Myofascial release has been game a changer for me. I’ve tried a slew of different techniques, tools and practitioners over the years. Although it’s tough to find a substitute for hands on work, with the right tools, you can be very successful at treating yourself.
There is a ton of self myofascial release tools out there and the list grows everyday. What follows is a guide to the most popular ones and there uses.
Rollers are typical used on larger muscle groups. They are a broader treatment, meaning the pressure that is applied is more spread out. Rollers come in different sizes, lengths, widths and densities(firmness). This is generally what determines their unique effectiveness.
The process of rolling involves setting the roller on the ground and using your own bodyweight to apply pressure to trigger points.
They work best on the following areas: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Lats, Back, Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)
This is the original myofascial release tool. It’s widely used and often times the only tool that people are familiar with. Foam rollers come in different densities. Usually rollers in blue/white are softer and black is firmer. Over time foam will break down, so buying a higher quality roller is worth the investment.
The pressure of a foam roller is very broad and overall its a softer tool. These two characteristics make it an excellent entry level option.
The PVC roller is a graduated foam roller. Meaning, it’s quite a bit firmer. After using a foam roller for awhile, you often need more pressure to produce results. PVC can help with this.
There are products that are made with a PVC core. However, most of the PVC rollers I have seen and used have been homemade. Just a piece of PVC with something wrapped around it, so you don’t slide around on it.
You can vary the thickness and density of the PVC roller by using different materials to cover it.
Take a look at this video on how to make a homemade one.
The grid is a new take on the foam roller created by the TP Therapy folks. Its diameter is only 5 inches as opposed to 6 inches. This makes more a bit more targeted than your average roller.
The following is the product description from TP Therapy.
This revolutionary tool is based on a grid system of varying widths and densities, allowing you to take traditional foam rolling to the next level. Intensity levels are in your control by simply repositioning the Grid.
It’s one of the few tools on this list that I don’t have a great amount of experience with. I have used the product a few times and my impressions have been good. It’s firmer than a regular foam roller and the construction quality is great.
I personally did not notice a difference with the grid system. In general, it seemed to function very similar to traditional rollers. I’d like to get my hands on a grid to do some extensive testing. I just can’t justify shelling out the cash when I didn’t see a benefit over my PVC roller.
Another product from TP Therapy. The Quad roller is different from others on this list. It’s actually a small rod covered with light padding attached to two wheels.
Because the quad roller’s unique setup, it can apply a great amount of pressure. I believe it applies more pressure than any other roller on the list. PVC roller included.
The smaller rod of the quad roller also gives you the ability to get closer to the joints. This is a huge advantage over other tools.
The only real disadvantage to the tool is the fact that it can’t be used on the back. It’s not wide enough.
This tool is definitely for advanced users. I personally highly recommend it.
The rumble roller is slighty different as well. It’s base is the same as a regular roller, however it has tiny bumps that cover the entire roller. The bumps give a more precise pressure and help to stretch tissue as well.
Check out the manufacturers explanation.
The RumbleRoller contains specially designed bumps that are firm, but flexible, much like the thumbs of a massage therapist.
As you roll over the RumbleRoller, the bumps knead the contours of your body, gently stretching soft tissue (muscle and fascia) in multiple directions. This erodes trigger points, restores flexibility, and relieves muscular pain.
It comes in 2 lengths (12×5 and 31×6) and 2 densities (Original and Extra Firm). I have only used the longer, extra firm model. It’s a very high quality product and firmer than a traditional foam roller, but not as firm as a PVC roller.
I personally like the rumble roller, but it’s not a tool that I use in my everyday arsenal. I think of rollers as a more broad treatment device and the bumps on the rumble roller take away from that. If I want a more precise pressure, I prefer to use a ball or other tools. That said, I do find instances where the rumble roller can get to problem areas that other tools could not.
Balls are typically used on smaller muscle groups. They allow you to reach areas that would not be accessible with just a roller.
Just like rollers, size and density are the biggest two factors when deciding what to use.
Two balls can be taped together so that they may roll along side the spine.
Balls work best on the following areas: Feet, Calves, Glutes, Lower Back, Shoulders
Most of you are familiar with the actual balls I will list below, so I won’t go into great detail on there makeup.
A golf ball is very firm and precise. The only area that I personally use it on, is the feet.
It’s lack of size makes it difficult to use on other body parts. The distance between the ground on your body is limited and this makes it difficult to apply pressure while moving around on it.
This is the perfect entry level ball. It has quite a bit of give and therefore pressure is limited.
The diameter of a tennis ball is about 2.5 inches. It puts enough distance between your body and the ground that it can be used in areas like the shoulders, glutes and back.
The lacrosse ball is identical to the tennis ball in it’s uses. It is considerably firmer. You would graduate to this after you adapted to a tennis ball.
A softball is very firm and the diameter ranges from 3.5 – 4 inches. This makes the pressure applied by the softball not quite as precise, but still on the high side of things.
The extra inch of diameter makes it useable on areas like the quads, hamstrings, pecs and the front of the hips. Depending on the individual, these areas are rarely accessible with a tennis or lacrosse ball.
I personally think this is the most underused myofascial release tool. It provides a huge amount of value as it is cheap and versatile. When I travel, I can get away with bringing just this ball to treat most of the major areas.
I don’t prefer the seams on a softball, so I will actually cut off the outer layer. This makes the ball a bit firmer but also smoother and more comfortable.
Medicine balls obviously come in all different sizes and densities. They have very specific uses, such as treating the pecs or front side of shoulders. Possibly the hamstrings or quads as well.
Most parts of the body can be treated more effectively with other tools listed here.
This is just a quick rundown popular tools that don’t necessarily fall into a category.
Your Own Hands
There are many areas on your body that rollers and balls may not reach, but your hands can. Anywhere you can reach, try to apply pressure and see if you can produce a reaction. It helps not only to release trigger points, but get a better understanding of your own body.
This tool has a ridiculous amount of uses. It allows you to create leverage and apply pressure to hard to reach areas all over your body.
The manufacturer description
The simple yet effective self-massager makes it easy to apply pain-relieving deep compression directly to hard, knotted trigger points anywhere they occur, breaking up tension even in the hardest-to-reach muscle areas.
This tool fills in the gaps that many other tools miss. It can get hard to reach places behind the shoulders, along the neck, and in your traps, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s great for spot treatments.
The knobbler basically replaces the thumb/fingers. Applying pressure with your own thumbs/fingers can take it’s toll on you. It’s often times better to use something like the knobbler instead.
There are several tools that provide this same function. Find one that works for you. Let me know in the comments!
The Stick & Tiger Tail
Both of these tools have two handles attached to a rod that has a slight flex to it. Using two hands you grip the sides of it and press down to apply pressure to the targeted area.
It’s primary uses are on the lower body including the quads, hamstrings and calves.
Send Me Your Suggestions!
I tried to include all the major tools. If I have missed anything, please leave a comment and let me know. Also, I’d love to hear what tools you prefer!
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