Spiky ball, stress ball, reflexology, pilates, massage ball. They look like a stocking filler you'd buy when you run out of ideas. If you gave me one of these as my stocking filler it would definitely make my day!
This rubbery ball with spikes comes in different sizes, from small to fit in the palm of your hand (6cm) to large (about 10cm). You can get soft and squidgy or hard that you cannot break, or ones with little knobbles on them.
So why should every household have one?
Your muscles ache after hill walking, your back aches after sitting for too long in one position, your arm aches after a bad night's sleep. You either have your massage therapist on speed dial with fingers crossed for a free slot or you self-massage. Before these balls came along, there were those cushioned pads with two rotating 'boobs' that you leaned yourself against. I got one as a novelty. It worked for a while but I got bored and yearned for fingers that would get into the nooks and crannies that the 'boobs' couldn't reach.
Enter the spiky balls. Sore back? Put one of these on the floor, lie on it until you find the sore spot and stay there or roll about a bit. The ball sinks into the muscle, stretching the fascia, releasing acupressure points, encouraging better circulation into that area so increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscle while getting rid of toxins. The result - less soreness, less restriction, less tightness.
Your hand hurts or more specifically the palmar area or fatty area that leads to your thumb. Squeeze a hard ball in your hand or roll it around on a hard surface. (Image: Amazon.co.uk.)
The sole of your foot aches or you have plantar fascitis where the connective tissue along the sole of your foot is inflamed and very tender. Roll your foot on a hard ball against a hard surface. You don't want a squidgy ball because you really need those prickles to sink in. If it's specifically the arch that hurts, use your hand to press the ball into your arch.
Sore neck? You either get a patient friend to help you or you have to improve your yoga flexibility. Put your head to one side and roll the ball against the side of back of your neck.
Bottom feeling tight? You may want to get a hard knobbly ball for this, definitely not a squidgy one. You can get a hard ball with hard spikes but it will be painful, you have been warned. The image says it all. If you can't get into this position, leave both feet on the floor with legs bent or alternatively, press your bottom against the ball against the wall.
You will probably need to move around to get the right position. Move yourself so the ball is on the edge of the gluteus maximum muscle overlapping the posterior of the thigh, or move the other way towards your hip and you catch the upper edge of the gluteus medius, often a sore spot for those with lower back pain.
Do an internet search for a muscle group with spiky ball and you'll find loads of images to help you.