TABLE OF CONTENTS
- On This Page
- How Foot Self-Massage Helps
- How to Use a Lacrosse Ball for Pain Relief
- Lacrosse Ball Alternatives
A few weeks ago, when I woke up with foot pain, I attributed it to my lifestyle of non-stop walking in New York. I walk nearly 10,000 steps a day, so of course I was feeling some tension, right? But when the pain didn’t subside after a few days, or even weeks, I didn’t get professional help – instead, I just convinced myself that this was my new normal. First of all, I’m just stubborn, but I also really don’t believe anything can fix it. I walk every day, so it made sense to me that I would have to live with some discomfort.
Finally, I told my friend and Coreology coach Corina Aparicio, NASM, CPT, CES, about the foot pain I was experiencing. Unlike me, she was motivated to draft a plan to alleviate my pain, and the first thing she did was hand me a lacrosse ball. After rolling my foot with that little rubber ball for days on end, I finally began to notice relief.
Aparicio explained, “A lacrosse ball is a tool used for self-myofascial release, just like a foam roller.” “In our feet, there are about 20 different muscles that help us control movement, provide stability and form the shape of our feet. Using a tool like a lacrosse ball helps break up muscle tension, which can increase flexibility, range of motion and muscle activation.”
The best part about this technique is that the risk is low. As always, if your pain is particularly severe and not subsiding, be sure to consult with your primary care physician or podiatrist for their medical opinion. However, if you think you’re dealing with a common, moderate foot pain situation, rolling your foot on a loose ball is an easy (and cheap!) thing to do in the comfort of your own home. Here’s how a certified podiatrist can teach you how to use a lacrosse ball to get rid of foot pain.
How self-massage can relieve foot pain
To understand how lacrosse is used for self-massage, it’s helpful to understand how and why foot pain starts. “The most common area of foot pain is the arch of the foot,” explains Nawja Javed, a member of DPM, MPH, AACFAS. “This is due to a complex ligament called the plantar fascial band, which is a continuation of the stomach muscle and Achilles tendon,” she says.
Because the plantar fascia bundle wraps under the heel bone and into the ball of the foot, it serves to support the arch of the foot and allows the foot to bend forward, Dr. Javed said. “This dense tissue usually becomes tight and stiff, so the plantar fascia band is susceptible to strain, especially if you’re walking on the sidewalk in flat or flexible shoes, or in a constricted state like high heels.”
Dr. Javed agrees that lacrosse balls are an effective tool for treating foot pain. She says: “They are made of solid rubber and oil, which makes them a strong and easy-to-roll device on the myofascial surface.” “This mechanism of ‘rolling’ or ‘kneading’ the ball’s tissue helps reduce stress on tendons and ligaments. It also helps stretch tight tissues in other parts of the body, such as scars or knots.
How to use a lacrosse ball to relieve pain
You can use a lax ball while you’re standing up or sitting down, depending on your preference. Dr. Javed says to make sure there’s a hard surface under it, such as hardwood floors. Start by placing the ball under your foot. Then, Dr. Javed says to “picture your foot divided into four quadrants. Treat one quadrant at a time by rolling the ball back and forth and side to side.”
“Try to spend 30 to 60 seconds per foot, giving extra attention to areas of higher tension and hold the ball for longer until the pain releases itself,” says Dr. Javed. But it’s important to work on releasing tightness on an area without overstretching the tissue in the foot.
How will you know if you’re overdoing it? Listen to your body. “You should not apply pressure to the point of extreme discomfort,” says Aparicio. “The point is to be able to relax the muscle, not trigger pain, so the amount of pressure may be different for every body.”
Both experts agree that you can roll out your feet—or any part of your body that feels sore (not painful)— on a lax ball as frequently as twice per day.
Don’t Have a Lax Ball? Try This:
If you don’t have a lacrosse ball lying around or don’t want to purchase one, Dr. Javed says you sub in a golf ball, baseball, or even a foam roller. You can even use things around your house, like a “frozen bottle of water or a cylindrical device such as a soup can.”
If you’re afraid of hurting your foot or feeling super sore, a foam roller might be a better choice, says Aparicio. “Foam rolling is generally softer than a lax ball and offers less intense pressure,” she says. Whereas a small, round ball will provide a more intense and localized massage.
The most important thing is to remember to listen to your body. “Your body is extremely intelligent and can guide you to things that make you feel better or worse,” Dr. Javed says. “If you’re feeling increased pain or discomfort, stop using a lax ball and reassess the area. If you have bruising, swelling or symptoms seek medical attention.”