Spiky balls – versatile but challenging

Spiky balls are rather like Lizzie – very versatile but at times quite a challenge to work with!

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I use them in several different ways, and have one lurking near to hand all the time.

The most frequent use I have for them is dealing with trigger points. Before I encountered spiky balls I used to recommend a tennis ball or similar, but apart from acupuncture I think nothing really beats them for getting to the heart of trigger points. No matter what approach you use, treating trigger points is generally an uncomfortable process, but the results are rewarding. Once you get familiar with identifying, locating and managing your ‘regular’ trigger points, you might be surprised at the results. Plenty of the day to day pain/stiffness/tightness that we all experience can be attributed to trigger points, and whilst they are almost always present in conjunction with other musculoskeletal issues, keeping the at bay is important if you want to stay strong and symmetrical for riding.

Common areas that you can easily treat with spiky balls are:

Between shoulder blades; Low back; Gluteals/pelvic muscles; Thighs; Calves

You can treat all of those lying down except for the low back because your kidneys are a little close and don’t really want a spiky ball session. Instead, stand against a wall for the low back, and in fact this can be more comfortable for between the shoulder blades too. If you are lying on your back, 2 spiky balls are a must so that you have equal pressure on both sides of your body. You can do gluteals lying on your side –

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The spiky ball above my head is the same size as the one I am lying on; 7cm in diameter

In the above picture I am lying with a spiky ball under the right side of my pelvis, just below the line where my top finishes. I have lots of trigger points in my TFL (tensor fascia lata) and Gluteals, so for me this position targets these very well. It is common to get referral of pain when you apply pressure to trigger points, and if I get it right, I often get pain down to my foot! It isn’t for everyone, but as I said before, the results make the discomfort worthwhile.

Spiky balls are also brilliant for fascial mobilisation and release, and the area I target most for this is the soles of the feet. You might not think that your feet are that important as a rider, but if you think about them for a moment they really are. Anyone who has foot pain or structural abnormalities of the feet will be well aware of how this affects pressure into the stirrups, the ability to keep heels down, and maintain balance as you move your upper body. We neglect our feet too much, and spiky balls reach into parts that don’t normally get stretched and mobilised. It is also thought that mobilising the fascia on the sole of the foot will help with fascial mobility throughout the body.

My classes love and hate the spiky balls in equal measure I think, but not just because of the pain factor. One of my favourite uses is as a gauge of pelvic stability during exercise.

DSC00633 The idea is very simple – keep the ball still whilst you move different parts of your body. One of the interesting observations I have with this is how for many people, the balls always roll to the same side when it goes, which is a clear indicator of asymmetry in pelvic and core control. I also find with this that fatigue plays a role, and personally I am aware that if I am fatigued from anything ranging from too much gardening to a brewing illness, I really struggle to keep the ball in place, even if I was not actually aware before hand that I was not right. Transfer this to riding, and you can see how that subtle control and awareness of position is so useful for your seat.

I am now starting to work on the You Tube videos so soon you can see the spiky ball in action properly. If you want to get any in the meantime, I get mine from Trimbio as they seem to be the best size and firmness.

***Don’t forget – make sure you only do any form of exercise if you are confident you are fit and healthy enough to do so, and ideally under the guidance of a physical therapist. If in doubt check first.***

Louise

 

Published by Louise Towl Physio

I am a Chartered Physiotherapist with Pilates training, and I am an ACPAT (the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy) and RAMP (Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners) registered Veterinary Physiotherapist. Away from work I have ridden all my life, competing in various disciplines and now focussing on dressage. With my retired horse, Baz, I competed at Advanced level, and I now have a younger horse, Lizzie, who is currently competing at Elementary.

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