How To Use Lacrosse Ball Massage For Full-Body Recovery, From Experts
Everybody loves a good massage, especially when your muscles are tight and tension-ridden—from stress or exercise. The good news is, you don't need any fancy equipment to give yourself the gift of massage right in your own home. Here's how to use a simple lacrosse ball to work out different muscles in the body, according to experts.
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Is lacrosse ball massage effective?
Using lacrosse balls for massage can be an effective way to offer relief from tightness and stiffness, aid in fitness recovery, and simply help the muscles and the nervous system relax. As doctor of physical therapy and author of Radical Relief Joe Tatta, DPT, tells mbg, lacrosse ball massage is a popular at-home therapeutic method and pairs well with professional treatment.
What's the benefit? "We're working on different parts of the nervous system that become tense or tight, based on either your daily life habits or based on emotional distress—anxiousness, stress, tension, things like that," says Tatta.
In addition, massage techniques like using lacrosse balls, or even softballs and foam rollers, help to break up the fascia, "so you're essentially letting the muscle relax," explains certified personal trainer and founder of TMAC FITNESS Todd McCullough. He also adds, this helps your muscles move more effectively.
And while it certainly can feel good to target one pesky area (like that super-tight upper back), Tatta advises to "work down their entire spine, because your entire spine moves together, so working on one part isn't the best."
How to use a lacrosse ball:
Lacrosse ball massage for the neck
McCullough and Tatta both note that a double lacrosse ball, also sometimes called a peanut, is great for the neck. (You can purchase peanuts, but Tatta notes you can also tape two lacrosse balls together.) Simply lie down on the floor and place the peanut at the base of your skull, where the soft tissue is. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, with the option to move back and forth over the ball.
Lacrosse ball massage for the shoulders
According to Tatta, a lot of people have tension or tightness in their supraspinatus muscle, which is just above the scapula, as well as the infraspinatus muscle, which is the lower part of the scapula. "Working on those two muscles is really important—those are the rotator cuff muscles," he explains. This will also target the upper trapezius, he notes.
Locate the muscle and lie down on your lacrosse ball, holding for 30 seconds to a minute and rolling around gently, if it feels good.
McCullough adds that you can also target the subscapularis muscle, which is underneath the armpit, by lying on your side and placing the ball directly underneath the armpit, and working there.
Lacrosse ball massage for the back
A lot of people deal with back pain that stems from a tightened psoas, so McCullough recommends lying on your stomach with your ball (he notes a softball might be better here) just outside of your belly button on either side. "The psoas connects all the way up, and this is a great low-back release," he adds. Hold there, moving around back and forth gently, if it feels OK. (You can find more psoas stretches here.)
Lacrosse ball massage for the hips & hip flexors
Tatta tells mbg that a lot of people have stiff hips because they need to work on their rotators. You can target them under the gluteal muscles, working the upper, mid, and lower glutes area. He explains that you can do this either lying on your back or sitting on your lacrosse ball. Place the ball under the different gluteal muscles, taking some time to hold in different areas.
Lacrosse ball massage for the chest
To massage your pectoral muscles, including both the pec major and pec minor, Tatta suggests following your clavicle about two-thirds of the way out and slightly down. Lie down with the lacrosse ball directly on that spot and spread your arms out, then hold for 30 seconds to a minute.
Lacrosse ball massage for the glutes
If you've ever done a figure-4 stretch (crossing one ankle over the top of the opposite thigh), you can incorporate a lacrosse ball for a deep release, according to McCullough. Lie back with the right gluteus medius on the lacrosse ball (where the top of the buttocks meets the hip), and cross the right ankle over the left thigh. "Lean into that the leg that's crossed, and that will help to release a lot of low-back pain," he adds.
Lacrosse ball massage for the feet
And lastly, our feet put in a lot of work for us, so they deserve some relief, too. It couldn't be easier to massage out your feet with a lacrosse ball—simply roll your foot on top of it. Tatta does note, however, that feet can be really tender, so he recommends people start doing this seated so you can modify how much weight you place on it. "And from there you can move to a standing position," he adds.
Recruiting a lacrosse ball for massaging different parts of the body is a convenient and effective way to relieve tightness and stiffness, plus offer the body and nervous system some relaxation. While it's certainly not a cure-all and should be paired with other beneficial practices and treatments, it is an accessible and easy massage method.
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Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.