on smaller muscle groups, such as the hands and forearm.
Peanut shaped spiky massage ball roller – this funny looking spiky massage ball looks just like a giant peanut, hence its name, and was initially designed for use as a back massager, being placed on either side of the spine.
The peanut shaped roller can also work very well with other large areas of the body, especially the legs, because it can work with the natural contours of each area, deeply penetrating the tissue to provide maximum relief.
This particular design is great for people who have issues with stability because of the wider surface area that reduces the risk of it slipping out of place during use. It can be used against a wall, whilst lying on the ground, or whilst sitting in a chair to massage your feet.
Spiky massage ball rollers – these rollers tend to combine two or more spiky massage balls on a pole that has handles on either side.
This allows you to use the massage balls in situations where it might not always be practical to roll against a wall or on the floor, e.g. whilst travelling on a plane.
The roller tends to be quite wide which allows you to easily reach most areas of your body without too much effort.
Again, like the peanut shaped roller, these rollers are ideal for people who have issues with maintaining stability and who would be better sitting in a chair whilst performing their deep tissue massage.
There are a number of ways to use spiky massage balls, depending on the area of the body you are focusing on. Numerous videos on websites like YouTube provide step-by-step instructions on how to use these balls, but we shall look at some of the most common exercises below.
Firstly however, it is important to remember a few key points when working with spiky massage balls:
Work slowly – this gives the muscle and tissue the chance to really feel the effects of the massage ball.
Breathe – there is a reason that you are told to breathe during meditation, yoga and any other kind of relaxing exercise; it helps relieve tension. If you hold in your breath whilst using the spiky massage balls, then you are very likely to tense up and actually cause damage to the muscle and surrounding tissue that you are trying to loosen up.
Focus on your sore spots – like any good masseuse, if you notice an area that is especially tight or sore, then spend at least a minute giving it a gentle massage with the ball to really help relax and loosen the muscle.
Remember that the massage should not be painful! – if it is painful, then you are probably using too much pressure, so ease up. If that doesn’t help, try changing your ball or position, or see a specialist as there may be further damage that the massage ball is not able to help fix.
Do not use on recent injuries – any cuts, bruises or breaks should be allowed time to heal before you try to use your spiky massage ball; using the ball before this time is actually likely to impede healing. It is also important to avoid using the ball on any areas of the body where you are experiencing problems with your internal organs, e.g. if you have a kidney infection, do not use the balls on the areas of your back where your kidneys are located.
Be safe – unless you are using a roller that has multiple balls secured in place or are lying on the floor whilst performing your exercise, it can be dangerous to use more than one ball at any one time if you have mobility issues. Doing so prevents you from properly focusing your attention on the area that you are trying to work on and can lead to injury.
Now that we have covered those important basics, it is time to look at some of the most common exercises that can be done to relieve muscle tightness and improve circulation in certain parts of the body, including the back, glutes and calves.
A great way to massage the back is to lie on the floor with your arms by your side, feet flat on the floor and your knees pointing up to the ceiling, this encourages your lower back to become flush with the ground.
Place the spiky massage ball under whichever area of the back you would like to work on and gently move yourself backwards, forwards and side to side to massage the area. Repeat this for roughly a minute, or a bit longer if you want to, before moving on to the next area.
This exercise can be completed whilst leaning against a wall, which allows you greater control over the pressure applied to the area. You simply place the ball where you need it to go and then use your legs to gently move your body so that the ball massages the area required in whatever direction you feel comfortable with.
You can also place two balls on either side of your spine, or use a peanut shaped roller, to repeat the process described above whilst lying on the floor.
When you get to the top of your spine, in between your shoulder blades, you might find it easier and more comfortable to keep your legs still. Instead bring your arms slowly and carefully up towards the ceiling, so that your hands are pointing up, then continue on so that your arms come to rest down beside your ears, then bring them back up and lower them back to your sides.
Repeat up to ten times, or more if you prefer, remembering to breathe as you do so.
