Self-Massage for Athletes

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Backnobber® II  Next to my hands, this is my favorite massage tool because it’s powerful, portable, and versatile.

What I like: I can massage my back. A large “S” is all you need to reach your back body, feet, and any other part of you that needs it. I like that it snaps apart for easy carrying in my backpack or bike bag which makes it simple to take to a race, a yoga class, or the gym.

What I don’t like: The name. The “S” should stand for Something Sensational, Super maSSager, or SuperStick. 

Facts: It’s made of fiberglass reinforced nylon and is about twenty inches long, ten inches wide, and weighs about a pound.

How to Use: It comes with a 35-page guide describing use.

Purpose: It gives you reach and power you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Effect: It stimulates acupoints and trigger points, and can give you an effective overall massage.

Distributor: The Pressure Positive Company

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Thera Cane® is an effective general purpose self-massage tool. It does things for you that your hands alone cannot.

What I like: I can use this tool to reach my back, my front, and my feet.

What I don’t like: I don’t like its design and that it sticks out of my back pack and bike bag.

Facts: It’s made of green fiberglass, shaped like a cane, and sports six knobs. It’s about two feet long and fifteen inches wide.

How to Use: It comes with its own manual describing use.

Purpose: The Thera Cane® lets you apply pressure to areas that are hard to reach with your hands, like your back. It enables you to direct pressure anywhere on your body.

Effect: The Thera Cane stimulates acupoints and trigger points, and gives your back a good massage. It can give you a deep effective overall massage.

Distributor: The Thera Cane Company

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

Body Back Buddy™ is an effective general purpose self-massage tool pretty much like the Thera Cane only bigger and with more knobs. 

What I like: I like it for the same reasons I like the Thera Cane. The fact that it’s slightly larger and has more knobs presents more possibilities I guess. If you think bigger is better than this one is for you. If it were a car it would be a Hummer. It works fine though and doesn’t use any more gas than the Thera Cane or Backnobber II.

What I don’t like: It’s too big to fit in my back pack. 

Facts: It’s made of high-impact-glass-gilled nylon polymer, shaped like an “S,” and sports eleven knobs, eight rounded and three pointed. It weighs 1.5 pounds, is about two feet long and twenty inches wide.

How to Use: It comes with its own manual describing use.

Purpose: It serves the same basic purpose as the Backnobber II and Thera Cane®. All three tools increase your reach and power. Their design differences allow you to do slightly different things.

Effect: Pretty much the same as the Thera Cane.  

Who should own this: It works fine at home.

Distributor: The Body Back Buddy Company

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

Dolphin Massager is a surprisingly cool massage  tool.

What I like: The dolphin is effective, attractive, and fun.

What I don’t like: Can’t think of a thing.

Facts: It’s less than seven inches long, weighs about six ounces, and is made of hard plastic.

How to Use: It comes with an instruction sheet but it’s best just to play around with it. Use its fins, snout, and tail to release trigger points.

How to Use: Just glide its belly along your skin. To go deeper, press its fins, tail, or nose into your body. It comes with its own set of unhelpful instructions.

Purpose: The Dolphin works like an extension of your hand. It lets you add intensity to your stroke and do a few things your hands can’t do. It will bring intensity and vigor to your massage.

Effect: The Dolphin Massager intensifies your gliding and pressing strokes. It lets you apply more pressure with less effort. It concentrates pressure on acupoints and trigger points. It’s been known to stir some endorphin cocktails.

Distributor: Bodycare Companions

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

Knobble® II is a handy durable polymer massage tool, shaped like a rounded mushroom.

What I like: It fits comfortably in the palm of my hand and feels and works like a part of my hand.

What I don’t like: The name.

Facts: It’s about two-and-a-quarter-inches long, and weighs about two ounces.

How to Use: Place the wide end in the palm of your hand and the narrow end on the area of your body you want to massage. Apply pressure and you’ve got it. It comes with instructions.

Purpose: The Knobble lets you focus compression on areas of your body that need it.

Effect: The Knobble concentrates on acupoints and trigger points. It lets you apply more intensity with less effort. It improves the power of your massage, giving you a deeper, more effective stroke.

