[box type=”note”]UPDATE: See my latest article Get in Shape in 2012 for more information about this article![/box]
I am always evaluating new products and trying to make sure I am using the greatest and the latest tools to help my patients and athletes prevent and recover from injuries. Over the last several months I got on a kick of trying to find the best foam rollers and self massage tools for trigger point releases, massaging muscles, and self myofascial release. Below is my list of my favorite products. but as always if you have any additional products I’d love to test them, comment on this post.
Best Foam Roller
I think I can safely say that I have tried 90% of the extensive amount of foam rollers on the market. Seems like every company has their on product but quality, material, durability, and price vary.
Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers
The Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers wins my top award as it keeps it’s shape well, provides a nice solid surface to roll on, and is the most durable product I have used. The Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers his is especially true if you are using this on several people and/or people over 180 pounds. This roller will hold up to the weight and the frequent use. I can use the same foam roller like this for years without any decrease in quality. This is the foam roller of choice for anyone that wants a good firm roller. Get the big one, you can always cut it down if you need to.
Foam Roller Plus
For those that are worried about a roller that is too firm and uncomfortable to roll on, consider the Foam Roller Plus. If you get one of the softer foal rollers below, I bet you are disappointed over time that they flatten out. Also, after some time foam rolling, you’ll desire a firmer roll, trust me. The Foam Roller Plus is a great product. It has a rigid PVC core with a softer foam coating. Pretty comfortable and keeps it shape. Also, for those that work with multiple people, this has a removable and washable neoprene cover. The only reason this is not my top pick is the price. This isn’t that expensive but the Elite Molded Foam Roller is tough to pass up for the cost.
EVA Foam Rollers
I have been disappointed with the EVA foam rollers. They state that they are closed cell foam and holds it shape well, but I have not found that to be the case. These tend to get crushed under too much weight or frequent use.
The Grid Foam Roller
I just recently tried the Grid Foam Roller and was impressed, it is very similar to the Foam Roller Plus in that it is a rigid PVC roll with a soft out cover. It is even the same price as the Foam Roller Plus. This would be my choice of a foam roller, personally, but the Foam Roller Plus takes the edge for those that work with multiple people as it has a removable and washable neoprene cover.
Best Trigger Point Release Tools
Sometimes foam rollers don’t do as great of a job as you can with trigger point releases, especially for the upper back and arm. I tend to prefer a ball of some sort for trigger point releases. With the round objects you can get deeper on one specific spot. Here are my picks:
The Posture Ball is a new addition to my tool belt, I’ve used for about a month and have liked it. The ball is a great tool for specific trigger point releases versus just rolling out a muscle with foam. It is firm but does have some give to it, enough so that if you are approaching 200 pounds it does flatten out a bit. Because of this, I mainly use it for back and upper extremity trigger points. Most people will have a hard time with glute or hamstring trigger points because of this flattening.
Body Work Balls
Another type of ball are the Body Work Balls. Rather than use foam, these are inflatable and come in different sizes and density. The plus side of being inflatable is that you can adjust the firmness, which I am sure many people will like. However, if you deflate too much, it sort of takes away from the benefit of using a ball for trigger points. I still prefer the posture ball but this one is close.
Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers
For lower extremity (glute, hamstring, low back) trigger point releases you really need a firm object that will not flatten out to your body weight. Again, I lean towards the elite molded foam rollers. You can’t get as specific as you can with the posture ball, but these still work great for trigger point releases. In all honesty, it’s probably best to have both of these tools.
Best Self Massage Tool
In addition to foam rolling and trigger point release, you’ll often need a massage tool to get to some areas that are too hard to use body weight to roll. Here are my picks for top self massage tools:
The Tiger Tail is a typical massage stick device that has two handles and a rotating massage area in the middle to allow it to roll on your body. I was a big massage stick fan for many years but have noticed that patients are starting to like the Tiger Tail a little bit more because it is more firm. You can really get some force onto a muscle. This one is pretty popular for it’s ease of use and portability.
Ahh, the original and classic Massage Stick. Still a great tool similar to the Tiger Tail. I like how the massage area is more flexible than the Tiger Tail, allowing you to get a contour around a muscle such as the calf and IT band. This also means that you can’t get as deep as the Tiger Tail. I use both in my practice but if I had to pick one I would go Tiger Tail first. The cost is low enough to justify getting both, you’ll find that you interchange them frequently. Don’t get the small one, it is too small.
DMS Deep Muscle Stimulator
If you feel like dropping $2500 on a self massage tool, look no further. I use the DMS (stands for deep muscle stimulator) every day but understand the cost concern. Think of it as a mini movable power plat vibration platform. Works great to help relax and loosen up muscles that are sore from workouts etc. It is a valuable tool for me and you should consider it if you can justify the cost.
If you are looking for some of the best foam rollers, trigger point release tools, and self massage and myofascial release tools, I would recommend combining a few of these items. I would recommend using the following combination of items to get the most benefits. Using these three products will give you a great combination of tools for every body part all for under $100 in total.
Let me know if you have any more suggestions to try! Comment on this post.