** Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment **
Plyopic Massage Balls have been crafted to allow self massage of your overworked and painful muscles and tissues, helping you roll aches and pains into submission in a wide range of body points. The balls are excellent for accessing acupressure, Self Myofascial Release (SMR), and Deep Tissue Pressure Points. They are very convenient for muscle/fascial groups with smaller surface areas (such as the plantar fascia, calves, and peroneals) as well as upper body muscles where the ball can be placed against a wall (such as the pecs and posterior shoulder capsule).
Massage has been used for hundreds of years to heal injuries, but your doctor likely won’t mention it as a treatment option, because until recently there’s been a lack of scientific evidence to clearly explain its therapeutic benefits. In 2012 however, a team of researchers from Ontario and California found clear molecular evidence that exercise-induced muscle damage respond to massage with reduced inflammation and increased cell metabolism, which promote healing.
The Fascinating Role of Fascia
Fascia is a web of connective tissue formed in bands that wraps around all the internal parts of the body from head to toe and fuses it all together. It allows the muscles to move freely alongside other structures and reduces friction. It can be found immediately beneath the skin, around and through groups of muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs and cells. Biologically, it’s what holds us together.
Like bones, fascia bands are composed primarily of collagen which gives them a tough but pliable texture. The fascial system maintains a balance of tension and elasticity which allows for smooth, unrestricted movement of each muscle group while holding everything in place. When this system is healthy, it distributes strain evenly so that you don’t end up excessively loading one part of the body and causing injury. If the fascia is restricted then muscle contraction is restricted.
Restriction is where pain and injury can happen, but the restriction could come from either muscle or fascia, and possibly in another part of the body. Tight fascia is every bit as painful and restrictive as a tight muscle and may limit your range of motion and compress your muscles and nerves, leading to less hydration and blood flow to those areas. The aim of myofascial release is to restore the natural elasticity to tight and hardened fascia. Stretching cannot penetrate your muscle to reach tight fascia the way massage balls or a therapist’s elbow can.
Since there is one singular piece of this stretchy, mesh-like substance interweaving through muscles and organs from head to toe, distress in one area can affect movement and create symptoms elsewhere. This explains why stress from one area causes tension in another part of the body. As soon as there is dysfunction or pain in one area, the body adapts and compensates to keep the body upright and work without causing pain. As it does this the fascia will shorten or tighten in areas because the muscles cannot hold the extra tension alone. Posture changes to accommodate this. The body might be composed of different parts, but they are all connected through this mysterious web of fascia.
The Need for Myofascial Release
Our body reacts to pain of any kind by creating a protection response. This while initially is a good thing, over time can lead to increased pain, build-up of toxins and reduced blood flow and oxygen to the area. When we experience a slight amount of tissue damage - which can be due to a physical injury, a psychological one like depression or even something like an ulcer - pain signals are sent to the spinal cord which then triggers the muscles around the injury to contract in order to provide support and protection for the surrounding tissues. We call this area of contraction a “trigger point”.
This response, left unchecked, creates a vicious cycle of pain and diminished muscle efficiency as more blood flow is restricted to the contracted area. More signals are sent and more muscles tighten to protect the growing epicentre of pain. What may have started as something small has now caused a chain reaction through the muscle and myofascial network.
SMR techniques are designed to go in and smooth out those hard knots, returning the fascia to its normal fluid and adaptable self. Gentle, sustained pressure applied to points of restriction (trigger points) allows the connective tissue to release. It is theorized that by breaking up these restrictions, the muscle fibers are positioned in a better natural alignment, allowing the gliding surface of the fascia to move freely.
You’ll want to add SMR Massaging Techniques to your training for the following reasons:
- Improved mobility and range of motion
- Reduction of scar tissue and adhesions
- Decreased tone of overactive muscles
- Improved quality of movement
- Plugs the treatment gap between hands-on massages and deep tissue massage
Plyopic Massage Balls are the perfect SMR solution to untangle those knots, smooth out your fascia and get rid of aching muscles quickly whenever or wherever you need them.
Using Plyopic Massage Balls – General Advice
Please refer to the Warnings section before using Plyopic Massage Balls.