Distributor: The Pressure Positive Company

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Bongers are bouncy rubber balls at the end of flexible shafts that let you to play your body like a drum.

What I like: I like the way they feel and the energy they impart. If they don’t make you feel good probably nothing will.

What I don’t like: The packaging and marketing.

Facts: They come in pairs, each about 11.5 inches long, including a 4 inch wooden handle, a flexible 5 inch metal shaft, and a rubber ball. If my scale is correct they weigh about 5 ounces a piece.

How to Use: Just bounce them on your body and feel a nice kind of bouncy energy. They come with instructions which are worth reading if you can find them.

Purpose: They impart a percussive stimulating stroke and are a great way to finish a massage. They make me feel pretty darn good. Think of them as mood elevators.

Effect: Trust me, bouncing rubber balls on your body feels good, and these massage tools let you do that better than anything else imaginable. They transfer a high bouncing energy.

Distributor: Bongers PO Box 1066, Middletown, CA 95461

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

Shower Massagers clean and massage you.

What I like: The one I have is great but is twenty years old and no longer sold. I’ve not tried this one but after researching it on the web this is the one I’d buy. It’s reviewed well at Amazon and I like the hand help feature which I think is crucial to getting a good shower massage.

What I don’t like: Don’t know, never tried it.

Facts: It comes with a lifetime warranty and works as three showers in one: 1. a hand held- shower, 2. an overhead shower, and 3. both a hand-held and overhead shower at the same time.

Purpose: The hand-held shower allows you to direct a powerful flow of water to the part of your body that most needs it.

Effect: The water power massages you with gushes of hot or cold water as needed. If the massage functions built into the shower work, that’s a nice plus.

Rating: unknown

Balls of all shapes and sizes make great massage tools. I’ve tried many of them, even the ones with the little rubber spikes. Here are the ones I like best: 

Hard Squash Ball: This ball has a comforting feel. Placing it between the palm of your hand and any area of your body that your hand can reach and then rolling the ball in small circles delivers a nice massage. Sitting down in a chair you can deliver a good quad or lower arm massage. Placing the ball between your hands and moving them in small circles will do your hands a world of good.

Tennis Balls: These balls are ubiquitous and they really work. You can massage pretty much any part of your body with them. You can do it standing, sitting or lying down. You can use them in exercise classes and they make much more effective massage tools than foam rollers.

Fitness Balls: These large balls come in different sizes and just feel good to roll around on. Bouncing on them is energizing and you can get a nice supported stretch to parts of your body that need it. Like the foam roller, this is more  exercise equipment than massage tool but the massage it gives is more relaxing and therapeutic than any experience I’ve had on a roller.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

Foam Rollers are much better exercise props than massage tools. I use them in exercise classes  particularly Pilates classes. But to deliver a massage, there are much better choices.

What I like: They’re light, look good, and the marketing is amazing. These things are in health clubs, running stores, and physical therapists’ offices. I even own one.

What I don’t like: If you’re really into masochism why not go with lashing? The marketing force behind foam rollers have  convinced lots of people that pain is gain. That’s the only way I can begin to explain the success of these things as massage tools. In general, you want your muscles to relax when massaging them. The foam roller causes them to tense, which is counter productive. I’m aware that if you really really work at it you can learn to relax on these things. But why bother?

Facts: Foam Rollers are made of hard Styrofoam, and shaped like cylinders. They come in different densities and sizes varying from 12 x 3 inches to 48 x 4 inches (lengths and diameters). Choose one that fits your needs and masochistic tendencies.

How to Use: Place the Foam Roller on the floor. Lie, sit, or stand on the Roller and roll it under your body’s weight. By pressing your weight against the rounded hard Styrofoam surface, your muscles get compressed.

Purpose: They are marketed to relieve soreness in large muscles, particularly the back body and IT Bands.

Effect: The Styrofoam roller is much more helpful as an exercise and balance aid than as a massage tool. It’s especially effective as a prop in Pilates classes. I think it has been over sold to runners as a massage tool. In any event, getting off the roller will feel much better than getting on it.

Distributors: OPTP or

Rating: ✮✮

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