How to Use a Trigger Point Ball Effectively

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: May 13, 2021

Trigger point therapy exercises are a wonderful way to help release tight, knotted up muscles. They can be done to release muscles before your workout, at the end of your workout, or in between workouts.

Are you wondering “Where do I get trigger point therapy?” You can see a qualified therapist and you can also learn to do trigger point release at home by yourself.

A trigger point ball is one simple tool that can be used for your trigger point therapy exercises. It makes a great addition to your home fitness kit.

You can check out my fitness essentials kit below, which includes my top picks for trigger point therapy.

In this post, you’ll learn how to use a trigger point ball or spikey massage ball. In case you are still keen to learn more about mobility training and muscle pain relief techniques by the end of the post, I’m going to share another little gem with you. It’s a technique that it complementary to using a trigger point ball. As well as working into the muscles like you do with trigger point therapy, it’s also going to help your joints to move more freely.

[You may also be interested to read about the 9 Best Myofascial Release Tools For 2022. Trigger point balls are, of course, featured!].

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

How does trigger point therapy work?

Trigger points are those little areas in your muscles that hurt or feel tender if you push on them. They might feel bumpy or be described as a “knot”. Areas of the body where these trigger points are often found include the neck and shoulders, upper back, hips and buttocks, calves and feet.

Some people use trigger point therapy as one type of deep tissue massage for health issues. These could include headaches and migraines, or sciatica. Trigger point therapy may also be known as myofascial release or massage therapy.

There are different ways to use trigger point therapy. Usually, you will be applying pressure on or over myofascial trigger points in the muscle using a specific tool. There are differing views in the industry regarding whether you hold your position once you find a trigger point, or whether you move over it to work into it.

Some practitioners use dry needling to treat trigger points in the muscles. There are also various trigger point tools available that you may have even used at your local gym, which we’ll get to shortly. You may also have heard of massage guns, which work via a technique called percussive therapy.

how to use a trigger point ballThe potential benefits of trigger point therapy exercises

[Find out more about the benefits in “7 Incredible Benefits of Trigger Point Massage“].

Note that if you are looking to treat a particular injury, I advise you do so in conjunction with a qualified physical therapist such as an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist. It’s also worth noting that your symptoms are often different from the cause of your symptoms.

For example, one of my personal areas of weakness has been my lower back. This doesn’t mean that focusing on stretching or releasing my lower back is necessarily the best option for me. I have an anterior tilt in my pelvis, which causes my hip flexors and quads to be tight.

My glutes have also been known to be tight and weak! So I’ll get much better results from understanding these things and applying this knowledge so that I can choose appropriate exercises and stretches. When I focus on these surrounding muscles it has a positive effect on my lower back pain.

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

Trigger point therapy tools

There are many different types of trigger point therapy tools. This post is focused on how to use a trigger point ball, which you may have heard called a “pressure point ball”. I will shortly take you through some trigger point ball exercises.

If you don’t have a trigger point ball, you can start by using a tennis ball. A tennis ball massage may be perfectly effective for some parts of your body. It might not be hard enough for others, which is where trigger point balls (which are a lot harder) are very useful.

You might have also heard about lacrosse ball trigger point therapy. This is another type of ball you might choose to use for the techniques I’m sharing in this post.

For your feet, you may even be able to use a golf ball! These are at the more extreme end of hardness as compared to a soft, trigger point therapy tennis ball. They won’t be suitable for many other trigger points, apart from your feet.

Some trigger balls have grooves all over them to help get into the trigger points more effectively. You can also try a spikey massage ball for your myofascial release ball exercises.

There are many online purchasing options for a trigger point ball. Amazon has a great selection. Here are a few of my favorite options of tools to use for your massage ball exercises:

Foam rollers for myofascial release

Foam rollers are a great option for your myofascial release tool kit. They offer a broader coverage than a trigger point ball and you’ll use slightly different techniques with them.

This post is focused on how to use a trigger point ball, but I’ll get to one about foam rolling another time! If you’re interested in purchasing a foam roller, there are a couple of options below. The one on the left is for a ‘half-size foam roller‘; the one on the right is a ‘full-sized foam roller‘.

Finally, if you’re looking for the best trigger point massager, consider a full trigger point therapy kit such as the one below. This is the one that I have at home, and I love it. It includes the trigger point ball MB5Ⓡ x 2, a calf roller, quad roller, and block. It even comes with a “sock” for the balls so you can use them both together for an effective back release.

Alongside a foam roller, this covers all your bases for effective trigger point therapy for your whole body. In my opinion, it’s the best option for a total body trigger point massage ball set. You can check out the latest prices on Amazon below.

How to use spiky massage ball |Spiky massage ball trigger points

So how do you use a trigger point ball? Below, I’ve included some of the common parts of the body that you might want to use your trigger point ball. Check out the photos and descriptions, and select the techniques that you think are the best matches for your problem areas.

How to use massage ball on neck

Lie down on your back, with your knees bent and feet on the floor, like you are about to perform stomach crunches. Place the trigger point handheld massage ball in the centre of your neck (lie on it).

Start gently by turning your head from side to side. You can also tuck your chin under and then release. Most of all, start slow and don’t do this if you’re nursing an injury to this area – that’s best dealt with alongside a qualified therapist.

If you want to add a little extra pressure, lift your hips slightly off the ground and use your legs to push back and forwards over the ball.

The photos below show you how to do trigger point ball massage for your neck.

how to use a trigger point ballhow to use a trigger point ballhow to use a trigger point ball

How to use a trigger point ball on your upper shoulders

This one is also known as the rugby scrum technique. Find a wall corner, or work with a partner. You might notice that I’m using a tree, rather than a wall corner or partner! I enjoy an outdoor-focused lifestyle, so the tree it was! Bend forward at your hips, and put the ball on top of the shoulder, right by your neck. Apply pressure by pushing into the wall or your partner’s hand and move gently from side to side. Flex your neck to the side to increase the stretch.

