How to Use Massage Ball: Techniques and Tips

Learn how massage balls can be used to treat any muscle issues you might have.

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Maybe you've already bought one or maybe you're looking to, but either way, I can assure you that having some sort of massage ball at your disposal is one of the most simple and powerful tools you can use for the rest of your life! Let me explain:

Sometimes, little muscles get tight.

Sometimes, those muscles are in your back.

Occasionally, you get out of bed and that little tight muscle makes your whole back to seize up, causing you to miss work, miss the presentation, forego your bonus, etc.....The point is; sometimes, back pain makes your whole world fall apart. this overdramatic? Sure, but doctors and physical therapists hear it on an almost daily basis.

It's very common.

We'd rather tell the opposite story.

The night before, you spend five minutes unwinding the muscles around your spine, you feel relaxed and have a great night of sleep. You wake up ready to go, you're on time, you crush the presentation.....and everyone's happy. Margarita's and clinking glasses!

If you know a bit about how to work on yourself at home using self myofascial release, oftentimes you can spare yourself the trouble of that nagging neck pain, back pain, or otherwise sore muscles.


Enter our friend, the massage ball. 

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Using a massage ball is just like getting an oil change for your car....Or maybe an alignment is a better metaphor. When the frame of your car is balanced, just like your muscles and skeleton, you don't wear your tires unevenly, you don't wear out your ball joints....And the car drives nice and straight.

Most therapists are trying to get you back in balance, one way or another. Sometimes the way to get there isn't so clear, or maybe you're not an anatomical specialist, etc.....But what you can always do at home is develop an awareness of what feels tight (or out of balance), and some of the easy methods to help surpercharge the process.

To put it short, working on tight muscles can help balance the load around your joints....Which makes for happy joints.

Almost every size and shape of massage seems to be available these days, so let's help you make the call.

Massage balls for recovery

If you're looking to help deal with sore muscles, or want to help yourself recover quickly, you'll want a bigger surface area, and a medium to soft tool. You'll want a bigger massage ball that isn't too hard. Think about sinking a lacrosse ball deep into a very sore hip....Not fun.

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If you have a much bigger massage ball, you won't be using so much pressure because of the bigger surface area. We're looking for long, flowing movements across the muscles that encourage blood flow, help relieve pain in the tissue, release tension, and help bring blood flow back to muscles and connective tissue.

Massage balls for posture and range of motion.

If you'd like to try and change how you stand, or help out the range of motion in any joint, typically you'll want smaller surface areas and more sustained pressure.

Poor posture is often the mix of a few issues. It could be muscle tension pulling the spine down, it could be a lack of awareness (ie, you have the range of motion, but aren't using it), and it could be a lack of strength to hold those joints in place.

Trying to get a muscle to release or 'let go' takes time...We recommend around 60 seconds per area.


Where you might roll back and forth on an area to help with recovery, you'll want to remain in one spot with sustained pressure to help open up range of motion. As far as density goes, you'll probably want something about as soft as a tennis ball, and your body weight is plenty of pressure.

Sometimes these are referred to as 'trigger point massage ball'.

Keep in mind, some muscle groups are smaller than others, and vice versa. If you want to work on your thumb muscles, you might need a pretty tiny massage ball!

Make sure you're not ignoring pain signals....We always want to keep the pressure low enough to not cause pain. If you find yourself holding your breath, you're probably pushing too hard.

Massage balls for relaxation

For stress reduction, or just to help unwind, using a massage ball can be a huge benefit. Why? Because tension tends to store itself in the body even after the initial stress is gone. We're looking to relax our mind and body at the same time, while we gently roll those tissues. Just back off if you feel any real pain. Self massage should always be a relaxing experience.

It can take a few minutes to get the nervous system to calm down and let go. This is totally normal, and by focusing on your body and breath, you can allow the nervous system to relax and release. You'll still increase blood flow, let the muscle relax, and enjoy the other benefits of massage.

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You should look for something soft and/or big. Focus on big movements, like opening up your whole spine, and always remember that your breath is the guide. Sink into the tool, focus on your breath, and feel your bodily tensions start to melt away. Put on a little Sade while you're at it....It's your world.


It shouldn't hurt!

We're usually looking to get out of pain, not back in it. Self massage, or myofascial release, really shouldn't be painful.

With some folks, it's helpful to distinguish the feeling you might get at the peak of a stretch, vs something that's truly painful. It's the difference between discomfort and a true pain signal.

A little discomfort is OK. We're looking for that feeling you get when you are at the peak of a stretch. if you find the tissue won't relax, try to relax your breath, and imagine that tissue relaxing. While 'imagining' something is relaxed isn't exactly scientific....It's an important cue for your nervous system to realize that what you're doing is safe and normal. If you find yourself tensing, or holding your breath, back off the pressure, or move to another spot.

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Provided you're rolling or relaxing on muscle tissue (not directly on a joint), and you still feel unavoidable pain, simply stop or move to another area around it.

While rare, if you feel worse or more restricted after using a massage ball in a slow and controlled fashion, it's a good indication you should chat with your therapist.

We always recommend seeing a doctor or therapist for deep-seated or chronic pain conditions. Most of the time, they'll help show you how to do this work at home with your given condition.

Show us some examples!

Let's talk through a few RAD products and where you might use them.

