Pop quiz time! What round object is described as “…shall be white, yellow or orange solid rubber between 7 3/4 and 8 inches in circumference, between 5 and 5 1/2 ounces in weight and when dropped from a height of 72 inches upon concrete floor, shall bounce 43 to 51 inches at a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.” If you guessed Lacrosse ball, you’d be correct! Yep, a ball that is used worldwide for the sport of lacrosse and more recently has been used for self-massage requires size and bounce-ability as specifications. I couldn’t find anything about the specifications of the lacrosse ball for self-massage on human tissue, but that’s probably because it wasn’t designed for that.So how did it become the go-to tool used by tons of people? While I am sure we can’t place responsibility in the lap of one person, I do know that Kelly Starret of MobilityWOD.com has lauded the availability of Lacrosse balls as the reason to use them. They’re cheap and easy to come by, so go ahead and use them to massage all your knottiest bits. He even admits in some of his videos that they’re not perfect but will get the job done.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my body, I don’t want to just get by. I want to be sure that the technique and tool I am using is going to be effective with the minimum dose. Can you imagine if you bought tires for your car (and let’s pretend you have a Maserati) based on how cheap they were? “Yep, those white ones. How much? $4? Great, I’ll take ‘em!”
More is not more. I’ve heard and read countless stories of people’s experiences rolling on lacrosse balls and it usually includes “hurts” as descriptors. Here’s a blogger describing his first time on lacrosse balls:
“This was probably the most unpleasant physical therapy I have ever put my body through. Well, my enthusiasm for the “Magic Ball” quickly faded away when I quickly realised [sic] that rolling my body on it was turning out be a hell of a torture. I encountered spots in my upper traps that had me close to screaming out loud because of pain.”
Or the personal trainer who exclusively uses lacrosse balls with their clients because they only have 5 minutes at the start of a session to warm up a, so naturally, the ball that inflicts the most amount of pain and discomfort must be the best to do the job.
Of course I am biased towards Yoga Tune Up Balls. I’ve also tried other tools and rollers, but YTU balls work. The YTU Balls were designed and tested on human bodies. Not lacrosse sticks. Not by bounce factor. They don’t just work on your feet but they work on your entire body and are able to sneak in to every nook and cranny. They shouldn’t leave you crying and sweating on the floor at the end of your session but chances are they may uncover a load of hidden tension. Any body work that is so stressful or uncomfortable that you can’t take a full belly breath is too much. What’s the point of self-care if you’re traumatizing your body into submission at the same time?
Using Lacrosse balls for self-massage feeds back into this idea of “no pain, no gain” – if it is not exceedingly painful then it must not be doing anything. This is simply not true. The latest studies on fascia and massage are finding that LESS IS MORE and that less stretch and compression of tissues can create greater change than more invasive techniques.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies in 2012 led by Leonid Blyum and Mark Driscoll found that loading tissue layers with a softer stress transfer medium (massage tool) allowed for a greater amount of stress to be distributed within the tissue. The softer the tool – the deeper and greater the work. Instead of blasting your way through knots and trigger points, what about using a tool that will not only facilitate but optimize the effects of massage into the tissues?
Do yourself and your clients a favor and stop rolling on Lacrosse balls. Seriously, throw them away (or use them for a game of Lacrosse) and start using a tool on your body that was designed for humans. Your body deserves it and your tissues knead it!
- December 5: Mobility for Performance: Bulletproof Shoulders (CrossFit SolCity, Hollywood CA)
- January 23-24: The Roll Model® Method Weekend (Evolve Yoga, Anchorage AK)
- February 5-7: YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training (Black Dog Yoga, Sherman Oaks, CA)
- March 12: The Roll Model® Method: The Science of Rolling (CrossFit SolCity, Hollywood CA)