Loosen Up Trigger Points and Feel Great With the Best Self-Myofascial Release Tools

Have you ever seen those people rolling around over a foam tube at the gym and wondered, “what the heck are they doing?”

Well, here’s your answer: myofascial release.

In our modern world of “text neck” and long periods of sitting, myofascial release can offer a welcome relief from muscle tension with simple techniques that you can do from just about anywhere!

With the right tools for myofascial release you can take control of your aches and knots.

Read on to learn more about techniques and some of the best myofascial release tools available.

What is Myofascial Release?

In its simplest form, myofascial release is the technical term for a form of massage therapy that is meant to make connective tissues (fascia) looser and more flexible with the idea of relieving tightness and pain in your muscles.

Repetitive motions or injuries can cause the fascia to tighten up and cause “knots” (also referred to as “trigger points”). A large part of myofascial release includes targeting these trigger points and keeping steady pressure on them to help release them.

If you are new to myofascial release and want to learn more of the benefits, see our page on ‘what is myofascial release‘.

Why So Many Different Myofascial Release Tools?

When you are prepared with the right myofascial release tools and techniques you can expect great results. However, finding the right tools for your body is easier said than done. Different muscles can be harder to reach than others and also require a different level of firmness than others.

A large part of finding the right tool means trying a lot of different ones and sticking with the ones that work.

There’s a lot of tools out there often they look (and sometimes feel) like medieval torture devices, but I promise you they will do your body good. It’s not for the faint of heart, but boy is it effective!

This guide will cover the most popular myofascial release tools and give advice on their best uses.

When in doubt, seek the advice of a trained massage therapist or physical therapist for help learning how to use these tools.


The Best Myofascial Release Tools

With that out the way, let’s get into the best myofascial release tools (in no particular order).

Myofascial Release Tools for IAFM & IASTM

Myofascial Releaser Ellipse Pro - Stainless Steel Physical Therapy Tool for Soft Tissue Mobilization...
  • RELIEVE PAIN: The Ellipse Pro is ideal for...
  • PREVENT INJURIES: Use the Ellipse Pro before...
  • MOST VERSATILE IASTM TOOL: You won't need any...


Pros

  • Effective
  • Can be expensive to buy a quality tool

Cons

  • Slight learning curve in order to use these tools effectively
  • Difficult to use on oneself unless targetting the legs

These kinds of tools are generally used by clinicians and massage therapists to help in instrument-assisted fascias mobilization (IAFM) and instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), however, it is also possible to use these tools for self-myofascial release on some parts of the body.

These tools come in a variety of materials however the ones that are crafted out of steel are said to be the best.

To find out more, see our page on the best myofascial release tools for IAMFM & IASTM.


Foam Rollers

Sale
AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller | 36-inches, Black
  • High-density blue speckled foam roller with molded...
  • Ideal for balance, strengthening, flexibility, and...
  • Made from molded polypropylene to maintain...


Pros

  • Good for beginners, simple to use
  • First timers will find it less intense than massage balls
  • Able to release most of the main trigger points
  • Cheap and durable

Cons

  • Over time users will need to use smaller tools to release smaller trigger points
  • In most cases, you need to be on the floor to use it effectively

A foam roller is a long cylindrical piece of foam used for myofascial release. Foam rollers are generally very firm (not squishy) which allows you to use the weight of your body against the foam roller to find and release trigger points.

This is your bread and butter of myofascial release. It is the first tool you should get when first starting out. The classic foam roller is extremely versatile and can be used on most parts of the body.

If you are interested in getting a foam roller but do not know which one to choose, see our page on the best foam rollers.


Body Back Buddy

Body Back Buddy Self Massage Tool - Back, Neck, Shoulder, Leg & Feet Trigger Point Therapy & Deep...
  • ORIGINAL STURDY DESIGN - Back in 1995 we wanted to...
  • UNIQUELY DESIGNED MASSAGE STICK - The perfected...
  • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BY EXPERTS - The Body Back...


Pros

  • Can be used whilst sitting or standing
  • Easy to massage unreachable areas particularly the back
  • Can release trigger points which are small

Cons

  • Unlikely to work well for large areas (e.g. hamstrings, quads, calves etc.)
  • Not easy to transport around

The Body Back Buddy is a type of massage cane. It is shaped like an “S” with strategically placed handles along the design for you to get a good grip. Multiple knobs and each end of the “S” can be used for myofascial release.

