From time to time, we all suffer from muscle pain. Maybe you overdid it at the gym or sat for too long at your desk without taking a break. Now you’ve got a tight lower back or a shoulder that aches whenever you move it. The good news is that you don’t need to head right to the doctor or chiropractor! You don’t even need to take time out to schedule with the massage therapist. You can help relieve those painful muscles by using a massage ball. In this guide, we’ll tell you all you need to know about finding and using the best massage ball.
What is a Massage Ball?
If you’ve never used a massage ball, you’re in for a treat because they feel great. You place the ball under your back, shoulder, leg, or whatever area hurts, and roll your muscle back and forth over the top of it, providing a wonderful massage. It’s like having your very own massage therapist right at home. Small and convenient to use, they allow you to enjoy the benefits of a massage anytime and anywhere.
There are so many massage balls on the market that it’s easy to find the best massage ball for your particular pain and body type. Searching the internet for the best massage ball can get overwhelming pretty fast because there are so many out there. What do all of the different shapes and sizes mean for your muscles? Do you want a smooth massage ball or one with spikes, nubs, or texture? Is a hard one better, or a softer one? How do you know a specific massage ball will hold up to repeated massages? First of all, let’s start with some basic info to help guide you in your selection.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Massage Ball
The great thing about using a massage ball is that you control your entire massage. With a massage therapist, you may tell them to be gentle because you’re really sore and end up gritting your teeth through a painful, deep tissue massage. Or perhaps you really need an extremely intense trigger point massage and your massage therapist doesn’t know how to work your muscles that deeply? When you use a massage ball, you don’t have to worry about any of this. You choose the area that will be massaged and by controlling how hard you press down on the ball, you can customize the amount of pressure that is applied to your muscle.
Another great thing is that because they’re easy to use by yourself, you can have a massage for as long as you want, anytime. There’s no need to harangue someone to rub your shoulders or back—only to get frustrated when they stop massaging after thirty seconds. Simply get out your massage ball and get relief. You can massage as long as you like!
What’s more—you also can control your massage by researching and choosing the best massage ball to suit your needs. All massage balls are not created equal. Here are a few things to know.
- Massage Balls Come In Different Sizes
Since massage balls range from very small to rather large, you’ll need to consider the body part you wish to massage. Use the smallest massage balls to work on your feet or to give your hands a much-needed massage. Medium-sized massage balls are great for working on your neck, legs, and back. The largest balls work well for your shoulders and chest.
- They Come in a Variety of Weights, Too
Why does weight matter? Because a lighter ball will roll more easily as you move your muscle over it. If you want a ball to stay put during your massage, look for a denser, heavier ball. One quick way to sort out the lightweights from the heavyweights is knowing that solid massage balls tend to be heavier than ones that have a hollow core.
- Custom Shapes Provide the Best Massage Ball Experience
You can choose massage balls of differing sizes and weights. As if that’s not enough, you can also pick massage balls in a variety of shapes. Smooth balls roll very easily as you move, providing long, smooth massage strokes. Meanwhile, massage balls with nubs and protrusions will roll less easily and dig in to your muscle more. While that might sound like a negative, those nubs are actually quite useful. If you get a ball with nubs, you might not even need to roll it around to get relief. You can press an aching muscle on it and use a nub to target specific trigger points.
If you do go with a ball that’s perfectly round, make sure it’s not so smoothly-textured that it shoots out from underneath you when you try to use it for a massage. The best massage ball will have enough texture that it can grip your clothing (or skin), as well as the surface underneath it. Many of the seemingly-smooth lacrosse-style balls are actually subtly textured so they stay perfectly in place as you use them.
- Hard or Soft?
There are many other factors to consider when choosing the best massage ball, and these things are all up to personal preference. If you have an injury or muscles that tend to be extremely achy (from a condition such as fibromyalgia), you may want to consider a softer massage ball. This will provide a more gentle massage. For a more intense massage, go with a harder ball. There’s nothing worse than having sore muscles and not being able to use your massage ball at all because it’s so hard that it is unbearable. On the other end of the spectrum, if you need a deep, trigger point-style massage, a softer massage ball is going to leave you feeling disappointed and still sore.
Best 10 Massage Balls on the Market
Wow! That’s a lot to consider. In addition to all of these choices, each manufacturer and individual massage ball has a variety of factors that make them different, so let’s look at some of the most popular massage balls and discuss what’s good—and not so good—about each of them. Here we go!
