Foam rollers and spiky balls – How do they work?

 

Foam rollers and spiky balls are used as self-massage tools which work on the myofascial system. They have become increasingly popular over the past few years, seen in many gyms and clinics, and are used to aid in injury prevention and recovery.

The primary use for your foam roller or spiky ball is to release tense or tight areas of muscle. This can improve flexibility and increase joint range of motion which is crucial in preventing injuries from occurring. They are also commonly used in recovery post-exercise to help alleviate DOMS, a feeling of muscle soreness many of us have experienced after a session at the gym!

How do I use a foam roller or spiky ball?

Both foam rollers and spiky balls help alleviate muscle tension through the use of your own body weight. They are thought to improve circulation and therefore oxygen delivery to muscles, hence why they are so useful for muscle recovery!

Tips for using your foam roller and spiky ball from Blackburn Osteopathy

  • Never use if you have recently injured yourself, have acute inflammation, or any bruising in the area.
  • While it is normal to experience some discomfort as the muscle releases, you should not experience pain during or after use. If so, you may need to ease off and use a lighter pressure, or try using a tennis ball instead. If you are still experiencing pain it is important to consult with your Blackburn Osteopath as there may be underlying issues which need to be addressed.
  • Most people find it easiest to foam roll and spiky ball while lying on the floor, however a spiky ball can also be used against a wall where you are able to control the amount of pressure more easily.
  • Breathe! Holding your breath can impair how much the muscle is able to relax. Make sure you continue to breathe throughout to fully release tension.

 

Which is better for me?

Both foam rollers and spiky balls are beneficial for different areas of the body. Foam rollers are typically used for larger muscle groups such as your quads and back, while spiky balls are great for those tricky to roll spots like underneath the foot and around the shoulder blade.

 

For those who want a more in-depth understanding of how these tools work, this is a great article with some really interesting research!

https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/foam-rolling-self-myofascial-release/#REF

Written by Blackburn Osteopathy Dr Nicole Tonkies