The photos below illustrate how to use massage balls on your upper shoulders.

how to use a trigger point ballhow to use a trigger point ball

Massage ball roller exercises for your upper back

For a trigger point release into your upper back, place the trigger point therapy ball against your upper back, and lean into the wall. Bend and straighten legs, and move side to side to hit the spot.

What is a good way to release a trigger point? With all of these trigger point therapy exercises, there are slightly differing viewpoints between professionals about how they are best done. Some prefer to hold the ball over a trigger point and wait for it to release. Others prefer to gently roll back and forth over the trigger point until it releases.

The photos below illustrate how to use trigger point massage balls on your upper back.

how to use a trigger point ballhow to use a trigger point ball

How to use massage roller ball for your shoulder tendons

The tendon attachments for your shoulder muscles can get very sore. I find that these are really effective for releasing shoulder tension. Put ball at the back, lower part of the shoulder. This is where the tendons attach, and it’s very close to your armpit. Move around to hit the spot, and you can also try pulling your arm across your body, as you would with a shoulder stretch.

You can also perform these movements whilst lying down on your side with the tp massage ball in the same position (see the picture near the top of this post where I’m wearing the purple top). Lying down with your body weight on the ball adds a lot more pressure to the trigger point, so it should be considered as a more advanced progression.

The photos below illustrate how to use a trigger point ball for your shoulder tendons.

how to use a trigger point ballhow to use a trigger point ballhow to use a trigger point ball

How to use a trigger point ball for your chest muscles

Chest muscles are often very tight…but you might not know it. Many people feel pain and tenderness across the back of their shoulders. However the reason for this pain could be tight chest muscles, especially if you spend a fair amount of time hunched forward at your desk or in your car.

So give them a go, and you may just find that they’re more effective than digging into those shoulder muscles. Again, this is a case of symptoms versus cause.

Face into the wall, with your arm by your side, and roll the ball around to hit the spot. You can also do this on the floor, and extend your arm out in front of you for a more aggressive version. As I mentioned with the previous exercise, the added weight whilst lying down will add extra intensity.

The photos below indicate how to use a trigger point massage ball for your chest muscles.

How to use a trigger point ball for your back

Lie down on your back and put the trigger point therapy massage ball under one side of your back (not in the middle where your spine is!). Try putting it a bit lower than halfway down your back, or move it around until you find a tender area. Slowly bring your knee in towards your chest to increase the pressure. Use the same leg as the side that the ball is on.

Photos below: How to use trigger point ball on back

how to use a trigger point ball

Spiky massage ball muscle release for your buttocks and hips

How do you release trigger points in the buttocks and hips? This is one of my personal favorites and the one I probably do most often to help relieve tension in the hips and lower back. Place ball under one butt cheek and move side to side. You can start with both legs bent and the feet on the floor.

When you’re ready to add extra pressure, cross one leg over the other, as pictured. The ball should be under the butt cheek of the leg that is crossed over the top. The most tender part might be towards the side of the butt (closer to the hip) so you may need to move around a bit to find the points you want to release.

Photos below: how to use trigger point ball on glutes.

how to use a trigger point ball

How to use a trigger point ball on your calf muscle

This one is great for runners and hill walkers. Place the ball under calf muscle whilst in a seated position, and apply as much pressure as is needed. Moved forward, backward, and side to side as needed. If you want to add extra intensity, lift your weight off your buttocks as you move over the ball.

how to use a trigger point ball

How to use a trigger point ball for tired, achy feet

This one is great for tired feet. You can even do it whilst sitting at your desk! Take your shoes (and socks if it won’t offend anyone) off and place ball under the arch of the foot.  Move around as required. Be intentional with your movement and allow a little time to work through the layers and reach tender spots. You may even like to try scrunching and un-scrunching your toes.

I like to do this one in a standing position, starting with my heel on the ground and the ball under the “ball” of my foot. From there I move side to side and gradually work my way further back on the foot, working through any tender spots.

I am paying particular attention to the “balls” of my feet as I’m currently working on releasing the muscles around my bunions. A chiropractor recently told me that I can get rid of them by doing this consistently. We will see!

Check out the little video below, which shows you how to use a trigger point ball under your foot. Make you you also subscribe to my YouTube channel, and click on the bell icon if you’d like to be notified when I post more videos like these.

[By the way, if you find you have really achy feet at the end of each day, you may also want to consider trying a barefoot style shoe, such as the Cassie shoe from xero shoes. They make functional footwear that allow the muscles in your feet to work properly and the thin sole helps to provide feedback from the ground to your feet, to tell your body how to move properly. Once you get used to wearing barefoot, minimalist style shoes, your feet shouldn’t be so sore at the end of the day!]

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I also want to share another incredible mobility training technique with you. Not only will you be able to work into your muscles like you do with a trigger point ball, but you’ll also be able to help your joints to move freely. Like trigger point therapy, you’ll just use it on “problem” areas of your body. It’s a technique called voodoo flossing, and I’ve created a complete guide on how to voodoo floss.

Click here to find out everything you need to know about voodoo flossing.

You might also be interested in checking out this epic full-body stretching routine. You’ll find out everything you need to know about effective stretching to re-lengthen your muscles, reduce muscle soreness, and help you feel relaxed.

I hope you have enjoyed learning how to use a trigger point ball. What are your favorite trigger point therapy ball exercises? I’d love to hear how you get on with these exercises so please do leave a comment in the box below!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page).

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Elly McGuinness

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