The Body Back Buddy and the Thera Cane seem to be the market leaders when it comes to massage canes. I myself have the Thera Cane and the Body Back Buddy, for a greater in-depth analysis, see my Body Back Buddy review.

Tips for using Body Back Buddy:

  • Hook one end of the cane around your back and use the front end and handle to manoeuvre the tool and apply pressure to trigger points.
  • Use the knobs on trigger points in the arms and legs.

Neck Massager Tool

Sale
Neck Track for Trigger Point Massage & Myofascial Release - Relieves Pain & Tension Headaches, Size:...
  • PHYSICAL THERAPIST RECOMMENDED: Used & recommended...
  • IMMEDIATE BENEFITS: Many people tell us in their...
  • FREE HOW-TO VIDEO & INDEPENDENT EXPERT REVIEWS:...


Pros

  • Holds massage balls in place to prevent them rolling
  • Raises the balls off the ground to allow more pressure into the neck

Cons

  • Could achieve same results with a peanut massage ball placed on a yoga block
  • Have to lie down to use it

The neck massager tool uses a foam block, massage balls, and gravity to gently release sensitive trigger points in the neck. This multi-tasker can also be used for other body parts.

Don’t have massage balls lying around? No problem. You can also use tennis, lacrosse or other similar sized balls instead.

The main selling point of this tool is that it holds your massage ball still rather than having it roll around everywhere.

Tips for using the neck massager tool:

  • Place the balls in one of the three available positions depending on your trigger points and anatomy. Carefully relax your neck onto the massager.
  • Adjust the size and softness of the massage balls to meet your needs.
  • Lay on your side and rest onto the massager to release the sides of the neck and jaw.

Thera Cane

Thera Cane Massager (Blue)
  • Cane shaped massager for easing aches and pains
  • Eliminate painful knots in your muscles on your...
  • 6 treatment balls for total body massage

Pros

  • Great to use whilst sitting
  • Effective for the upper traps
  • Able to get hard to reach trigger points on the back without getting on the floor


Cons

  • Only really useful for the upper back and trap area

The Thera Cane is the classic massage cane. It is shaped like a shepherd’s crook with two handles, and round knobs on each end and the middle. This is a great multi-purpose massage cane for the entire body. It does require upper body strength and dexterity to grip, manoeuvre, and press into trigger points.

I like the Thera Cane and find it particularly useful for releasing the upper traps and using the knobs to massage tender areas of the neck. For a full analysis, see my Thera Cane Review.

Tips for using the Thera Cane:

  • Loop the crook around to your back or on the tops of your shoulders where your trigger points are. Grip the handle and the end of the Theracane to put pressure on trigger points.
  • Place the knobs on trigger points in the legs and use the ends of the cane to press down onto knots.

Peanut Massage Ball

Sale
5BILLION Peanut Massage Ball - Double Lacrosse Massage Ball & Mobility Ball for Physical Therapy -...
  • Perfect Design For Comprehensive Massage- 5" in...
  • Durable Material- The massage ball is made of 100%...
  • Free Carry Bag- This Double Massage Ball comes...

Pros

  • Cheap and effective
  • More stable to use than a single massage ball
  • Great for rolling down the spine and back of the neck
  • You are bound to find new trigger points when using this


Cons

  • May take time to get to used to
  • Can be uncomfortable at first

The peanut massage ball has a double ball design (like a peanut) that provides stability and accuracy for myofascial release all over the body. The small design is great for people who travel and need a lightweight, portable massager.

In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated myofascial release tools. Most will have come across this tool for running down either side of the spine, which it works well for, but I have found it also works well for other body parts.

For example, it is great for running down the length of your quads, calves and even around the hip area. It provides a different type of pressure that is two-pronged rather than the standard one pressure spot from a normal massage ball. I was amazed at how many new trigger points I discovered rolling around on one of these.

I highly recommend getting a peanut massage ball and testing it out on different parts of your body. You’ll uncover a whole lot of trigger points you never knew existed.

If you’re interested in getting a peanut massage ball but don’t know where to start, see our page on the best peanut massage balls.


