Small Balls That Please – Correcting Soft Tissue Dysfunction

They’re small, squishy and according to many folks, “work miracles at releasing muscle tension.” They’re small balls that please. These tiny bundles of joy work at releasing pent up muscle tension that is often bound up and stored in various areas of the body. If you sit at a desk for a living or travel a lot, chances are you’re a perfect candidate for this type of therapy. If you lift heavy things and put them down on a regular basis you’re also somebody who’d benefit from these balls.

So how exactly does a small piece of rubber, massaging oneself, and strength training relate to one another?

Why Massage?

Deep tissue massage is the manipulation of soft tissue effecting a change in the surrounding tissue and structures. Our bodies are held in balance by the muscular system.

In order for you to stand still, lift objects and/or move explosively there are various muscles throughout the body constantly tightening and slackening to maintain an optimal amount of stability.

If one or more of your muscles becomes overly tight or slack then your posture will change and your body will compensate by putting other muscles out of their normal state of tone to take on the work load.

If this is not corrected over a period of time the body will accept this compensation as a new movement pattern and you will have an imbalance that will affect how your body moves and reacts during activities and during periods of inactivity.

As a result you will become accustomed to this over time and most likely will not notice that you have a dysfunction until you try to do something that requires a “normal” range of movement.

This is where deep tissue massage therapy can be a helpful tool to restoring an optimal balance in the soft tissues of the body.

Some of the benefits of deep tissue massage are:

  • It can help deepen and normalize the breathing pattern through relaxation, and release of both the rib cage and the muscles of respiration.
  • It can help to relieve congestion in the lungs via compressive movements.
  • It can increase the action of the heart, stimulating the flow of blood to and from the lungs, helping with the elimination of waste and the absorption of oxygen.
  • It can help with some skin conditions. It does not however cure STDs.
  • It can have a sedative, stimulating, or even exhausting effect on the nervous system depending on the type and length of treatment given.
  • It can stimulate the touch, pressure and proprioceptive receptors of the skin and underlying tissue.
  • It is known to affect the neurotransmitters of the brain and increase endorphin secretion in particular (natural painkillers).
  • It can help reduce nerve entrapment through the release of soft tissue or muscular binding.
  • It can reduce nerve root compression caused by muscular tension.
  • Via the mechanical actions on the soft tissues, deep tissue can produce a dilation of the blood vessels, which helps to improve your circulation.
  • Massage enhances the elimination of the waste products of your metabolism.
  • It can help to reduce any swelling and contusions.
  • It can increase the number of red blood cells in your circulation.
  • It can lower blood pressure and can reduce pulse rate.
  • It can facilitate tissue healing through the enhancement of circulation.
  • It can reduce joint strain and compression through releasing tight muscles and tendons.
  • It can increase the ease and efficiency of your movements through the release of soft tissues.
  • It feels good and it is a pleasurable experience. That is, afterwards.
  • It can increase your body self-awareness and sensitivity.

So there you have it. This stuff works and everyone can benefit from it. The problem is it can be quite costly, especially if you don’t have a medical plan. A typical sixty-minute session can range between $60 and $150. That’s a lot of dough to be shelling out. That’s between one and four tubs of Nitrean / Opticen. For most people, paying to get their muscles poked and prodded isn’t that appealing and would gladly use the money for other things like food/supplements.

That’s where tools like the small ball come into play. It’s relatively inexpensive, great for beginners who have a lot of self-myofascial work to be done and is really easy to use.

Small Balls What?

Small ball myofascial therapy is a unique approach to restoring the body to its natural balance. By letting go of unproductive movement patterns and following the neurological system small ball release will remove physical restrictions and allow us to live life fully through our bodies. Using self-applied techniques on the ball, positive energy will flow throughout the body strengthening, toning, and realigning the spine and joints. Learn to be in touch with your own body.

What a bunch of bullshit.

Small Balls- The Truth

Actually, small balls are really no different than the use of a foam roller, tennis ball, and massage stick or for the masochist, a golf ball. They all act as a self-treatment for deep release massage. To clear out all the junk (scar tissue) around the muscles and iron out any areas that are knotted up. Think of the small ball as an iron. Tension in the muscles; create crinkles, which need to be smoothed out.

Small balls are inflatable, burst resistant and work to stimulate and massage. The pressure of the ball stretches, stimulates and creates space between connective tissue, muscle attachments, blood vessels and fascia. Body weight is strategically placed on the ball and connective tissue is massaged and made more pliable. Circulation is stimulated, and tension released from the soft tissues resulting in a freeing of restrictions in various parts of the body. There are three balls ranging in size – 5″, 6″ and 7″. The variety of inflatable sizes allows for varying pressure and isolation so you can gradually work into the muscle more. The 7″ ball might be used by the beginner or user seeking a soft, gentle massage and the 5″ for a deeper, more isolated effect

I tend to use small balls with certain clients who cannot use the foam roller or a tennis ball. This means that their quality of tissue is so far gone that their level of discomfort they are feeling does not allow them to relax adequately enough to get into the muscles. Once they have learned how to relax and not contract the muscles while rolling on the ball and they no longer feel any discomfort (or very little) I graduate them to a foam roller and then onto a tennis ball. If they’re brave we’ll go to a golf ball.

A Small Ball in Action


Lying on your front, place the ball on your quadriceps and slowly roll it down towards the knee. If you find any tender spots, stop and hold the spot until the pain subsides or as long as you can stand it.You can also stretch the quadriceps out and roll the ball down your leg as you hold the stretch

Quad Video


Sitting on the ball on one butt cheek, slowly roll the ball around trying to find any spots of discomfort. Once you’ve found a spot, hold it and slowly move the ball around to get deeper.You can work on shifting your body around so you can add more pressure to the area of discomfort.

Glutes Videos


Lying on your back, wedge the ball between the floor and your traps (whichever side is tightest). Lift your hips up towards the ceiling to create more weight on the traps and slowly move the ball around.Another method is to lean up against a wall and wedge the ball between the traps and the wall.

Traps Video


Place the ball between your chest and the wall in an upright position.Have the arm fully extended and slowly move the ball up and down and around the chest region.

Chest Video


Lying on your side place the ball where your hip starts and slowly roll it down towards the side of your knee.Stop when you hit the first tender spot and hold it there for 30-60 seconds.

ITBand Video

These are only some of the areas you can use the ball on. However I have found that these spots are the most common in people I have worked with. Other areas that the small ball can be used on are the hamstrings, calves, shoulder region, lumbar spine (lower back) and thoracic spine (mid back).

Having A Ball

Deep tissue massage is something strength trainers should incorporate into their program. It releases muscle tension, eases joint pain, and improves posture. Things that your body are combating on a daily basis and are accelerated as a result of training in the gym.

You can purchase a small ball set online, just run a search on google and you should be able to find some pretty easy. In the US try Perform Better and in Canada try Athlete Conditioning.

Now go out and play with your small balls and have some fun experimenting with them!

Written by Maki Riddington

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Small Balls That Please – Correcting Soft Tissue Dysfunction discussion thread.