This nifty little green ball is great for small muscles like the ones in your hands and feet, but you can use it anywhere on your body. You can pop it in your purse or gym bag and take it pretty much anywhere for a massage on the go. The size also makes it particularly useful for targeting specific acupressure points. The tiny nubs on it give it a nice grip to keep it in place. If you have plantar faciitis, a painful condition of the tissue in the feet, the Due North Foot Rubz can help provide relief. Simply place it in the middle of your foot and roll it back and forth along the length of your foot in order to loosen and release the muscles and tissue that are inflamed.
-Small and easily portable
-Great for acupressure
-Nubs provide texture for grip
Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)
-Some feel this ball is too hard
-Texture causes it to collect lint and debris
-Nubs can fall off with repeated use
When reading through reviews to find the best massage ball, you’ll note that many people rave about using lacrosse balls to work their tired or sore muscles. While this IS an actual lacrosse ball, most of the reviews of it talk about how amazing it is when used for massage! This Champion Sports Lacrosse Ball is the perfect size to work large muscles in your back and gluteal muscles. It’s made of a sturdy rubber, so it can really get in there and attack inflamed trigger points. Because this ball has no grip or texture on it, reviewers suggest putting it inside a sock so that it doesn’t slide away.
-Sturdy and hard for intense massage
-Great for trigger point massage
-Perfect for upper/lower back, buttocks
Our Rating: (5 / 5)
-Slick texture causes it to slide around
-Not great for neck/shoulders
-Strong odor from the rubber is a turnoff to many users
This spiky, silver little ball looks like a space-age wonder. It’s so small that it will fit in the palm of your hand, making it easy to take anywhere. The small shape also makes it the perfect massage tool for your hands and feet. It’s spiky and strong. The spikes help really dig into muscles, giving them the ultimate massage. They also give this massage ball a fantastic grip, keeping it in place throughout the massage. Use it to relieve plantar fasciitis, for a deep tissue massage, or to go after nasty trigger points throughout your body. Many people complain of not being able to find a massage ball that’s firm enough to suit their needs. This one is firm enough to stand up to the toughest massage.
-Great for plantar fasciitis and trigger points
-Small and portable
-Lifetime manufacturer’s warranty
Our Rating: (4.6 / 5)
-Spikes can be painful, especially on bare feet
These are a bit different than the other massage balls we’ve reviewed. These Massage Ball Rollers come with handles that you grip in order to roll the ball over muscles that need to be targeted. This kind of roller is the best massage ball for people who are elderly, injured, and who have difficulty laying down on a massage ball in order to work their muscles. Because you don’t have to lay down or rub up against a wall in order to use them, you can enjoy a massage anywhere—even on a train ride or while sitting at your desk. While these rollers are great for massaging your arms, legs, chest, and easily accessible muscles on your back, it can be hard to reach and apply pressure to hard-to-reach back muscles. If you want a deeper, more intense massage or need to work muscles that aren’t easy to reach, ask someone else to use them on you so that they can apply more pressure.
-Easy to use if you have trouble laying on a round massage ball
-Grips are large and easily held, even for arthritis sufferers
-Use them anywhere, anytime
Our Rating: (4.6 / 5)
-Tough to get an intense massage when using these by yourself
-Ball sinks into grip, creating even less pressure
-Edge of grip where it meets ball is rough and uncomfortable
Because we have so many different muscles in our bodies and have different conditions going on with them at different times, it’s a really good idea to own a few different massage balls. Your back, for instance, might be injured one day, requiring a light, gentle massage. A week later, it might simply feel a bit sore and you’ll wish for a deeper massage. This excellent combo pack gives you the best of all worlds. In it, you’ll receive one lacrosse ball, one soft, spiky massage ball, and one hard, spiky massage ball. If you’re not sure which ball to use where, the manufacturers provide access to their online guide with tips on how to get the best massage out of each ball. Purchasing this set certainly beats buying a series of massage balls individually or purchasing a single one only to discover that it’s much too soft or too hard.
-Balls are sturdy and well-made
-Lacrosse ball is wonderful for deep tissue work
-Rubber won’t mark up walls during stand-up massages
Our Rating: (4.7 / 5)
-Spikes are sticky; can tangle in hair
-Soft, spiky ball is VERY soft
Why use one massage ball when you can use two? These Mandala Yoga Massage Balls are great to use during your yoga workout, rolling the balls over muscles to massage and stretch them as you run through your poses. They’re also small enough to be perfect for trigger point massage, as they can press hard into muscles in order to reach those tricky, achy areas. Because they’re made of dense rubber, they’re firm enough to give you the kind of massage you need, whether it’s a light prenatal massage (simply ease up on the pressure and roll gently!) or a hard, deep tissue massage (press down harder on the balls!).
