This post is for those who’ve been wondering what the difference between the various soft tissue "torture" devices are! Addressing muscle tightness can be done through two different ways: stretching or tissue manipulation. Research has shown that soft tissue manipulation prior to an activity has a beneficial impact on performance and can help reduce the risk for injury. Static stretching has actually been linked towards decreased muscular performance for maximum output activities.
The Foam Roller
This is the classic soft tissue tool that most people have in their house or gym! Foam rollers come in various sizes however, they all have a similar outcome. This is great for larger areas of the body - hamstrings, quads, glutes, etc. When used properly it can be very effective however, I sometimes see people strain their neck, wrists, or back attempting to roll. This is going to be counterproductive since we want to release tightness, not cause it. If you’re finding yourself straining to foam roll then keep reading for other options!
Okay, I might be a little biased but this is my new favorite soft tissue manipulation device. The reason for this is simple - it works great standing up! This means that you don’t have to roll around on the floor straining other body regions. Because of its size, you are also able to isolate specific muscles with less pressure than what the foam roller requires. It is also made of rubber so it sticks to the wall relatively easy. It can be used on the floor, but I typically recommend people start on the wall.
Tennis Ball/Lacrosse Ball
The classic tennis ball or lacrosse ball works great for soft tissue manipulation. A tennis ball is softer than a lacrosse ball, so if you can’t tolerate very much press you’re going to want to start there. You can place two tennis/lacrosse balls into a sock or pillowcase to keep them together and easy to manage. If you notice that either device works well, I recommend looking into The Orb!
There are multiple options when looking for a device to address muscle tightness however, you need to be educated about why you’re using it and ways to use it effectively. Always consult your medical professional or contact us at Bull City Physical Therapy if you have any questions!
- Dr. Colten Sullivan
Bull City Physical Therapy