If you search for massage tools on the Internet, you will be overwhelmed by your options. There are a lot of massagers – electric and manual, in different types, shapes, orientations, and sizes. This might make you overwhelmed and leave you with more questions than answers.
But before you start shelling out big bucks for an advanced massager or get massage therapy, you may want to reach for a small, hard ball first, like the lacrosse ball. Foam rollers – which are popular simple massage tools available – are great at working out knots in large muscle groups like the quads, back, and glutes. But the smaller lacrosse ball is great for targeting smaller areas with more precision to target the root of the pain. The small ball can go and work in areas where the foam roller cannot.
What are Lacrosse Massage Balls?
A lacrosse ball is a hard rubber ball firm enough to use to apply compression to the fascia for self-myofascial therapy. Fascia is the thin layer of connected tissues that covers the muscles and ligaments. The fascia connects all muscle groups, and they can cause pain and trigger poor movement when it’s disrupted.
The pain in the fascia causes tightness, forcing the tissues out of alignment and increasing pressure on the joints and muscles. Myofascial therapy, including massaging with lacrosse balls, aims to loosen and stretch the fascia so that the tissues underneath are free to move.
It allows you to roll while compressing, which can help break up adhesions and aid in myofascial release. It’s small enough to work and dig into troublesome spots where foam rollers might not be able to reach. Plus, they are portable enough to toss in a bag or drawer to use anywhere.
These balls are dense and hard, unlike tennis balls. And even when they are pressured, they don’t easily soften.
Benefits of Lacrosse Ball for Massaging
For a good reason, lacrosse balls and other self-myofascial release methods are becoming more popular because of the increased awareness about soft tissue care and massage and its healing benefits. A lacrosse ball is a good alternative if you don’t have much budget to spend for a luxury massage or massager. Here are some of the benefits of lacrosse ball massagers:
1. It can work similarly to a deep tissue massage.
It’s no secret that regular massages offer a lot of benefits. In fact, that’s why almost every professional sports team includes regular massage as an activity for their athletes. And as a self-myofascial release tool, lacrosse balls can help you achieve these benefits of a regular massage:
- Reduced pain
- Improved flexibility
- Increased joint range of motion
- Improved muscle performance
- Reduced knots in hard-to-reach areas
- Decreased muscle tightness and stiffness
- Decreased soreness and fatigue after exercise
Self-myofascial release is best to do after a workout, but you can also perform it whenever you remember it throughout the day.
2. It reduces the tightness of the muscles.
Whenever your muscles feel tight, you can easily use a lacrosse ball for massaging. These usually tight areas include glute muscles, soles of the feet, side of the hips, upper back, top of the fingers, and palm of the hands. Lacrosse balls are small enough to zero in on any specific area that you want to massage.
Anytime you execute fascia release, remember to move slowly and work on a single body part for two minutes. It usually feels best to work in short bouts and inch your way along any given muscle. You should feel discomfort and pressure when you’re hitting tight places, but it would feel good afterward. However, make sure not to press too hard, so you don’t bruise yourself.
3. It enhances flexibility and improves the range of motion.
Stretching has been the widely-used technique for enhancing flexibility and decreasing muscle tightness or fatigue before or after workouts and sporting activities. Research reveals that lacrosse massage balls and stretching can help increase flexibility and improve muscle efficiency.
Using lacrosse balls can work out knots and help improve the range of motion around the joints, making you more efficient during workouts and performing better in sporting activities. Improving flexibility and range of motion can help you become a better athlete, and using lacrosse balls can help with that.
4. It facilitates the better circulation of oxygenated blood.
Our body needs sufficient oxygenated blood to be circulated throughout the body to carry out its functions. Proper circulation is vital to the overall function of our organs and cells, and improper circulation can lead to many health problems like a weaker immune system, numbness in the limbs, and impaired cognitive activity.
Performing myofascial therapy, like using a lacrosse massage ball, can facilitate better circulation by freeing up the tight areas where blood flow is restricted.
5. It prevents injury.
We stretch and warm up before engaging in an exercise, workout routine, or sporting activities to prevent injuries. However, plain stretching may not be enough to tackle areas that a lacrosse massage ball can reach.
One example where a lacrosse massage ball can be useful when stretching is avoiding iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome. This condition happens when the IT band (the ligament that extends from below the knee to the top of the leg by the hips) gets swollen or irritated from rubbing against the hip and knee bones when it becomes too tight. It usually happens to runners, as their activity makes this ligament more susceptible to injury. Stretching and warming up using a lacrosse ball to work on the IT band can help prevent this.
However, if you misuse the lacrosse ball or do the therapy properly, you can do more harm than good. Massaging an area that is already inflamed can worsen inflammation, giving you the opposite of your desired results.
6. It can help reduce soreness due to exercise.
Whether regularly or occasionally, people who work out can encounter delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs), which refers to the stiffness or muscle pain that appears within 48 hours after exercising. It can be a pain (literally and figuratively) to go to work or do your normal activities the day after working out, only to experience soreness. Lacrosse massage balls can help reduce the chances of intense DOMS, allowing you to carry out your everyday workouts without any pain or stiffness the day after.
7. It relieves sciatic pain.
A lacrosse massage ball can free up the sciatic nerve from any form of pressure. Whether the pressure is caused by the compression of the lumbar spine or the impingement of the muscles in the buttocks – a lacrosse massage ball can create necessary space for the surrounding joints and muscles to function properly without causing pain or affecting the sciatic nerve.
8. It relieves chronic migraine or headaches.
Sometimes, tension and pain in sensitive areas beneath the skull can cause chronic migraines or headaches. A lacrosse massage ball can help relieve pain in those areas and free up the fascial structures within the skull, which can result in chronic headaches.
9. It can help reduce stress.
A lacrosse massage ball can also be considered a stress ball. Using it for myofascial therapy can help suppress stress incurred after working out. According to a study, myofascial release using a lacrosse ball can cause a significant reduction in cortisol levels after a tedious workout session.
10. It’s cheap and travel-friendly.
Unlike other massage tools, lacrosse balls are very portable and cheap. It shouldn’t cost you more than a few dollars to get one, and you can easily pack it in your bag anywhere you go. If you travel a lot, you can easily pack a lacrosse ball to keep yourself relaxed and remove the tightness that comes with sitting too long on a plane or a train ride.
11. It can complement other therapies.
If you’re undergoing any physical therapy, a lacrosse ball can complement it to make your recovery faster. For example, in chiropractic therapy, adjustments may often take a long time after the chiropractor’s time is finished. Massaging with a lacrosse ball can facilitate this therapy and prevent any reoccurrence.
12. It can be used anytime.
The great thing about a lacrosse massage ball is you can use it for deep tissue massage and myofascial release anytime. Using it daily can keep your body flexible and pain-free. Use it when working on a few exercises in your morning routine to help you start your day. You can also use this before lifting, working out, and even in a hotel room after a long journey. If you are quite tight, you can use the lacrosse ball for a quick daily massage, but you can get away with using for just twice or thrice a week.