The Therapeutic Benefits of Balls and Rollers

Therapy balls and rollers offer many of the benefits of bodywork, but with the accessibility of a self-care practice and classes. Bodywork and massage therapy has a long list of benefits for overall health, pain management, athletic performance, and immune function. Sessions are one on one and highly individualized to each client’s body and what will best support their health.

Not everyone is able to receive bodywork or massage as often as their body needs it, though. A reasonable health maintenance schedule for bodywork is once every 2 or 4 weeks, and busy schedules and finances can make that difficult for everyone to access. That’s where the balls and rollers come in! With a grippy texture and firm (but not hard) to the touch, they can support health in many of the same ways bodywork does.

The ball or roller is able to mimic what the therapist does with their hands and feet, using slow, firm pressure to create length and hydration. They can address pressure points, lengthen fascia, relax muscle tension, and rehydrate tissues. Classes can get anyone started with these tools, as a trained teacher leads students through proper techniques and teaches them what to notice. Each student needs to learn the difference between sensations that create health, and pain that does damage.

Coming to class is an important part of dedicating regular self-care time and establishing good practices. Once you have these pieces, you can then begin to integrate balls and rollers into your own self-care practice at home. Self treatments like releasing the IT band after each long run or addressing pressure points on the hands to relax head and neck tension after a day on the computer, can go a long way to maintaining a daily sense of ease and vitality. This also allows classes and bodywork and massage sessions to become more effective as they can spend more time addressing root causes of discomfort.

At Ha.Lé, discovering the therapeutic use of balls and rollers was an Aha! moment for us. We had tried for years to figure out a way for clients to continue their treatments off the massage table. Yoga is a great complement to bodywork, but it does not work with the body in the same way. Adding therapeutic balls and rollers completes the care students receive in movement and yoga classes, and all of our teachers are encouraged to integrate all of our tools into their classes. We wholeheartedly encourage clients to come to class in order to support and maintain the specialized bodywork they receive on the table.

How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a health and wellness practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, regulate the pain signals, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork or acupuncture every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

 

A Note on Mental Health care:

These same protocols can also be applied to mental and emotional health. Psychotherapy sessions for high distress, medium distress, chronic distress, and mental health maintenance often follow the same frequency guidelines as the pain levels, since mental and emotional distress is a form of pain. Coming to classes provides valuable support for regulating mood, reducing the physical symptoms of mental and emotional stress, and releasing emotional energy that is stored in the body. Adding bodywork and/or acupuncture to your treatment plan can treat imbalances that may be contributing to distress and help boost a sense of overall wellbeing.

Crackle and Pop: Knees and other Joints

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make other interesting sounds. This can be alarming, causing worry about the health of the joint and whether the sounds are a sign of something serious.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just making painless sounds or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Focus on Feeling Better: Therapeutic Movement

Our bodies are made to move. Deep biological processes in the organs, tissues, and nervous system are based on a foundation of physical movement and activity. This is why therapeutic movement can have such profound health and healing effects; the right kinds of movement can restore function and health at their root.

Therapeutic Movement classes like we offer at HaLé are designed to work for a wide range of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. On a physical level, they:

  • Increase circulation
  • Increase bone density
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Release tension
  • Reduce pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve balance

In addition to these physical benefits, therapeutic movement also provides significant mental health support. Classes can increase mental clarity, reduce anxiety, and stabilize mood, all through treatment of the central nervous system and lowered levels of stress hormones. By further incorporating mindfulness practice and body awareness into therapeutic movement, the mind-body connection is strengthened, boosting the stress and pain management benefits.

Practicing therapeutic movement is a wonderful way to care for yourself. Coming to class provides the additional benefits of activating mirror neurons and social wiring in the brain to deepen your practice, even as they provide a container of dedicated time for self-care.

One of the keys to feeling better in your body and mind is to incorporate nourishing movement into your routine. If you only do one thing at HaLé, we encourage you to come to class. Come every day, come once a week, come to any and every class that works for your schedule. Make a practice to come as often as you can, since the benefits layer and build over time.

Replenish Your Capacity to Give

Being generous brings joy and improves our overall health. However, our capacity to give can become depleted by stress, high expectations, and reduced feelings of empathy. In other words, we can feel so distressed that it becomes more difficult to connect with the joy of giving.

Being generous is a proven benefit to our health. It activates positive feedback loops in the brain that in turn can increase longevity, improve heart health, and release oxytocin, the happy trust hormone. However, it is not the size of the gift that brings these benefits, but our ability to connect with the people we are giving to, and to feel for ourselves the joy or support that gift brings them.

