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Pole dancing requires a lot of dynamic motion, strength, and flexibility all rolled into one activity. That can be tough on our muscles, and as pole dancers, it’s important to learn how we can mitigate the stress on our bodies as much as possible.
Many of us have seen massage balls around. Maybe these little tools have even become a part of your home poling and workout equipment. The question is: do you know how to use them?
Our first publication in this series, the Massage Ball Guide for Legs covered a lot of basic questions about massage balls, such as what massage balls are, and if they increase the range of motion. Hint: the answer is Yes! But not without the help of regular flexibility training.
In today’s guide, we are going to be covering a couple of exercises on how to relax the neck using massage balls.
Is It Good to Massage Your Neck?
Generally, it is good to massage your neck, as you can ease tight muscles and get rid of pesky knots that keep you feeling stiff all day long.
Neck massages are especially beneficial if you’re used to working at a desk all day, keeping you head bent and shoulders still – because let’s face it, there is really no “perfect” desk. 1
We do have to state that you should always exercise caution when massaging your neck, as it can be more fragile than larger areas of your body, and it’s closer to the spine, which should never come in direct contact with the massage balls. For more areas to avoid, check out the section below on Places to Avoid Rolling.
Is it Good to Massage a Strained Neck?
We always recommend that you take care of body parts that are strained as they can be easy to injure further. This means that you should err on the side of caution; check in with a physiotherapist, and if there’s any doubt, don’t roll out the area.
Massage balls can put a lot of pressure onto one targeted area of muscles, and if your muscles are sore post-workout or strained, it may not be a good idea to add pressure to the area.
On that note, soreness and pain are very different than stiffness, but if you are new to working out, it might take you some time to learn the difference of how your body feels. If the area is tender, avoid massaging it.
Types of Massage Balls for Your Neck
There are several types of massage balls that you can use for different areas of your body. Typically, using a smooth, round ball will help you better control where the pressure is in on the muscle group.
Small, round massage balls or lacrosse balls are also the versatile shape, able to be used on several areas of the body. Look for something made of dense rubber, like these kieba balls for myofascial release.
If you’re looking for something around the house, tennis balls can also work, but they can become misshapen or break if too much weight is placed on them at once.
Watch! There are Some Places to Avoid Rolling
Of course, there are some places on the neck that are far too sensitive to roll.
In general, you should always stick to rolling along major muscle groups.
Never roll on top of the spine, or over the front of the neck or throat.
Additionally, you don’t want to roll high along the sides of your neck around the jawline, as this can cause problems with the jaw.
If you ever feel any dizziness or tingling while you are rolling an area, immediately stop. As always, we recommend having a licensed physiotherapist teach these exercises to you, and ensure you are cleared to use these exercises.
This photo above shows the placement for each of the neck exercises we are about to explore.
The Floor Massage uses one massage ball on each side of the spine. The Handheld Massage will have us sitting upright, using our hands to control the motion of the ball.
The Wall Massage will require use of a wall, and we will use our body to control the ball as it moves up and down the muscle. The Rotation Massage is a very gentle, very slight exercises that can do wonders for releasing tension in the upper neck, but is not necessary for basic release.
Neck: Wall Massage
- Gently place the ball along the neck muscle.
- Placing your feet in a wide stance, stand slightly away from the wall and roll the ball up and down the length of the muscle.
- Do not press to hard into the wall. Repeat on the other side.
Neck: Floor Massage
- Laying down, place two massage balls on either side of your spine, along the muscle. They should fit where the neck connects to the shoulder.
- Gently push the head up and down to vary the pressure. Only go as low as comfortable, and be careful not to put pressure on your neck when guiding your head upwards – your neck should do most of the work, never pull on the head.
- Alternatively, you can lay on the balls in this position with a pillow or yoga block to support your head.
Neck: Handheld Massage
- Pull any hair out of the way and gently bring your head forward and to the opposite side.
- Take the massage ball in your hand and roll it in a circular motion along the trapezius, where the neck and shoulder meet.
- Repeat on the other side.
Neck: Rotation Massage
- Place the massage ball at the base of the neck. The massage ball should still be below the skull, on the muscle of your neck. Use a pillow to take any excess weight off of your neck to avoid strain.
- Very gently, very slowly rotate the head. Rotate the head back to neutral for no more than 5 rotations one way.
- Repeat on the other side.