As a follow-up to our previous article, "How to Use Massage Balls For Your Upper Body", this article will take a look at the 7 most common lower body muscle groups which hold tension.
For all of these muscle groups, one of the recommended tools to use for SMR (self-myofascial release) is the OPEN UP Massage Ball. By using the massage balls as a trigger point therapy tool, you can relieve tension and tightness in the muscle fascia of the targeted region.
7 Common Target Muscles In The Lower Body
1) IIiliotibial Band (IT Band)
The iliotibial band, or IT Band, is sure to develop sore pressure points from daily activities. Dense massage balls can help in finding and releasing the trigger points in these areas. Within the IT Band, the most common region in which trigger points develop is the upper portion of the Band.
To hit the trigger points in the IT Band, test out the following:
- Lie sideways on the floor and place the ball directly under the knees.
- Slowly roll the ball all the way up until it is at the hip. This entire area is where the majority of trigger points tend to occur.
- For first-timers performing trigger point massage over the IT Band, it’s recommended to brace yourself with an arm on the ground. While the relief is noticeable, it tends to be almost overbearing for those with extreme tightness. As you allow the ball to penetrate the muscle fascia and the pain lessens, you can slowly transfer weight from your arm to the center of your body.
2) Tensor fasciae latae muscle (TFL)
The TFL is located between the hipbone and the IT Band. As a person develops the routine of sitting for long periods of time, this muscle usually shortens and becomes increasingly tighter.
To release the TFL, practice the following tips:
- Lie on the floor, on the side of the body to be massaged.
- Roll the ball over the TFL area until a trigger point is found.
- Apply consistent pressure to this area and hold in place for 30 seconds.
- Then, release and move the ball slightly around the trigger point to explore the region. Rinse and repeat on the most tense part of the TFL until you feel noticeable relief.
3) Gastrocnemius & Soleus (Calf Muscles)
The calves are composed of the soleus muscle and the gastrocnemius. These muscles are among the most common muscles to develop trigger points because of all the work done by the legs throughout the day.
To release trigger points in the calf region, try out the following:
- Sit down on the floor with both legs extended forward.
- Raise the body up on one side, using the arms for support and balance.
- Place the ball by the side of the calf, right below the knee.
- Roll the ball from the knee down to the Achilles tendon (the strip going down to the back of your heel). If any trigger point is encountered along the way, stop and place added pressure. Hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing and continuing the roll.
- Remember that the calves are wide muscles that go around your fibula and tibia. The ball may need to be rolled down a number of times, at various angles, to get into the wide range of muscle fascia.
4) Gluteal muscles (Glutes or Buttocks)
Pain and tightness in this area may be caused by poor posture, too much strain from the legs, overdeveloped quadriceps and/or lower back muscles, or from prolonged sitting or standing, among many other causes.
To release the trigger points in the glutes, try out the following:
- Lie on the floor, on the side to be massaged.
- Place the ball between the side of the glutes and the floor.
- Slowly roll the body in slight movements over the glutes. Most often, trigger points are found towards the back, slightly behind the TFL.
- Remember that these muscles tend to be dense and thick compared to others on your body. Because of this, give them ample time and explore all parts of the muscle, as a slight change in angle can expose a trigger point that seemed non-existant.
5) Piriformis (Hip Rotators)
This is a small rotator muscle within the pelvic area. Though small, the piriformis can cause a lot of pain and discomfort when it becomes tight. The piriformis is often associated with sciatica, in which the sciatic nerve causes pain because of undue pressure applied to it.
To target the hip rotators properly, go through these steps:
- Sit on the massage ball (with bent knees) at the top of the glute muscles, where they connect to the lower back, as well as where the glute muscles connect to the hamstrings. Make very small movements until trigger points are located.
- Hold the position and apply pressure in 30 second increments. This move may cause a feeling of intense pain relief to shoot down the leg. If the pain is too much, relieve some of the pressure on the trigger point by straightening the leg. This will reduce the stretch placed on the involved muscles.
The peroneal muscles are actually 2 muscles located at the side of the lower legs. If these get tight, they can contribute to pain in the knees. Balls are effective in relieving these trigger points.
For effectively reaching the trigger points in the peroneal muscles, try the following:
- Lie on the floor, on the side to be massaged.
- Place the ball between the floor and the outer side of the leg, a little below the knee.
- Once a trigger point is found, stop. Hold the position and apply more pressure (press down) for 30 seconds.
- Continue rolling down the length of the lower leg, looking for and releasing any trigger points along the way. As with the calf muscles, roll the ball down at various angles to hit the width of the muscle fascia.
There are 5 muscles and 2 tendons in the plantar area (bottom of the foot). There are no specific trigger points in the foot. Applying pressure is a great way of loosening the fascia and improving overall foot health. It also improves mobility.
To roll out the feet, try the following:
- Start off sitting in a chair or on the floor so that you can ease into the muscle fascia of the feet.
- Put your foot on top of the ball (plantar area) and roll around on it.
- Continue to move the ball around in 30 second intervals. Repeat with the other foot.
- As you begin to feel relief, you can slowly work from a floor to seated chair position, or seated chair position to a standing position. This process may take several days if your feet are very sensitive due to tightness.