Self massage is a great tool to help decrease pain, but speaking of tools – there are many of them out there and it can be tricky to know which ones are worth using. So, I’m excited to share with you what are, in my experience as a massage therapist, the best self massage tools to help decrease pain, increase fitness recovery and performance, and just make you feel ahhhhhh-mazing.
I love a good massage and I’ve had quite a few. Sometimes I want to go back to school just to get the hours of massages from my classmates again! Although nothing beats lying on the massage table and letting the therapist work all the kinks and knots out of your muscles, truth is, I know many people don’t go to massage therapists on a regular basis, if at all.
Self massage tools are super useful in this case, and are also helpful to maintain the benefits of massage between appointments for the person who does go to a therapist, as well as massage therapists since they need relief too. And the best part is that they can be used at any moment in the comfort of your own home – no appointment necessary!
Self massage can help with the everyday aches and pains brought on by stress, tension, and poor posture or stressful work positions. It’s also beneficial to maintain flexibility and faster muscle recovery during and after fitness routines and highly valuable for athletes. Massage tools can be used over clothing and kept in your car, at work, and in your gym bag or travel bag.
What to Expect When Using Self Massage Tools
Sorry folks, hate to break it to you but massage doesn’t come without a certain degree of pain :( unless it’s what I call a “fluffy massage” – the truth is there’s a measure of pain that comes with working those knots and kinks out. In the world of massage there is the general consensus that if there isn’t a “comfortable amount of discomfort”, or what many of us refer as “a good pain”, it’s likely the knots aren’t getting worked out. It’s no different with self massage tools.
But hunker down because there are brighter moments ahead once those sore and hot spots known as trigger points get worked out. That oh soooo good feeling after the release is the best. “No pain, no gain” right? BTW, this video explains exactly what trigger points are.
Applying gentle sustained pressure to connective tissue using self massage tools is a safe and very effective hands-on technique for myofascial release to eliminate pain and restore motion. And the nice thing is that they don’t require any experience or special skills to use. With clear instructions you can become a self massage pro in no time, equipped with the skills and tools to heal those aches and pains when they show up.
As you read through the descriptions of tools, think about which parts of your body are frequently sore and tight and choose a tool accordingly. For example if your #1 issue is a stiff neck or tension headaches, the Trigger Point Twin Block or Still Point are your go-to’s. But if your lower back, hip flexors or other muscles of the lower body are frequently sore or tight, the foam roller or grid roller is for you, and so on.
Have a look and see what each of these tools offers and what speaks to you for getting into those tight, sore areas and releasing them. It’s going to make you feel really awesome!
Foam Roller or Grid Roller
- Low, mid and upper back
- Quads, hamstrings, IT bands, TFL, hips, gluts, calves
Foam rollers and grid rollers are my top pick for toning exercises, improving flexibility and fitness results, faster fitness recovery, injury prevention and recovery, pain and tension relief, and posture improvement.
You might have a love-hate relationship with it at first but let me tell you, foam rolling is the bomb-diggety! It works wonders by using your body weight to apply pressure to the fascia, massaging into your muscles as you roll over it. When you hit a spot that’s really tender, you stop there for 10-20 seconds allowing the nervous system to release the trigger point.
A 2-in-1 will give you both the soft roller for beginners and sensitive areas and the hard grid roller with ridges and grooves to get into tough spots – it’s nice to have the option to choose what works best for different muscles, especially since it changes over time as your body gets more used to rolling. You can get great results from rolling 2-3 times a week which I think is a good start, but after your body starts adjusting you can increase to as often as feels good to you.
This is an awesome tool for release of the TFL (tensor fascia lata) and IT band, both major muscles of the outer thigh that, when tight, are common muscles that develop myofascial trigger points which can be a major cause of unexplained hip pain in the case of the TFL (pain can be felt in the hip, groin, gluts, and down the leg) and knee pain in the case of the IT band.
I recently had a bout of painful sciatica and shin splints and was thrilled that one brief session of foam rolling was all it took to make the pain go away. Anything that can relieve shin splints is a total win in my book since I’ve suffered from them since I played sports as a kid and never found anything that totally relieved them, and certainly never had any sort of immediate relief like I experience with the foam roller.