Standard Massage Ball

Sale
TriggerPoint Foam Massage Ball for Deep-Tissue Massage, MB1 (2.6-inch)
  • Layered construction provides direct, deep-tissue...
  • Ideal for targeting small muscles such as calves,...
  • Encourages blood and oxygen flow to enhance...

Pros

  • Come in all shapes and sizes
  • Easy to acquire (Everyone has a ball lying around somewhere!)
  • Can be used on any part of the body
  • Can reach the smallest of trigger points
  • Easy to carry around


Cons

  • For best results, you need to get on the floor or use a wall
  • May be too intense for some
  • Not really suitable for massaging large areas

The standard small massage ball is a versatile, portable and effective ball.

You can use most massage balls on any part of the body which is why they are an essential myofascial release tool. They are particularly effective when used on the neck, biceps, forearms, back, chest, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and feet (practically any body part!).

They come in all different surfaces, densities and sizes meaning you’ll be able to find the perfect massage ball for whatever your needs.

To get started on choosing a suitable massage ball to get started with, see our page on the best massage balls.


Spiky Massage Ball

Physix Gear Sport Massage Balls - Best Spiky Ball Roller for Plantar Fasciitis Trigger Points Neck &...
  • EASE AND PORTABILITY - What good is foot relief if...
  • EFFECTIVE RELIEF - Working out? The spiky layer...
  • BE REBORN - Get back in the game with a firm...

Pros

  • Spikes make this useful for the foot particularly plantar fasciitis
  • Cheap
  • Can get in a variety of sizes


Cons

  • Some may find it too painful to use if the ball is too hard
  • A standard ball may be more effective

The spiky massage balls are a treat for trigger points in your feet. Use the softer ball for a more gentle massage, or the hard one for more firm pressure.

I like using the spiky massage ball on my back by laying on them and rolling around. They aren’t as compact and dense as a normal ball and have a bit of ‘give’ to them. I find them great for the hip area too as they aren’t too hard.

Tips for using spiky massage balls:

  • Put the massage ball on the floor. Place your foot on the massage ball and adjust your position until your trigger point is resting on the ball. Let your foot rest on the ball for several seconds.
  • Slowly repeat the process along the balls of your feet, your arches, and your heels.

Handheld Muscle Stick Rollers

Sale
TriggerPoint Performance GRID STK Handheld Foam Roller, 21 Inch, Regular Density
  • Portable, handheld massage roller incorporating...
  • Targets both large muscle groups and pinpoints...
  • AcuGRIP handles provide targeted relief that...

Pros

  • Good for the lower body such as the quads and hamstrings
  • Great for releasing the calves
  • A great tool for runners
  • Light and portable


Cons

  • Not as versatile as a ball or foam roller
  • Doesn’t provide much value for the upper body

Massage roller sticks are a great tool to manually roll out your knots. The small design makes this a more portable version of a foam roller.

Muscle roller sticks are a popular myofascial release tool among runners and athletes, due to how quick and easy it is to use after a run or workout session. Simply pull a muscle roller out and roll it up and down your quads, hamstrings and calves.

Doing this will help massage your legs, relieve tightness and aid in quicker muscle recovery before your next workout session.

To find out more, see our post on the best massage stick rollers.


TheraFlow foot massager

Sale
TheraFlow Dual Foot Massager Roller (Large). Relieve Plantar Fasciitis, Stress, Heel, Arch Pain -...
  • RELIEF: Designed to soothe foot/ heel pain due to...
  • RELAX: Refreshes tired, sore, achy feet. Promotes...
  • PORTABLE & VERSATILE: Perfect for feet of all...

Pros

  • Provides a deep tissue massage for the foot
  • Releases deep trigger point in the foot
  • Can help with plantar fasciitis
  • Can reduce foot pain


Cons

  • Could get the same effects with a spikey ball

The Theraflow foot massager is a wooden roller with small pegs for a deep-tissue massage. This model is designed specifically to help with plantar fasciitis and trigger points in the feet. This massager has no give because it is made of wood, so “tread” gently.

Tips for using the Theraflow foot massager:

  • Place the massager on the ground. Sit down and gently roll feet back and forth over the massager, stopping for several seconds on any trigger points.

