by Chelsea Henry
Therapy Balls are a great tool for self-care because they work with the body in ways that usually require a massage therapist. Using them to their full potential requires a certain understanding of the relevant anatomy that comes from a teacher or bodyworker, but it can also be fun just to listen to the body and play with what feels good.
The therapy balls themselves come in many shapes and sizes, though most are pliant, rubbery balls 6-10″ in diameter. The texture of the balls is grippy, which allows you to hook into the superficial fascia and work with the body’s connective tissue. This is especially useful when addressing dysfunction and injury.
The softness of the ball is important because it is less likely to impinge nerves, and because of how it interacts with the bone. A pliant ball is able to yield at bony prominences, which is just more comfortable in general, but it is also able to nestle in around the bone. This allows it to better address attachment and insertion sites, and to stimulate the bone itself from multiple angles, which may improve bone strength.
Therapy Ball self-treatments work specific muscles to release tension and increase performance. A foam roller treats the body as one large muscle. In contrast, Therapy Balls address the complexity of tissues under the skin, stretching in multiple directions. Conventional stretching lengthens muscles longitudinally, whereas balls can also provide transverse and diagonal expansion. This reduces the risk of injury and avoids circulatory compression.
Using the muscles as a road map to the body, Therapy Ball self-treatments feel wonderful. Many students say they feel like they just received a great massage by the time they are done with class. They have released tightness and improved range of motion, as well as addressing structural issues that can lead to chronic conditions.