Our ability to feel that sense of connection and empathy is reduced by stress. Compassion fatigue, which happens when we care about others to the point that our ability to care becomes depleted, often contributes to a loss of empathy. Other causes include personal trauma, high anxiety or depression, and physical pain.

Reducing stress levels through self-care and pain management is an effective way to restore empathy and open-heartedness. Bodywork and acupuncture both help reset the nervous system away from fight or flight stress responses, even as they treat specific dysfunctions or imbalances. Therapeutic movement classes like HaLé Yoga and MELT help release stress that has become stuck in the body, rebalancing and resetting the nervous system. Psychotherapy and counseling help integrate body and mind, creating space for health.

Treating stress through self-care replenishes the body’s resources for connection with others. This allows us to more fully empathize with others, restoring our capacity to give and to experience the joys of generosity. At HaLé we encourage you to both take time for your own self-care, and to give that gift to others who also need a little replenishing.

Community Support for Self-Care

At HaLé, we encourage everyone to come to class. Our classes are designed to work for a wide variety of bodies, ages, and experience levels. They are all therapeutic and mindfulness-based, which means they help create health, reduce stress, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. They can also provide a powerful sense of community connection and support.

There is tremendous benefit in having a community with you as you practice. The human nervous system is wired for social interaction. When we watch another person do something, mirror neurons in our brains fire as if we are doing it ourselves. This not only helps us improve our own practice, but it boosts the effectiveness, as our minds amplify the benefits.

Learning and practicing self-care with others creates a positive interdependence. This builds trust, boosts motivation, and facilitates learning. It also reduces anxiety and stress levels because you are caring for yourself in a safe, welcoming group. Coming to class then becomes a way to support mental and emotional health and self-esteem.

Practicing in community is also a way to deepen and extend your self-care to get the most benefit. Because self-care happens at the intersection of expert tools and dedicated time, it is often marketed as a product you can buy and do at home. However, spending the time is more important than buying the tool. For best results, come to class and spend an hour taking care of yourself, with whichever set of tools and class description works for you.

When we practice in community, it uses the social wiring of our nervous system to deepen our benefits, dedicate more time, and care for ourselves more deeply. Come to class, any class, as often as possible. The community support boosts the benefit of the practice itself, creating a sense of deep health and wellbeing.

Treatments for Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a painful and sometimes severe condition where nerve damage causes pain, tingling, and numbness from affected sensory nerves, and lack of coordination or control in motor nerves. It can be caused by cancer treatment medications, high blood sugar levels, and other conditions, and is most common in the feet and legs. Effective treatment calms the nerves and restores blood and oxygen flow so that the damage can heal.

Acupuncture is one of the most effective treatments for neuropathy, with an over 75% success rate after a course of 4 or 5 weekly treatments. Most people maintain their improvements unless the condition is caused by medication they are still taking. The treatments work to improve nerve conduction and reduce the stagnation of energy in the limbs, restoring balance to the flow of the body.

Bodywork and massage treat neuropathy by focusing on restoring blood circulation to the small vessels that provide oxygen to the nerves in the feet and hands. Without enough oxygen, the nerves malfunction and send signals of pain, tingling, burning, and numbness. Treatments need to be at least 60 min once/week and focus on working as deeply as is comfortable, with the goal of eventually flushing all the stagnant blood out of the tissue. It is also important to do at least 15 min a day of self-massage and range of motion exercises at home to support the detailed work of the treatments and continue to make progress.

Therapeutic movement classes, like yoga and tai chi, strengthen the communication between nerves and brain and also help treat neuropathy. Opening up the front of the body increases oxygenation and improves blood circulation, helping to nourish the affected nerves. Classes also are generally calming to the nervous system, which helps ease the pain symptoms. Regular classes, especially when taken along with other treatments, help keep the pain from getting worse and support the healing process.

Neuropathy is an often painful condition that can be treated, and acupuncture, bodywork and massage, and movement classes like yoga and tai chi all help reduce pain, increase circulation, and support healing for damaged nerves. Because nerve pain is often due to a lack of oxygen, increasing blood flow can go a long way toward easing symptoms and creating health.

How to Think More Clearly

Mental clarity and general brain function can be affected by depression, disease, dysfunction, and general aging. Symptoms can include brain fog, frequent inability to think of the right word, forgetfulness, insomnia, and chronic restlessness. There are many ways to boost clarity of thought and brain health at HaLé, including treatment through acupuncture, bodywork, and classes.