Quadballer Roller

TriggerPoint Self-Myofascial Release and Deep Tissue Massage Quadballer Roller
  • Innovative roller/pressure tool for self-applied...
  • Allows you to roll completely through the quads,...
  • Designed for greater precision and control than...

Pros

  • Better control on quads than using a foam roller
  • Can be used also on the hamstrings, IT band and neck
  • Great specialist tool for the legs
  • Light and compact


Cons

  • Quite expensive compared to a foam roller
  • Not useful for the back

The Quadballer roller has a unique design with a long oval shaped roller with a rollerblade style wheel on either end. It’s just wide enough for a leg to fit between the two wheels. This massager can be used in the same way as a foam roller on the legs and calves. If you travel and you need a roller for your legs, this one is more space-efficient.

Tips for using Quadballer roller:

  • Place the roller on the floor and lower the leg onto it, supporting yourself with your arms and other leg.
  • Slowly roll back and forth, stopping on any trigger points for several seconds.

Neck and Shoulder Therapeutic Trigger Point Massage Tool

Sale
Gideon Neck and Shoulder Therapeutic Dual Trigger Point Self-Massage Tool/Deep Tissue Massage...
  • CONVENIENT & PORTABLE - Give yourself a vigorous...
  • MIMICS REAL THERAPIST'S HANDS - Designed to feel...
  • TARGETED PAIN RELIEF - Relieve pain through...

Pros

  • Can massage your neck comfortably whilst seated
  • Don’t have to use it whilst on the floor


Cons

  • Only suitable for the neck
  • You could get the same effects using a peanut massage ball

The Gideon Neck and Shoulder Therapeutic Dual Trigger Point Self-Massage Tool allows you to massage trigger points in the neck without laying down.

The unique design wraps around the neck and two massage balls “pinch” onto the muscles and trigger points. This is a great tool for your desk if you get a tense neck at work.

I don’t have one of these myself as I feel it’s going to be similar to what the Thera Cane does.

Tips for using the Neck and shoulder therapeutic trigger point massage tool:

  • Use the handles to control how much pressure is put on your neck and shoulder trigger points.

Jacknobber Tool

The Original Jacknobber II Massage Tool for Deep Tissue Therapy of Foot, Calves, Back, Arms, Jaw,...
  • Provides a most pleasant and relaxing back massage
  • Can be used in many ways to apply deep pressure to...
  • Smaller knobs provide deeper, more intense...

Pros

  • Can release the smallest and deepest trigger points
  • Small and easy to carry
  • Low Price
  • Different sized heads for different pressures


Cons

  • First-time massagers will find this tool too intense
  • Not useful for large areas

Funny name aside, the Jacknobber tool is a handy little massager for myofascial release. This is discreet enough that you can keep it at your desk at work. As handheld massagers go, this does not require much grip strength and can be pressed down instead.

I have one of these in my myofascial release tool arsenal and will use it for trigger points that are particularly hard to reach in fleshy areas of the body such as the back of the thighs and calves.

I find that the material for this tool is a little too hard and would have been much better if it was firm, yet was softer on the body. Poking this in bony areas would not be recommended. If the knobs were covered by some dense foam this would have been a dream myofascial release tool. However, given the low price, it’s worthwhile testing this for yourself.

Tips for using the Jacknobber tool:

  • Grab one of the points between your thumb and pointer finger and press the massager down onto trigger points.
  • The knobs on each point of this jack shaped tool are different sizes, so try them out and see which works best for you.

Massage roller balls

Massage Roller Ball by Body Back Company - Handheld Self Massage Therapy Tool for Sore Muscle...
  • EASY TO USE & COMFORTABLE TO HANDLE - Designed...
  • ROLLER BALLS FOR ESSENTIAL OILS - Try this...
  • RELIEVE MUSCLE PAIN ALL BY YOURSELF - Sooth cramps...

Pros

  • Cheap to buy
  • Sturdier than a ball
  • Can use over the whole body


Cons

  • Could get the same effect with a standard ball

I thought HAL was destroyed at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Apparently, he’s found new work as a massage roller ball.

The massage roller ball allows you to massage trigger points with just one hand. The ergonomic design makes this easier to use than other handheld models. This is more of a tool you would use for light massages after a hard days work of sitting at a computer.

Tips for using Massage roller balls:

  • Simply hold the massager in one hand and use it to press into trigger points.

