Massage is a practice that stretches back into ancient times and not only helps muscles relax, it can also target specific points, rehabilitate muscles and improve flexibility. Plus, we all know how incredible it feels to walk away from a massage.
There are as many types of massage as there are people, from hot stone and Ayurvedic massage to sports massage and rehabilitation massage. If you’re already a trained massage therapist and want to expand into different areas or are considering offering sports massage, you might want to know what’s going on with all these massage tools that keep cropping up, especially if you typically work with hands-only massage.
Why are there different types of massage balls? Do they all do different things? Which ones should you use for professional practice?
Here we’re going to break down what massage balls do, why they come in different shapes and how to which aspects are most important. These balls are more than just a clinic tool too, you can teach your clients to use them in between appointments, for even greater relief.
What Do Massage Balls Do?
In the same way you can get your fingers and heel of your hand into knotty areas, massage balls can achieve the same thing using less pressure and more consistent action.
Massage balls are significantly more target-specific than foam rollers and can access myofascial trigger points as well as tense muscles. They provide a deep tissue massage that requires much less work from you as a therapist, while retaining the precision of your hands. Because of this, your clients can also have massage balls at home to work on the same area.
The Varying Shapes of Massage Balls
How complex can this be, massage balls are ball-shape right? Well, not exactly.
Many massage balls are smooth spheres, available in different sizes and hardnesses. In recent years though, lots of different designs on this traditional shape have cropped up. Spikes and peanut shapes are both common variations on the classic ball.
For the most part, a standard spherical massage ball will do the trick perfectly adequately. However, spiky balls are particularly useful if you’re also using oils or creams. The spikes not only offer a different sensation to smooth balls, but they also provide extra grip. This is important if using a lubricant as sudden slipping might shock muscles, quite the opposite to the desired effect!
The most important aspect of a massage ball is your ability to control it precisely and this is why many massage therapists prefer textured exteriors.
Peanut-shaped massage balls are a sort of cross between a foam roller and a true massage ball, offering a specific type of massage that is ideal for tricky areas like the neck and central back. They still roll perfectly but can be used on larger muscles as well, all while giving targeted trigger point massage.
These peanut-shaped balls are particularly useful for massaging the often-tense muscles either side of the spine. As the spine must be protected and won’t take too kindly to excess pressure – like the type it would get if you were to use a foam roller here – the dip in the centre of the peanut-shape offers a safe cradle for it. As the spine stays in this groove, the balls at either end provide targeted deep tissue massage.
As they don’t roll as randomly as normal spheres, they can also be easier to control and keep in the right position.
Smooth Massage Balls
Smooth massage balls are the easiest to find and are the classic type of ball. Just like spiky balls, you’ll find that they target trigger points easily and don’t require as much pressure as if you were using your palm or elbow.
You can find them in different sizes and different hardnesses. This is important as patients will need varying hardnesses to access the right points without excess discomfort.
Massage Ball Sizes
Massage balls come in different sizes to allow you to choose the right one for the area. Small balls are particularly good for massaging the undersides of the feet as well as the hands. These balls, around the size of a golf ball, can access trigger points that are particularly small and precise.
Larger balls are better for calves, quads, deltoids and glutes where small balls would be painful and too specific. Having a range of massage balls in your clinic is useful.
Massage Ball Hardness
Hardness is one of the key aspects of massage balls as not every muscle and every person will require the same level of hardness. For some patients, soft balls will be perfect to gently alleviate tension whilst others need a somewhat stronger touch.
Buying balls in a range of hardness allows you to always have the right one at hand. A single patient will likely require more than one hardness for different parts of the body.
Teaching Massage Balls Techniques
One of the best things about massage balls is that your clients don’t have to wait for their next appointment to get relief. During your appointments, you can explore different trigger points and offer guidance on how they can recreate a basic massage with balls at home.
By working together to find the right spots, the right hardness and the right shape ball, you can provide your client with balls to take home and be safe in the knowledge they’re on their way to a stronger, more flexible body with less discomfort.
Get the Right Massage Balls for Your Practice
We’ve successfully managed to get through an entire article about massage balls without making any dad-jokes! If you’re looking for massage balls and tools, check out our comprehensive range. If you’re interested in finding out more about creams and oils for massage, you can read our guide here too.