There are a few ways that you can massage your feet with spiky massage balls and they include sitting in a chair and simply rolling your feet over them in whatever direction you wish, applying as much or as little pressure as you want.
You can also choose to stand upright, holding onto something for balance, and then stand carefully on one leg, gently moving your foot to get a truly deep massage – this particular massage is best suited to the larger massage balls because the greater surface area gives you a bit more stability and control.
Perform the massage for at least thirty seconds on each foot.
Whilst leaning against a wall, place a small spiky ball on the inside of your shoulder joint located near the end of your collar bone, then gently roll the ball across the pectoral region from one side to the other by gently moving your body from side to side. You should finish up at the shoulder joint on the other side.
The key here is to take your time; you can, of course just roll the ball straight across the pectorals from one shoulder to the other, but it is best to focus on specific areas of tightness as you come across them, perhaps rolling the ball in a few directions before moving on.
This same exercise can be repeated on the back of the shoulders, rolling the ball from one shoulder to the other across the top of the back, again taking the time to focus on specific areas of tightness.
One of the areas that can quite often become tight after exercise are the glutes. This is because we use the muscles in this area quite a lot on a daily basis, so giving them a good massage with a large spiky massage ball will help relieve tension.
One way to do this is to sit upright on the floor with your legs out in front of you, or you can lie down with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Then place the ball under your glutes, use your hands to stabilise yourself and then gently roll in whatever direction is comfortable and beneficial to you in massaging the area.
Another way to perform this massage, that also allows you more control over the pressure applied, is to stand against a wall, placing the ball between the wall and the area of your glutes that you want to massage. Use your body to gently roll the ball around. Some people find it helpful to bend their knees slightly, lean forward and rest their hands on them to really help control the ball and more easily massage a larger area.
The best way to massage your calves is going to be whilst sitting or lying on the floor. Again, like with the gluteal massage, you simply place the ball under the affected area and then use your body to gently move the ball around in whichever direction is most comfortable and relieving for you.
Perhaps the most relaxing way to do this massage is whilst lying down with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent and pointing up to the ceiling and arms down by your sides. This acts to relax the spine and really allow you to feel the fully benefit of this massage.
Place a small, comfortably sized massage ball under your neck and then very gently rock your body back and forth, or side to side, whichever is most comfortable for you, in order to massage the neck. You may also find that touching your chin to your chest and pointing it up to the ceiling provides a great massage too.
Spiky massage balls are understood to help relieve tension in large and small muscle areas – in fact this is their biggest benefit.
However, they are also able to help improve poor circulation thanks to the stimulating and relaxing effect of the massage on the tissue.
Indeed, if you use balls with slightly sharper nodules, the effect on circulation stimulation is increased, making them ideal for people who have issues with poor circulation.
The pleasant feeling that many people experience whilst using the spiky massage ball is due to the release of endorphins that occurs during exercise, alongside the pleasurable experience of muscles loosening and tension being released. This makes spiky balls perfect for using at the end of a tough day when you need to unwind and de-stress.
There are a number of things to consider before purchasing spiky massage balls and they include:
Use – it might seem obvious, but knowing what you intend to use your spiky massage ball for is important in helping you decide which kind to buy. For example you don’t want to purchase a large, weight-bearing ball if you are wanting to focus on smaller areas; likewise, you aren’t going to want a softer ball for massaging your feet.
Pre-existing conditions – if you have any pre-existing health conditions that might be worsened by using the spiky massage balls, then it is best to consult a specialist before purchasing or using one. Because of the nature of spiky ball massage, individuals with mobility issues might struggle to use them effectively and safely.
Allergy – it is very important to check the materials that the spiky massage ball is made from to ensure that you won’t have an allergic reaction whilst using it. Spiky massage balls are made from a durable type of plastic, but the specific material will vary depending on the manufacturer.
Sharpness – most spiky massage balls have points that are rounded and that most people prefer to use, however the sharper the point the greater the increase in blood circulation stimulation; so it is worth deciding how ‘sharp’ you want your ball to be. It is important to note that the balls should not cause extreme pain and are never sharp enough to cut or cause injury.