-Small enough for foot or trigger point massages
-Easy to use
-Great for use on back, shoulders—virtually anywhere!
Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)
-Very similar to basic lacrosse balls
-Some users feel they are too firm
-No instructions included for beginners
And why use two massage balls when you can have THREE? This great muscle roller ball set includes three, firm, lacrosse-style balls that are excellent for deep tissue and trigger point massage. They’re small, firm, and they’re meant for use on your entire body. The balls included in this set are basic massage balls without any spikes or nubs on them and are small enough to take them with you anywhere you go. All three balls are the same size, weight, and level of firmness.
-Breath easy! No bad odor
-Free carry case comes with balls
-Durable and strong
-Includes a workout guide
Our Rating: (4.8 / 5)
-All 3 balls are exactly the same
-No instructions included
The manufacturers of these balls joke (or maybe they’re serious?) that these balls are great for lacrosse practice. With this set of 2 massage balls, you get two lacrosse-sized balls that are firm enough to perform trigger point therapy on your tired, tight, sore muscles. Use them on your back, arms, legs, shoulders and neck. They’re made out of solid, 100% solid rubber, so there’s no give to these balls when you push them to the max during an intense massage. They also meet—I guess they weren’t kidding about that lacrosse practice—NCAA and NOCSAE specifications and standards. After you get done using this ball on the field, you can ease your tired muscles with a massage.
-Firmness makes them great for trigger points
-Great size to massage a variety of muscles
-High quality; holds up to repeated use
-Excellent for using to play lacrosse
Our Rating: (4.9 / 5)
-No instructions included
The Pro-Tec Athletics The Orb is one of the coolest-looking massage balls we have reviewed. This particular model is a deep blue color. The Orb is 5” in diameter, making it a bit larger than some of the other massage balls on our list. Larger massage balls are better for larger muscles, so this one is perfect for muscles in your upper legs, back, chest, and shoulders. It’s high-density, making it perfect for more aggressive deep tissue and trigger point massages. In addition to the color, what sheets this ball apart are the tiny nubs that cover it. Now, the nubs on this ball are too small to use them individually to target trigger points. They still have a purpose, however, as they provide a great texture to provide a firm grip and keep the ball in place as you work through your massage.
-Includes a product manual
-Nubby texture keeps ball from sliding out
-Size makes it easy to roll on
Our Rating: (4.4 / 5)
-Rather large to use on smaller muscles such as those in the neck
-Some users report that their Orb fell apart after a short time
Additional Information to Keep in Mind as You Use Your Massage Ball
Now that you have enough information to choose the best massage ball, here are a few tips to get you started when you use it. As with any new exercise, health, or massage program, start slowly and listen to your body. While certain types of massage (such as deep tissue and trigger point) are supposed to hurt, stop anything that feels unbearably painful.
Customize Your Intensity
Even if two people are using the exact same massage ball, massages with these little devices aren’t one-size-fits all! Lay on the floor and use it for an intense massage, or for a lighter treatment, stand up and use the wall, instead. Wall massages will give you a lot more control over your massage since you’re not putting your full weight on the ball and can more easily lighten up if things get painful.
How Can I Find Trigger Points?
Trigger points are tight little knots in your muscles that can hurt pretty badly. Even worse—they can refer pain to other parts of your body. Trigger points in your hips can radiate pain down your legs. Trigger points in your shoulders can radiate down into your arms. So how do you find these little spots? It’s easier than you think; all you have to do is roll the massage ball around on a muscle until you find a tiny knot that really hurts. It will probably hurt right in that area, but it may also send pain shooting elsewhere. Take a deep breath and try to work that spot in order to release that knot. You may have to take several passes at it in order to get it to loosen. If it’s still tight after working it for a few minutes, move on and try again later in the day or the next day. we also heavily discussed trigger points on our foam rollers reviews post. Foam rollers can help you achieve the same results with a slight change in technique
How to use a massage ball
Take Care of Yourself After a Massage.
Remember to drink lots of water after every massage. You can apply heat to sore muscles to loosen them before a massage or to soothe them after a massage. Don’t forget to gently stretch out your muscles and move them around after you massage them in order to stimulate blood flow and promote healing.
That’s it! Use your new massage ball every day. With proper use and patience, you’ll be feeling better in no time!