“Self-massage has been gaining popularity—it’s a great, inexpensive way of taking care of your body,” says R. Alexandra Duma, DC, DACBSP, a sports chiropractor for Team USA who practices out of FICS in New York City. “Our musculoskeletal system is linked together by a highway of connective tissue called fascia. Fascia surrounds every muscle and organ, and it links muscles from the bottom of our feet to the top of our skull, so it’s fairly important to take care of.”
Dr. Duma says self-muscle work—aka myofascial release—is a simple and effective way to aid in post-workout recovery, reduce stiffness, and maintain normal muscle function and range of motion. And if you’re looking for that sweet, sweet relief, you can get it immediately by using the best massaging devices, according to experts.
The 7 best massaging devices to use from head to toe
What it’s best for: hamstrings, quads, calves, mid-back
The classic foam roller is beloved among Dr. Duma’s athletes, and it’s especially great at increasing flexibility and reducing soreness. “Foam rollers vary in density, with some being quite firm and some on the softer side. The density of the foam roller can be done gradually, from a softer to a firm one, and can be dependent on your ability to tolerate pain and introduction to rolling,” she says. “If you work out, you should use a foam roller at least a few days a week. This option is my top choice when I’m going over safe foam-rolling techniques with my patients.”
2. percussion massager: THERAGUN LIV PERCUSSIVE MASSAGER, $249
What it’s best for: neck, back, glutes, and anywhere you’re sore
You’ve probably heard of the Theragun hundreds of times by now, and for good reason—it’s amazing. “The vibration and force produced by these devices have a variety of benefits, including pain relief, increased range of motion, reduced muscle stiffness and soreness, and a faster recovery time from workouts,” Dr. Duma says. “They involve a bit of investment, but are gaining popularity and many options are available. The Theragun remains my choice at FICS to loosen up muscles before an adjustment, but The Hypervolt ($319) is also a favorite.”
Here’s exactly how to use the Theragun:
3. Tennis ball: WILSON PRIME ALL COURT TENNIS BALLS, $6 for 3
What it’s best for: neck
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your massage device. Michelle Ebbin, touch therapy expert and spokesperson for on-demand massage service Soothe, says you can simply grab a tennis ball. To get a great massage, lie on a hard floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Then place the tennis ball under your neck, right where you can feel tension. Spend a few minutes allowing the weight of your neck and head to fall onto the ball, slowly and gently rocking your body back and forth, which allows the ball to massage the muscles in your neck and release any tension.
4. Mobility balls: ROCKTAPE MOBILITY ROCKBALLS, $25
What it’s best for: pecs, glutes, traps, abs, feet
Instead of covering a large area like a foam roller does, Dr. Duma says these balls allow for a more targeted approach to muscle relief. “They can get into smaller muscles like your pecs, glutes, traps, and even your abs. I also love the fact that they’re portable and versatile and you can easily throw in a backpack or bag,” she says. “The nubby-type ball is great for loosening up the feet plantar fascia and any stubborn knots throughout your body. It also gives you a more intense approach to muscle relief.”
5. The stick: ORIGINAL MASSAGE STICK, $40
What it’s best for: thighs, hamstrings, calves
You know something’s good when it’s been used by experts for more than 32 years. “It’s been around since 1988 and it’s still a favorite among athletes and myself when working different athletic events,” Dr. Duma says. “It’s easy to carry, hand-held—thus you get to control the amount of pressure used on your body—and is great to work on your thighs, hamstrings, and calf muscles. The stick helps eliminate soreness and pain, aids in better circulation, shortens recovery, and increases flexibility.”
6. Lacrosse ball: CHAMPION SPORTS OFFICIAL LACROSSE BALL, $6
What it’s best for: feet
Like the tennis ball, the lacrosse ball is also a great tool for self-massage—especially when it comes to your achy feet. Chiropractor Lance von Stade, DC, says it’s the right firmness to dig into the soles of your feet, allowing you to fight off pain and improve your foot and ankle mobility. “It puts mechanical input and sheer force into each one of those joints individually,” he says in a YouTube video.
7. Physio ball: GAIAM TOTAL BODY BALANCE BALL KIT, $17
What it’s best for: back
You know those bouncy exercise balls at the gym? They’re not just great for improving your back strength. They’re also perfect for a feel-good massage. “As a supplement to massage therapy, lying over a large physio ball for soreness is a good temporary at-home fix,” says Karen Kochanski, a licensed massage therapist with Zeel. To reap the benefits, simply drape yourself over the ball so it’s directly under the part of your back you want to massage. Then, Kochanski says to extend your arms and knees toward the floor, but make sure they don’t touch so “gravity can work its magic.” After staying in this position for 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll feel like a new person.
Here’s exactly what happens during a lymphatic drainage massage:
These five foot posture exercises feel a lot like a foot massage. Then turn up the heat on your self care with a hot stone massage.
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