The Rumble Roller

RumbleRoller - Mid Size 22 Inches - Black - Extra Firm - Textured Muscle Foam Roller - Relieve Sore...
  • INGENIOUS DESIGN! The surface of the RumbleRoller...
  • As you roll over the top of the RumbleRoller, the...
  • YOUR ANSWER TO MUSCLE SORENESS! The RumbleRoller...

Pros

  • Deeper release than a traditional foam roller
  • Good quality & durability
  • Available in different sizes and 2 options of firmness


Cons

  • May be too painful for beginners
  • Not really suitable for bony parts of the body

If you want to take your foam rolling to the next level then you may want to try the Rumble Roller. The Rumble Roller has deeper grooves and ridges than a conventional roller and is designed to dig deeper into the muscles than ever before.

I can attest it is extremely effective at reaching the peskiest of trigger points, however, it is a pretty brutal experience. You can read more about it in my Rumble Roller review.


The Beastie Ball

Sale
RumbleRoller BXA Extra Firm Beastie + Base Extra Firm Beastie Ball + Base, Green
  • Uniformly spaced, high-profile bumps for deepest...
  • X-Firm bumps
  • The Base orients the Beastie so that one of its...

Pros

  • A step up from a traditional massage ball
  • Can target even the smallest trigger points & knots
  • Includes base to keep the ball from rolling
  • Has both an original and x-firm option


Cons

  • May be too painful for beginners
  • Not really suitable for bony parts of the body

The Beastie Ball lives up to its name. It really is a beast. Since trying out the Beastie Ball it has become one of my favourite and most used myofascial release tools.

If you need a tool that can target the smallest of knots then the Beastie Ball is a fantastic option. I’ve found it works best for me on my neck and back.

The only issue with it is that it is very firm and almost too effective. This means that it may be a little painful to use for a beginner. However, if you’ve exhausted all the most common myofascial release tools and are looking for a step up, the Beastie Ball could well be worth a go. If you’re interested you can read more in my Beastie Ball review.


Bonus Tool: The Yoga Block

Sale
Reehut Yoga Block (1 PC or 2 PC) - High Density EVA Foam Block to Support and Deepen Poses, Improve...
  • 100% non-toxic and eco-friendly....
  • Lightweight, high-density and sturdy foam for...
  • Beveled edges provides soft grip. Moisture-pro...

Whilst this isn’t a myofascial release tool I feel that this has been one of the best assistive tools to get the best out of the other methods, particularly the massage balls. Sometimes you just can’t generate enough pressure from placing a body part on a massage ball.

When you place a massage ball on a yoga block and then put pressure on it from a body part, it helps the ball reach into deeper areas of the tissue or areas that were unreachable. The yoga block also has a slightly soft consistency so that the ball doesn’t roll around too much whilst on it.


My Wonderful Year of Myofascial Release

I discovered ‘foam rolling’ about one and a half years ago. Before that, I was a very inactive guy with a regular 9-5 job and moved very little. I did no real form of exercise. Over the years, without me realising, my muscles became very tight and I became very inflexible. It was only until I started getting into exercise, that I realised how rigid and stiff I had become.

I came across the idea of loosening muscles and releasing tight spots using myofascial release soon after I began exercising. Since then I have seen wonderful results. All my aches seem to be disappearing, I feel looser and am gaining flexibility every day. I just love finding trigger points, and even after a year of foam rolling, I am still finding new trigger points that have gone unreleased for decades.

By trying new tools, I have been discovering their benefits and it is this post that I want to document some of the ones that have worked well for me, and what they are good for.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t tried all of the tools, but I couldn’t help list them anyway to make this list of best myofascial release tools more comprehensive. I do plan to try them all out someday.

Finding the Right Myofascial Release Tool

In conclusion, there are many types of tools for myofascial release. Choosing the right one for you may take some trial and error.

Generally speaking, foam rollers are better for deep tissue release and small handheld models are better for lighter pressure.

If you’re starting out definitely go with a foam roller. As time goes by you’ll likely need something that can create more pressure in smaller areas. This is when you should perhaps look at the other tools.

You can pick up 2 or 3 of these for the price of a single massage, so don’t be afraid to try them out and see what works best for you. With regular myofascial release, you can relieve pain, gain better flexibility and enjoy feeling better in your day-to-day life.

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