Massage aids – a guide to foam rollers and therabands

Using massage aids can be a great way to help ease tension in most areas of the body if you can’t access regular massage treatments, but regularly take part in sports like running, cycling, rugby or have a job where you sit in on position for an extended period of time. Below are some common tools use by both therapists and sportspeople.

Foam Rollers

If you’ve ever been to a massage therapist, you might have seen something like this lurking in the corner and wondered just what it’s for:

Foam Roller

Foam rollers come in a variety of shapes and sizes – some are smooth, some have ridges and grooves and some have slightly terrifying looking spikes. The point of them is to help what’s called ‘myofascial release’ (myo = muscle) and whilst some therapists use them in session, many amateur sportspeople also use them at home, post-training to help break down lactic acid build up and relieve aches and pains.

As this video shows, it’s a little bit tricky to get the hang of, and there is a right way to foam roll. However, when you do get to grips with it, using a foam roller can be a great way to relieve pain if you don’t have the time or budget to get regular massage treatments. Prices for foam rollers start around £10, but can go up to nearer £30 depending on the type you want.

It’s always worth checking with and getting the thumbs up from your doctor or physio (if you have one) before using a foam roller.

Mini-foam rollers

On my Instagram feed I recently came across Ristroller – an American company who specialises in mini foam rollers for the hand, wrist and forearm. As yet, I don’t think they’re available in the UK, but given the increasing number of people suffering from RSI problems this handbag/sportsbag sized roller could be a must have to ease the pain caused by typing, using a mouse, a phone or games console.



A Theraband is essentially a long piece of latex rubber that you can use to assist stretching. In a similar way to the MET stretching I mentioned in a previous post, the band provides resistance which the muscle has to push against, this action encourages elongation of the muscle and works the muscle fibres.

You can work almost every area of the body using a Theraband and they’re a fairly inexpensive item to pick up from most high street sports shops.  The official Theraband website has a pdf download which has details on how to use them properly and effectively.


Tennis balls

At first this might sound like an odd thing to use for massage, but actually rolling a tennis ball (or something of a similar size) around the shoulder areas (not over the spine) can work the rhomboid muscles which are pictured below:

A common area of complaint
A common area of complaint

The rhomboids are often pulled from their natural position – usually from poor posture – making them tight and painful. Using a flat surface, the idea is to roll the ball in the soft area between the spine and the scapula (shoulder blade) working the tissue and easing pain. It can be an effective self massage technique when done correctly – like the other things mentioned in this post, always seek professional advice before trying them out.