Foam rollers and grid rollers are a must have for fitness peeps and those who do physical labor.
TriggerPoint Quad Baller, Foot Baller and Massage Ball Kit
- Quads, hamstrings, IT bands, TFL, hips, gluts, calves, shins
- Pecs, shoulders, triceps, forearms
The quad baller, foot baller and massage ball kit is geared toward fitness performance and athletes to improve flexibility, range of motion and tissue strength while addressing muscle tightness. It’s especially helpful for allowing you to release deeper trigger points in smaller hard to reach areas effectively. Each tool targets specific groups of muscles; quad baller for the large muscles of the upper legs.
Foot baller for the smaller muscles of the lower legs.
And massage balls for smaller muscles in the arms plus harder to reach targeted areas like deep muscles of the pecs, gluts, and hip flexors.
A must have for fitness peeps and athletes who want to take foam rolling to the next level. This kit is also highly effective to help with with symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Trigger Point Twin Block or Still Point Inducer
- Can also be used on shoulders, low, mid and upper back
The trigger point twin block or still point inducer are your best buddies if you carry tension in your neck, suffer from tension headaches, or sinus congestion. Gentle, effective and easy to use – just simply lay on the floor and place the tool under your neck at the base of the skull for a sub-occipital release. They can also be used on other tight areas like between your shoulder blades and lower back, for sciatica relief.
These tools are great if you have a stiff neck, tension headaches, congestion, and anxiety. It’s a great way to relax at the end of a long day and also to help get into meditation or just “bliss out.”
Thera Cane or Back Buddy
- Shoulders, neck and back
- Can also be used on hips, gluts, legs and arms
The thera cane and back buddy get into those knarly knots between your shoulder blades – you know the ones I’m talking about, you just want to dig your thumbs in and release them! The nodules work like a therapists thumbs or elbows do in deep tissue massage, by placing them directly on knots and applying a good amount of pressure until the tension releases.
If shoulder blade knots are what you’re going after these tools will get the job done most effectively.
A must have tool to add to your arsenal if you deal with knots, especially between your shoulder blades.
Rolling Stick (Massage Stick)
- Shins, calves and legs
- Neck and arms
The rolling stick (massage stick) is a versatile tool that can be used all over the body and small enough to get into areas that are difficult for the foam roller to reach. Instead of using your body weight to apply pressure to muscles you press this stick into your muscles with the amount of intensity you want.
The stick is extremely useful for calves and shins since you can manually apply more pressure than you can with a foam roller to these particular areas. It also allows for the flexibility of use while standing or sitting making it a great tool to take with and use virtually anywhere, especially at work so your coworkers won’t have to wonder why your lying on the floor!
The stick is a must have if you’re a runner, walk a lot, or are on your feet for long periods of time.
- Spine, back and neck
- Feet and hands
- Entire body, really
The Acuball combines acupressure with heat for effective pain relief. You heat it in the microwave for one minute before use and put it on the floor or against a wall and use your weight to roll around on trouble spots. There is a divet in the center without nubs, called the “spine align belt” which allows the ball to fit nicely around the spine and help to open spinal mobility and improve posture.
The mini works well on hands and feet and any other hard to reach areas.
The Acuball is a must have for chronic back and neck pain. Also if you suffer from arthritis in your hands, carpal tunnel or foot pain.
Foot wakers are pure reflexology bliss for your feet. Whether you’re on your feet all day, wear high heels, are a runner, dancer, cyclist…basically anyone who wears shoes – these are music to your feet. They can be used standing or sitting and help to increase circulation, foot flexibility, muscle tone, and strength. The effects will provide greater ease of movement in your knees, hips, and torso.
Foot wakers are a must have for anyone with sore feet and especially beneficial if you have plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes or fallen arches.
I honestly recommend all of these self massage tools – the benefits and relief are well worth the money. If you’re ready to kick your self care up a level by giving your muscles some love with myofascial release to relieve pain and restore motion, your body will not only thank you, but the feeling you will experience from this type of natural pain relief and overall well being is priceless.
Any thoughts or questions on these recommendations? Have you used any of these tools, if so what are your favorites?