It's taken me a while to get to it, but it's time to discuss ball rolling. (It's ok if you laugh). No, I don't mean using a foam roller and I don't mean tennis balls, but I mean rolling areas on tension and discomfort out on dense rubber balls intend to bring some relief.
There are many kinds of tools at your disposal, actually, from dense lacrosse balls to small inflatable spheres, squishy foam rollers, vibrating balls, and more. and it can be difficult to figure out where to start.
Why are you telling me to do this?
Let's start with some questions: If you could have someone massage the big knots at the top of your trapezius every night, would you do it? When's the last time someone dug into your glutes in a massage? How's your IT band feel these days? Do you have neck pain or a tight jaw? Do you wear elevated heel shoes and have sore feet? Back pain? Knee pain? One sided shoulder issues?
Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Then rolling is for you! Without going super in-depth into fascia, adhesions, and knots (which i will definitely do another time), rolling out tissues can prepare your body for movement, rehydrate tissue, improve circulation, and create generally a better relationship in your myofascia. (Remember that early post about muscles/fascia/etc?) I wish musicians could have more regular bodywork sessions, similar to professional athletes, but we unfortunately don't get that treatment at a low cost. Ball-rolling is an amazing way to keep that change in your tissues on a daily basis after rigorous practice.
Brooke Thomas, a rolfer, wellness lady and movement maven, goes through some of the benefits of foam roller vs. rubber balls vs. lacrosse balls here at Breaking Muscle, so give that a look. I started my rolling experience on lacrosse balls and then moved to Yoga Tune Up® balls, and am now a YTU® teacher, so I may be biased, but I do believe that rolling in general is terrific, and softer implements are generally better.
Here are some reasons to roll:
-You control your own roll-out experience, spending as much or as little time and pressure on areas as you see fit.
-Portable and affordable!
-More specific than a foam roller.
-Rolling is a great way to continue feeling good after a massage, rolfing session, yoga class, etc, or to prepare the body for a specific task.
-Rolling is great way to recover from some overuse and tension.
Rolling can temporarily change how you feel, but you also have to address the ways you move, practice, or live your daily life to see long term change. This also means that you may need to strengthen areas of weakness rather than always rolling! Rolling is just one of many tools in a recovery and self-care toolbox, and can help you down regulate your nervous system or increase your proprioception, but other changes are also necessary if you have a nagging pain in your hip, shoulder, or back. (And as always, rolling is not a substitute for medical advice! I’ve had students come in with a pathology expecting to be fixed, and if something is seriously amiss in your tissues, rolling is not always the answer.)
Are you ready to get started? Here's a video that tackles the perpetual knots in the upper back, what I like to call the Trapezius Armadillo. (Violinist/violists have huge knots on the left side!)