Larger Massage Balls

Introducing the RAD Atom and Centre. Two massage balls that are quite large, built for very different purposes.

RAD Atom

The RAD Atom is a stiff, purpose-built massage ball to help work on larger muscle groups.

massage balls for relaxation, how to use foam rollers for relaxatotion, how to use massage balls for spine relaxation.jpeg

Speaking of larger muscle groups, we should have a science moment. Most big muscles like the glutes, quads, etc.....Are kinda just big dumb muscles. I say dumb because they are not incredibly articulate, and we know this because they don't have as many nerves feeding the tissue. The opposite end of the spectrum would be your eye muscles, which have around 100x the nerves feeding almost each and every muscle fiber. Your eyes can lock onto something instantly, exactly, and without thinking about it.

Knowing this....We don't have to work so gingerly on these big muscle groups. They can handle a little more pressure because they're simply bigger. This ball is stiff because it needs to be. A soft massage ball might not be enough for these big, tough muscles.

That's where the Atom comes in.

Where does this massage ball work best?

  • Glutes. Big muscles need big coverage.

  • Chest/pecs. Perfectly sized for opening up the chest...Your posture will thank you.

  • Hamstrings/adductors. Those huge muscles in the back and inner leg need a big tool.


RAD Centre

Soft and cushy, that's what the RAD Centre is all about. This inflatable massage ball is made for one of the forgotten muscle groups when it comes to self myofascial release; the abdominal muscles!

The abdominals are a big thick group of tissues that can and do get tight. It can cause compression in the chest, lack of full expansion in the lungs, and the obliques can cause the whole spine to twist. Not great.

Use this ball with soft pressure to see what's going on underneath the surface there.

rad centre massage ball, medium firmness massage ball, soft massage ball

Where does this massage ball work best?

  • Abdominals. Game changer. Trust us.

  • Upper back. Lay back on the Centre for big extension (read: opening) in your back.


Medium Sized Massage Balls

You'll start to see some familiar sized massage balls here, varying in density from soft to quite stiff. As a very general outline, you want to go softer when you're using the massage ball higher up, like your neck. As you travel down to the legs and feet, a stiff massage ball can be more useful.


RAD Roller

We just can't spare the anatomy-talk here. You need to know about your thoracic spine, or T-spine for short. It's the middle section of your spine that all your ribs connect to. It also houses your heart and lungs, and moves every time you breathe in and out (it should, anyway). A lot of therapists consider this the center of the spine, and the most important area to keep in good working order. If you can spare five minutes a day to keep it mobile, it can help relieve pain in the low back, the neck, the shoulders, and basically everything else.


rad roller massage ball for spine

Having two massage balls connected means you can equally support both sides of the spine, something a single massage ball can't do.

rad roller, blue regular peanut massage ball

Where does this massage ball work best?

  • Middle back, aka Thoracic Spine. Maybe one of the most important usages in our whole tool and technique lineup. It solves problems, period.

  • Feet. Since you have two connected sides, it makes for some stable real estate to work all the areas of the foot.

  • Calves. While the recess in the middle is meant to protect your spine, it also fits the achilles tendon just perfectly, allowing you to work those calves from top to bottom.


RAD Rounds

The Tiny Trifecta! These little massage balls are meant for everywhere the above-mentioned balls just don't fit. Like your thumb muscles, your jaw, or the little muscles in between the bones of the foot.

Little muscles need recovery and help just like the bigger ones. 'Texting Thumb' certainly comes to mind, which is a new type of inflammation in the thumb from holding that stimulating device in your hand all day. Sometimes folks refer to this type of ball as a 'trigger point massage ball'.

rad rounds use on calves, best massage ball set with different sized balls

These are three different balls in three different densities. The large green Round is the softest, and the black micro Rounds are the smallest and stiffest. The little Micro Rounds is the smallest massage ball we know of!


rad rounds, set of 3 small massage balls with different level of stiffness

Where do these work best?

  • Feet. Explore deeper, or use the bigger Round as a warmup for the smaller ones.

  • Jaw and face. The jaw muscles are tightly interconnected with the neck muscles. These are perfectly sized up for the task.

  • Forearms and hands. Again, smaller muscle groups need smaller tools. The Micro Round will help you explore the hand and beyond.


Recovery Rounds.

These are the softest silicone tools that we make. We designed them in collaboration with Tiffany Cruikshank over at Yoga Medicine, who wanted a softer tool to help users ease into the tissue. But it's not just about going easy. You'll find that if you regularly use self myofascial release to open up your muscles, you can get just as much release out of a soft tool than you can with a super hard one.

recover rounds for self massage by rad, woman massaging back and shoulder with massage balls against the wall
recovery rounds, recovering massage balls

Where do these work best?

  • Back and Neck. Soft enough for super tight muscles in the neck. You always want to use a softer ball for the relatively small and sensitive muscles up there.

  • Hips. It's pretty common to find super tight hips in people. These'll help you ease in.

  • Everywhere else. You can use these almost anywhere, and they're just going to feel great. I'm not sure how else to put it.


How long should I use a massage ball for?

We hear this often! If you're looking to deal with neck and shoulder pain for example.....You'd look to spend around 5 minutes total on each shoulder, and side of your neck. Choose a few areas that feel restricted, and let your body relax over the massage ball. You can continue this 2-4 times per week, as long as the area is not sore.

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