A well-executed massage is extremely therapeutic for the back. There is no replacement for the hands of a professional in a relaxing, soothing environment, but you can get pretty close at home with the right tools. Massage balls are one option, but do they really work for back pain? In this post, I will go over some common questions about using massage balls for back pain and a better alternative for pain relief.
Massage Balls For Upper Back Release
Are Massage Balls Good For Back Pain?
The answer is they might be. Massage balls are literally just spheres, and their benefits come from education and knowing how to use them precisely for back pain. To the average, untrained person, you are likely a few hours of trial and error away from getting real relief from massage balls for back pain relief.
Do Massage Balls Really Work?
Yes. Massage balls can release painful knots and trigger points in the back, which can hold constant muscle tension that produces pain. However, the answer above still applies - without knowing the location, pressure, and cadence of massage to use it is difficult to see a lot of benefits from massage balls.
How Do I Massage My Back With A Ball?
There are a few ways to do this, depending on where your pain is. In general, rolling a massage ball on the spinal erector muscles on both sides of the spine can feel very therapeutic. Start with the ball on the wall, and if you can handle more pressure move to the floor for a more intense massage.
If your pain is in the mid to upper back, Rhomboid muscle pain may be the culprit. Check out step 2 in this video on how to massage away Rhomboid pain:
How To Use A Massage Ball
A great way to pinpoint where and how to use a massage ball is to first identify your pain pattern from a trigger point chart. This step will identify which muscles are actually contributing to your pain - and it may surprise you, some muscles can refer back pain away from where they are actually located. The image below shows the trigger point pain referral pattern from the Iliacus muscle, which is a hip flexor located in the front of the body:
Iliacus & Psoas Trigger Point Chart 
A Massage Ball Alternative For Back Pain
Massage balls are a general solution to the specific problem of back pain. When it comes to lower back pain specifically, there are more targeted, specific massage tools for the job (especially for QL and Psoas muscles). Our favorite is QL Claw, which was designed to massage and release all muscles in and around the back that contribute to lower back pain when tight. QL Claw takes out the guesswork that exists with a massage ball for back pain, with precise measurements and tutorials on how to massage your way out of back pain as fast as possible. Learn more at the button below:
We made a video on the extremely similar topic of lacrosse ball massage, illustrating the problems with using a massage ball for back pain and how the Claw can be used as a more accurate, successful, therapeutic approach:
 Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.
 Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.