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In previous guides, we talked about how there are different types of massage balls, places to avoid rolling, and what massage balls are. These massage ball guides teach you how to relieve your stiff neck and release tight leg muscles, but today we are going to cover a different area of the body: the shoulders and back.

The back is one of the largest muscle groups on your body, but not many pole dancers pay as much attention to the back as they do their hamstrings or core. Your shoulders are incredibly complex, with tendons and small muscles all working in tandem to create movement.

It seems silly that many pole dancers avoid stretching these vital muscle groups, but the truth is, it can be easy to forget. This leads to tight shoulders and knotted back muscles that can be a real source of pain on and off the pole.

Can Massage Balls Relieve Sore Muscles?

Massage balls can indeed help relieve sore muscles 1 and they are great for pinpointing specific muscles underneath the surface that get sore in pole dancing. The unique design of massage balls allows them to isolate problem areas in the body with proper placement. This is key to relieving sore muscles and releasing tightness in larger muscle groups.

Plus, you may already suspect this, but did you know that regular massage ball exercises can help increase your range of motion in combination with flexibility training? It’s true! A lot of pole dancers in the community also swear by the ability of massage balls to eliminate chronic pains and aches in muscles. This is especially true if you lead a sedentary life outside of pole and experience tightness or pain in the lower back and legs.

As always, it is vitally important that you do not try to massage any areas of the body that have been previously injured or are recovering, as it can exacerbate any tears or inflammation in the muscles.

Do You Have to Use a Specific Type of Massage Ball?

There are several types of massage balls available online, but there is no need to purchase anything specifically for these exercises. If you have a pack of tennis balls laying around, then those should suffice.

There are benefits, of course, to using the right tools for the job. Massage balls specifically designed for these exercises will help relieve tightness and soreness in your muscles faster and more efficiently.  

We like to use these Kieba Lacrosse Balls. These massage balls are built specifically for myofascial release, which is what you are attempting when you massage targeted areas on the body. They are dense and durable, and they’re great fun to bounce around the room when you’re feeling bored.  

As with any other area of the body, it’s important to start slowly and gently with each massage ball exercise. If you experience any pain or unexpected discomfort, discontinue the exercises. To repeat a previous statement, you should never use massage balls on injured muscles as it can exacerbate previous inflammation or muscle tears.

Shoulders: Floor Massage

This movement is an excellent way to release tightness in the upper back and lower neck area, which is especially beneficial if you spend a lot of time looking down at your phone or sitting at a computer. This exercise will also help relieve tension in the shoulders lower down, which makes it a great movement to start with. You may consider supporting your neck with a small pillow or another object to help keep the neck neutral.

  • While lying down, place the massage balls below the base of the neck on either side of the spine.
  • Lay with your head neutral and tailbone and back against the floor.
  • Gently bring the hands up, bending the arm at a 90-degree angle with the elbows on the floor.
  • Slowly drag the elbows across the floor until they are level with your shoulders. Keep the shoulders down away from your neck and ears.
  • Repeat for several seconds until you feel any tension release.

Shoulders: Trapezius Roll

The goal of this movement is to target the trapezius and rhomboids, which can be difficult to target since they are so close to the shoulder blades. In this movement, you will be using your body weight to press your back against the massage ball, which is positioned on the floor.

To open the muscles up more, you can lift your head and look at your navel. Otherwise, if it is feeling too intense and you need to relieve the pressure, you can lay your head on the floor while you move your body back and forth.

  • From a lying position with your knees apart, lift your hips into the air gently until the ball provides adequate pressure.
  • Hold your elbows in each hand to open up the muscle region for better targeting.
  • Use your feet to push and pull your body across the massage ball.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Shoulders: Side roll

This exercise is self-guided, meaning you can actively control the pressure of the massage balls. Since this area has a lot of very small, very sensitive muscles, you shouldn’t press too hard into the shoulder, and stop if you feel any sharp pains.

  • Sitting in an upright position, relax the target arm in your lap or to your side.
  • Using the other hand to press the massage ball into your shoulder, gently roll the ball side-to-side and up-and-down to find the sore area.
    • Only roll the ball in the area directly below the top of the shoulder.
  • Once you have pinpointed the sore muscles, roll the ball around the area repeatedly for several seconds.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Back: Spinal Massage

This massage is best done up against a wall to allow you to easily roll the ball by squatting and straightening your legs. In addition to being a great exercise to relieve back tension, it’s great exercise for your glutes! Your legs should be positioned away from the wall to help you balance and keep your squat even. Never let the knee extend past the toes, even in a wall squat.

Maintain pressure against the wall with the ball and be sure to keep the ball on the muscles next to the spine, never on the spine directly.

  • Place the ball behind you, in-between your back and the wall.
  • Lean against the wall to provide light pressure on the muscles.
  • Using your legs to squat, roll your body up and down along the wall for several seconds until you feel the tension release.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Back: Mid-Spinal Release

This is a stationary exercise where, from the floor, you place the massage ball at the middle of the back. The ball should be on the muscles, not on the spine directly, and if you have two balls, you can do both sides simultaneously.

This is a great way to relieve mid-back pain associated with poor posture and frequent sitting. This is best done on hardwood or flat surfaces, but short carpeting can work as well.

  • Place the massage ball on the floor so that it sits at the middle of the spine when you lay down.
  • Lay down with your hips and shoulders flat on the floor. You can pull your knees up or keep them flat, whichever feels best to you.
  • Rest in this position for half a minute to a full minute. If you only worked one side, repeat on the other side.