runner stretching

The $3 Massage Ball That Every Runner Needs

The ball is any type of lacrosse ball. Many are now sold specifically as myofascial tissue release balls. It’s the most affordable and useful massage tool that you should get now!

Why a ball? What is self-myofascial release?

A lacrosse ball is a useful massage tool because it’s hard enough to actually release facsia from itself. This treats and prevents a buildup of facsia that is supposed to be smooth. It’s also very inexpensive.

Fascia is a woven matrix structure that covers every muscle, bone, and internal organ in the body. It continues as one continuous structure without interruption. So a tightness in one area of fascia can result in issues elsewhere.

Overuse, inflammatory responses, trauma from acute injuries, and/or surgeries create myofascial tightness, which result in shortening of underlying muscle. This presents as pain and pressure to small areas. Fascia tightness deep within the gluteus is common.

If you feel a deep tightness within your bum while running, it’s likely that you have myofascial tightness and muscle shortening in your gluteus medius due to overuse. And due to not releasing the fascia rolling treatment!

Other balls can work, too. But, the harder the ball, the more effective the treatment. If you can’t bear a lacrosse ball at first, then start with a tennis ball and move up to a lacrosse ball-type of hardness after a few weeks of treatment.

What muscles should you work?

The gluteus medius/minimus area is deep inside your buttocks, and is the go-to area for self-myofascial release. The muscles get tight from excessive sitting. So we all likely have tightness that should be treated. More so, if you’ve been working on your stabilizer muscle strength with a resistance band, this area will need release without question.

Breaking up fascia tightness of these stabilizer muscles is important because too much tightness can cause hip misalignment, and back, hip and gluteus pain.

Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies showed that self-myofascial release via a tennis ball to the bottom of the foot immediately increased both hamstring and lumbar spine flexibility. This suggests that release of one trigger point of our backside releases other points on the same ‘anatomy train’ of connected fascia.

How to use the ball?

  • Lie on the ground and put ball underneath one side of your buttocks.
  • Position your body so that the majority of your weight is on top of the target area that.
  • Stay relaxed—this is of the upmost importance!
  • Brace for a heavy, possibly unbearable amount of pressure on the target area on top of the ball.
  • Hold the ball in the most painfully tight area of your hip/gluteus region.
  • HOLD IT THERE! With a minute, the discomfort will turn into release. A 30-seconds hold should be your minimum goal.
  • Moving around the trigger point is good, too. But retention in the most tight trigger spot will yield the best results of smoothing the fascia.

The more you do it, the less uncomfortable the pressure will be. Breaking up the fascia is the goal. You want your tight muscles and fascia to be brushed out like a knot in your hair.

This YouTube is a great guide for how to lie on the ball and release your gluteus medius/minimus area.

Have you performed self-myofascial release before? What other tools have you seen or used, and how do they compare in effectiveness and in price? Do you pay for regular massages for fascia release?

About the Author

Clare Gallagher is an ultrarunner for The North Face and travels extensively for races and philanthropic work. She studied coral ecology at Princeton University where she also ran cross country and track. Clare has taught English in Thailand where she started a non-profit environmental stewardship program, she has scribed in emergency rooms across Denver, and she writes regularly for various running blogs.

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