Self Massage Tools for Athletes [REVIEW]

Best Self Massage Tools - Review 

For Athletes To Recover Faster and Cheaper!

After 2 decades in training and a current career working full time as a circus performer I feel (or my body feels) like I should know a thing or two about aches and pains.

Overtension and poor form are responsible for about 98% of typical sports related injuries (Dr Kelly Starrett - Becoming a Supple Leopard). The truth is, most of the times I've been injured it was probably preventable, but prehab and rehab has never been something I've enjoyed, honestly I just can't be bothered most of the time.

But, eventually there comes an age where you have two choices:

1. Start being bothered & keep your body functioning

2. Get injured and quit

So, over the last couple of years I have been opting for option 1, learning about posture, anatomy, nutrition, healing practices and so on. If you look at top performing athletes that have sustained their career, you will see that they invest into themselves, Lebron James invests around 1.5 million a year into his recovery, it's no mystery why he has reached the level he is at, he worked hard and made the right choices.

Self massage is not a new concept to me, but I couldn't say it's something I was previously educated on and so I've been trying to rectify that; trying different types of equipment, different techniques and I have written this as a guide to someone that wants to take better care of their body but is unsure where to start.


Ok lets start with my main takeaway message; I consider both a massage ball and a foam roller to be essential pieces of kit for anyone who is serious about looking after their body. 

Lacross Natural Rubber Massage Ball for AthletesFoam Roller on Amazon

1) Price 

You can buy both of these things for less than £30 and mine have lasted so far for years with 1000s of uses. Consider that a sports massage costs around £60 for an hour and you will quickly see how these things are an incredible investment.

By the way, I'm not knocking sports massages - they are definitely the #1 option, just expensive and impossible for daily sessions unless you are earning the big bucks.

2) Versatility

You can pretty much deeply massage your entire body with these two pieces of equipment. Minus perhaps a few small harder to reach areas (e.g. neck) you could theoretically not need any other equipment and have a sustainable tension-free life.

3) Practicality

A massage ball can literally be taken anywhere and a foam roller isn't much bigger - if you get a hollow one you can put clothes and whatnot inside of it if needed. Both are super durable, basically just definitely worth getting.

Typically I will start with the foam roller and then afterwards move into more specific pinpointed areas with the massage ball, occasionally I will just use one or the other, these two things match like 2 peas in a pod. But, there are some major disadvantages to both of these things. The first and primary one is ease of use and this can be split into two meanings:

Awkward positions: There are some areas of the body that are awkward firstly just to reach but then even more awkward to actually control the pressure in those areas. For example when I massage my upper legs I usually have to be in a semi-plank position, when I massage my pecs I have to do it against a wall. Relaxing isn't really a suitable word.

Can't be bothered-itis): Following on from the above point, because it's not "relaxing", it feels almost like more training. It sounds lazy but it's definitely a real factor to consider - this was my first impetus to look into more massage tools..

Massage Gun

Buy a Massage Gun on Amazon

You've probably heard of this one, it's all the trend these days. Price wise, it's certainly no massage ball but still, if we're making a comparison to an hour sports massage it still comes up as a fairly phenomenal investment. 

The pressure of a massage gun is not like that of a roller or ball (although you can adjust how much you press into it), it's lighter but more constant. 

I use my massage gun every day but if i wanted a more "deep tissue" massage I would warm up with the massage gun and then move to the ball.

Convenience is really the key feature with these, to be able to relax on a sofa and use it means that even the laziest person in the entire world has no excuse.

They also have a massive advantage for certain parts of your body, my forearm has never been so loose, it is able to easily hit places that are really awkward with the ball (e.g. pecs). On the flipside, clearly certain places are impossible to reach with the massage gun if you're using it solo but if you're using it as part of the trio, the BIG THREE (Ball, Roller, Gun) - you're all set.

Physio Stick

Buy a Physio Stick on Amazon


I feel like this is a piece of equipment that has never got the credit it fully deserves. Ok it's definitely not as convenient to travel with as the others, but it has some huge advantages.

First, it's easy to use - just like the gun it can easily be used from the comfort of your sofa. The first difference between this and the gun is reach; all the places you can't hit with the gun you can hit with the stick (pretty much), it's like the foam roller and the massage ball, it's the yin to the yang.

But the physio stick's primary quality is the pinpointed pressure that it can deliver, it can be by far the most intense of this list due to it's smaller surface area and how little strength it takes to add a lot of force, I have actually overdone it a few times using this too hard - remember, more pressure isn't aways better.

Overall, the physio stick has been a game changer for my shoulders and upper back, price wise it's 

Neck Massager

Neck Massager on Amazon

I find the neck to be one of the hardest places to massage with the ball and roller, It's a bit hard to reach for the gun and the stick although definitely possible, however - if we are looking at convenience then the neck massager definitely is a nifty tool. 

Like the physio stick it's very easy to apply pressure, very cheap and I feel would benefit many people to just have lying around in their living room or at the desk.

Yoga Wheel

Yoga Wheel on Amazon

Initially I wondered what the point of this was, since buying it I use it exclusively to stretch my back and shoulders (which is what it's designed for), but honestly there isn't anything like it. 

I use the yoga wheel every day to stretch and click my back back into place, I don't spend longer than about a minute at a time on it but still feel it makes a giant difference in how my body feels, especially if i have been slouching at a chair all day.

Let's just say if mine broke I would immediately buy another one. 

To conclude, I strongly believe the foam roller and massage balls to be absolute essentials. On top of these I personally would rate the massage gun and yoga wheel as my "secondary essentials" that I use daily. 

At the end of the day, all the items on this list combined come could be brought for less than £200 and you can shop around for deals making it even cheaper. If you are someone who takes physical training seriously and especially if you rely on your body functioning optimally to sustain a career I would absolutely recommend trying all of the above tools. You may find that one that suits you specifically - your body will thank you for it.



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