You can use the massage balls directly over clothing or on your bare skin. If you use them on bare skin avoid using massage oil or any essential oils on your skin as it makes it too slippery. Use a little body talc instead.
What matters most is your ability to position a massage ball and control the movement to apply pressure on specific body parts. You can use light or heavy pressure depending on your needs. The pressure can be applied to a single point or rolled over wider areas. The more pressure you put into the ball, the more intense the massage will be. While it's true that the pressure of deep tissue massage can be intense, it shouldn't have to be painful to be effective. If you're experiencing pain, let your massage therapist or doctor know right away.
Go slow if you’ve never had a massage before and work around the affected area. Remember that the best way to treat a tweaked muscle or tendon is to work around it, not directly on the tweak. You want to go after the attachment points and stretch surrounding areas to relieve the pressure on whatever is causing you pain. If you have sore hands, for example, get an upper body massage that excludes your hands and do your own very gentle massage on your hands before letting someone else touch them.
Learning how to use slow and consistent pressure and diaphragmatic breathing as a release technique, combined with ways to work on the tissue (pressure wave, oscillation, cross-friction) can facilitate a much better response in the body, versus just lying on the equipment, or moving too quickly without focus over it. Additionally, more is not better - SMR should be relatively short in duration. We use a general guideline of two minutes per area before moving to the next area and depending on how hard you are using your body, you can use the massage balls for SMR from every day to weekly.
You can use Plyopic Massage Balls on the floor, on a chair or against a wall to generate the pressure required. If using against a wall, we suggest placing your ball inside a long sock or stocking prior to use. This makes it easier to control the movement and positioning of the ball and prevents it from falling or slipping out from under you. It will also avoid potential markings on painted walls from the Trigger Ball.
- A typical warm-up roll for healthy muscle tissue is about 20 progressively deeper passes over each muscle group (about 30 seconds per area)
- Discomfort is experienced when the massage ball locates a bump or tender knot in the muscle – this is known as a trigger point. Hold for 15 seconds
- Muscles containing trigger points are often weak, stiff and sore. They are frequently tight, easily tire and often hurt
- Muscles containing chronic trigger points need 20 additional passes with your massage balls
- Chronic areas may require attention daily
- If you need to add extra elevation for your massage balls on the back of the neck or lower back, place a book on the floor below your neck or back and use the ball on top of the book.
Pressure on a muscle knot should generally be clear, strong and satisfying; it should have a relieving, welcome quality. This is “good pain.” If you are wincing or gritting your teeth, you probably need to be more gentle - you need to be able to relax.
If you experience any negative reaction in the hours after treatment, just ease up. In basic therapy, you can count on tissue adapting to stronger pressures over the course of a few days of regular treatment. If they don’t, either the problem isn’t really trigger points, or they are much worse trigger points than you first thought.
Special Attention for Hard Trigger Points
Aim to ease the release of tight muscles. If you go in too hard too quickly you can actually risk damaging the fascia even further. In general, you want to use a softer ball for harder knots because the tighter a muscle is, the more sensitive it is. The concept of muscle stretch reflex presumes that if a muscle is stretched too rapidly it will contract as a protective measure to prevent injury. So, going in too deep too quickly can actually cause the opposite effect of stretching a muscle. Instead of relaxing and releasing, your body does the opposite, tensing and tightening. You need to be gentle with hard trigger points.
Pliable muscles don't need pliable balls. They need more pressure and harder balls to experience more release than they already have. Consider them as advanced muscles that are already stretched, so they need more of a challenge to achieve a greater stretch. Tense, tight muscles need less pressure and softer balls to experience release because they are very sensitive and will need more gentle work until they are resilient enough to tolerate a harder ball.
Areas of the Body to Massage
Click the headings below to access the Massage Ball Guidance for each Body Point:
1.1 Neck & Upper Back (Upper Trapezius)
1.2.1 Posterior Shoulder Capsule
1.2.2 Infraspinatus and Teres Minor
3.1 Middle and Lower Back (Trapezius)
3.2 Latissimus Dorsi
5.1.1 Flexor Muscles
5.1.2 Extensor Muscles
5.2 Peroneus Longus Tendon
5.3 Tibialis Anterior
6.1 Foot Massage