Acupuncture approaches mental clarity by improving flow to the brain, which then helps to regulate information processing and response to stimuli. By significantly improving cerebral glucose metabolism of the brain, acupuncture can improve memory, concentration, and cognitive function. Thus far, all studies that have looked at how acupuncture affects mental performance, ranging from studies on dementia to college exam performance, have produced positive results.

Bodywork and massage also help with mental clarity, especially since tight neck and shoulder muscles can limit circulation to the brain. Sessions help to activate the left side of the brain, which boosts motivation, and they alleviate the mental block of stress, which frees up energy for creative thinking and completing tasks. Bodywork has also been shown to have a cumulative effect on improving memory, increasing awareness, and heightening alertness.

Therapeutic movement classes like yoga, tai chi, and MELT Method are also helpful for improving clarity of thought because of their blend of physical activity and mindfulness practice. Movement classes are shown to increase the levels of various biochemicals in the muscles and brain that are associated with improved brain health. Because they also incorporate mindfulness, they have been shown to be more effective than aerobic exercise alone for helping the brain focus, process information, and remember details. They provide positive stimulation of the brain, which supports optimal brain function and helps you stay alert and sharp.

Mental clarity and brain function is an aspect of health that can be supported and addressed, just like any other health issue. Whether your concerns are due to aging, medication, or other causes, it is possible to create and maintain brain health for improved function and clearer thinking.

Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are common, and are caused by complex interactions of brain chemistry, stress hormones, genetics, and other factors. The CDC recommends a collaborative approach, including primary care providers, mental health specialists, and other providers. HaLé treatments offer substantial support and mood regulation to complement medical care.

Bodywork and massage lower stress hormones by up to 50%, and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are mood stabilizers. Sessions provide safe, nurturing touch, which makes space for you to relax, refocus, and find clarity. The effects are also cumulative. The first session can significantly reduce anxiety, and a series of sessions can provide reductions that are twice as large.

Acupuncture is a treatment that works to rebalance the systems of the body, and mood disorders are usually symptoms of a deep and/or complex imbalance. It is proven to reduce stress hormones and boost mood stabilizers, and sessions can have a more immediate effect than many medications.

Classes for therapeutic movement and self-care help to release endorphins, improve the connection between the body and mind, and lower stress hormones. They can also address the ways in which mood disorders can cause the body to curl forward in distress. Uncurling then allows the body to take deeper breaths, find its own internal support system, and feel energized.

Counseling provides one on one assessment and support for mood disorders. Walk and Talk sessions allow the body and mind to process while in motion, Mindfulness Coaching provides tools for cultivating awareness and perspective, and Ayurvedic Nutritional Counseling can help address constitutional imbalances.

Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are complex issues that affect the whole body and mind. Treatment that addresses whole system imbalances and brings the body back into a state of rest and healing can help stabilize mood and promote a general sense of wellbeing.

Diabetes Support

Diabetes is a stressful and common condition that requires constant management. It puts tremendous strain on the physical body, and elevates mental and emotional stress levels. Creating health and support for diabetes means treating the body systems that are under strain and reducing overall stress levels so that you can switch the nervous system out of fight or flight mode and into rest and repair mode.

Bodywork and massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, which brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues and boosts insulin uptake. It also calms the nervous system, helping to turn off the alarms, and is effective at treating the stiffness and mobility issues caused by high blood sugar levels.

Mindfulness practice helps to both lower blood sugar levels and to better self-manage diabetes. In one study, 16 weeks of practice improved mood, lowered stress, addressed sleep issues, and decreased fasting blood sugar levels.

Therapeutic Movement classes like yoga provide the physical activity needed to increase circulation, especially to the arms and legs, where people with diabetes most have issues. Regular physical activity also helps the body improve its response to insulin, and helps directly lower blood sugar levels by reducing stress hormones in the body.

Acupuncture is able to reduce the nerve pain and neuropathy that can come from diabetes. It also helps to lower blood sugar levels, and to regulate the urge to eat too much, drink too much, and pee too often. Overall, it helps to rebalance and support the many physical systems under strain from diabetes.

The constant management of diabetes means that you are in an ongoing conversation with your body about its health status on a daily basis. There are ways to have that conversation and to reduce the strain and stress of this condition through health care that also increases your overall sense of wellbeing and supports your whole self. All of these therapies, including bodywork, mindfulness, therapeutic movement classes, and acupuncture, work with the care of your doctor to improve health and quality of life.

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