As my mom, massage therapist and regular therapist will tell you—I am a tense human being. Whatever anxiety I’ve got going on in my brain usually manifests itself in my body almost immediately, which means my jaw is constantly clenched, and my feet, hands, and shoulders pretty much always have some kind of weird knots or kinks in them. Not to mention, my post-workout muscle soreness seems to stick around for-e-ver. Despite religious foam rolling, I’ve just never quite been able to target those tricky, smaller spots that are really in need of some relief.
But recently, I discovered a way to make my body hate me slightly less that doesn’t require me dropping the full contents of my bank account on massages and icy plunge pools: One itty, bitty cork ball from 42 Birds may have—dare I say it—changed my life for the better. Nowadays, when I feel tense, I pluck the cork ball (the size of an extra-ripe cherry) from my hiding place at my desk at work. While I brainstorm ideas and edit stories, I etch it against my jawline and trace the tense-feeling places that need relief, until my jaw tension is no more.
I’d heard of using massage balls for muscle release on your glutes and hamstrings before (thanks, Charlee Atkins!), but I had no idea that with a smaller ball, the same principle could be translated to my feet, hands, and, here’s my face.
“The smaller ball just works wonders on your face. We hold so much tension in our jaws, you know it’s the strongest part of the body, and just rubbing the small ball against your jaw is amazing,” says the brand’s founder, Robyn Shapiro “Essentially it’s part of myofascial release.” Considering that getting your jaw massaged is a really, really, awkward experience (#trust), I can confirm first-hand that the small ball is a total game changer at releasing the stress-inflicted tension in the jaw.
It comes along with two other orange-sized cork balls that can also help with tightness in larger areas, as well. “The balls are really good to get to different trigger points in your body,” says Shapiro, noting that they can work some not-so-small wonders on your shoulders, neck, legs, and feet, as well. “A foam roller is good to cover a wide stretch of area, like your legs, your hamstrings, maybe your whole back, but if you want to get to a very specific targeted area on your shoulders, this provides a different sort of release. It’s a really targeted massage.”
So now, instead of pinging the massage therapist, who I’ve basically got on speed-dial, I sit at my desk and target the tension in my body as it happens. I use the smaller ball on my jaw, and rub it up and down along the muscle to remind it to relax. Then, I’ll take it between my palms and roll it back and forth between the heels of my hands and up to my finger tips to relieve any typing-induced cramps. Finally, I place the larger one on the floor and roll it around under each foot, which feels (almost) as good as my weekly foot massage.
Do people look at me kind of weirdly while I sit at my desk and in meetings rubbing my face with a teeny tiny ball? Yes. But it feels so damn good, my tense face and I don’t care.
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