What matters most is your ability to position a massage ball and control the movement to apply pressure on specific body parts. The factors that determine whether you’ve got the right massage ball for your need are size, weight, shape, grip and hardness. Let’s go over them one at a time.
Size – you want to select the size based on the body part you’re working.
Hands, forearms or feet – you’ll want to try golf ball and lacrosse ball sizes. For the technically minded, the golf ball has a diameter of 42.7 mm and the lacrosse ball’s diameter is 63 mm.
Calves, hamstrings, abdomen/psoas, buttocks, upper and lower back, deltoids and neck – the lacrosse ball, tennis ball and baseball sizes work best for these body parts. Their diameters respectively are 63 mm, 67 mm and 73mm.
Chest and shoulders – here you need a 4 inch diameter ball (or about 100 mm) which is an unusual size.
Weight – the heavier the ball the more likely it is to stay where you put it. We manufacture all of our massage balls with the maximum weight possible for this reason even though it increases the cost significantly. So, solid balls are preferable to hollow or inflatable because of their greater weight. The solid balls also deform more predictably when you put your weight on them.
Shape – it’s important to use a smooth round ball so you can control its movement precisely when you roll on it. I’ve seen marketing pictures of people holding a massage ball in their hand and pressing it on their body which is pure fantasy. If you’re not using your body weight to apply pressure on the massage ball, you’re wasting your time. So forget about spikes and bumps on the ball — as cool and interesting as they look, they’re just gimmicks. The one possible exception – if you’re sweaty from a workout, small bumps might improve the grip.
Some may say you need protrusions to dig into a tweaked muscle or tendon but, all of my tweaks and injuries have always been resolved easily with smooth round balls. In addition to getting better control over the movement with a smooth ball, you can also cover more territory faster and more easily.
Remember that the best way to treat a tweaked muscle or tendon is to work around it, not directly on the tweak. You want to go after the attachment points and stretch surrounding areas to relieve the pressure on whatever is causing you pain.
Finally, for those that bruise easily, even the dimples on a dimpled baseball can damage skin tissue. So one more reason to go smooth.
Grip – a great massage ball has good grip and won’t slide easily against a wood floor, wall or your skin. This makes it easier to control the movement and prevents the ball slipping out from under you or falling if you’re using it against the wall. The tennis ball is a reasonably good massage ball except for its lousy grip – it slides around too easily. The best grip you’ll find comes from the natural rubber used in making lacrosse balls.
Hardness – there is no perfect massage ball hardness as each body part will respond best to a different hardness. Also, as the health and flexibility of your tissues improves, you’ll want to use harder massage balls over time.
It’s worth mentioning that the hardness is not the only characteristic that determines how the ball deforms under your body, as a hollow and solid ball can both have the same hardness, but they will feel different.
What about hot and cold massage balls?
First let’s talk about cold — it’s helpful for stimulating blood flow and reducing inflammation. As such, cold definitely has its place in the physical therapy tool bag. But a cold massage ball doesn’t make a lot of sense in my opinion. Here’s why – a massage ball is a great deep tissue tool which when done properly is about stretching. The whole point behind using a ball is that you penetrate deep into the belly of the muscle or tendon which stretches it restoring flexibility where fibers have tightened. Would you ever chill your muscles before a stretching routine? You might, if you wanted to get injured.
So you can see why a heated massage ball makes a lot more sense. But, let me make a prediction. If you were to buy a massage tool that could be heated, you’d try it once or twice and then would use it without heat thereafter. Who has enough spare time for heating a massage tool when the heat will dissipate in a couple of minutes? It’s a nifty idea, but personally I’m into simplicity and practical tools. If I need heat, a heating pad makes a lot more sense to me.
Post time: Sep-14-2021