The 10 Best Massage Sticks
This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in August of 2015. Physical therapists and personal trainers are great, but few of us have the time or money to have a professional at our disposal whenever we need them. One of these massage sticks can be a viable alternative, providing relief from muscle pain or soreness after a hard workout and helping to prevent injuries by preparing you for your daily exercise routine or a long run. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 25, 2020:
Massage sticks are a relatively simply way to provide myofascial and muscle relief, increase circulation, and even enhance flexibility without the aid of an expensive professional. While they come in many forms, they generally consist of a shaft of some kind with either textured or smooth rollers. We have included both kinds on this list, as well as a couple unusual options that prove to be quite effective.
Falling into this latter category of unusual options, we have the Thera Cane Blue and TriggerPoint AcuCurve. Both have singular knobs that are very useful for targeting small problem areas, and getting deep at the root of the problem. They also have a structure that offers the user plenty of leverage, so they might be able to put a little more pressure into their muscle than they might with a straight stick, especially when working on the back or other hard-to-reach spots.
The Sklz AccuRoller is another less-than-traditional option that allows you to adjust the positioning of the balls to best suit whatever purpose you have in mind. Since it features straps rather than stiff handles, some may find it allows them to target and put more pressure on areas they might struggle with using other styles.
For those who prefer something very aggressive, the knobby Fitness Answered Elite is a smart choice, while the foam-covered Tiger Tail Original is better for those who want something a bit softer against their skin. With their hard, yet relatively smooth rollers, the Fitness Answered Muscle Stick, Physix Gear Tool fall into the middle ground here. They allow you to push very hard on problem areas, yet won't feel too much like they are digging into the skin.
If none of these are proving to be effective for your needs, whether because you don't have the strength or flexibility required to put enough pressure on your muscles, you may want to consider a massage gun instead, which is a powered tool that offers percussive therapy, and which generally comes with a variety of heads to help with different problems.
March 01, 2019:
Removed the The Stick Muscle and TriggerPoint Grid from the list as these items are no longer available. Added the Thera Cane Blue, which differs from most models in that it’s shaped like a hook — this can cause a bit of a learning curve for those accustomed to standard rolling sticks, but it comes with a useful instruction booklet that helps you use it effectively. Also included the TriggerPoint Acucurve, noting the quality craftsmanship as well as the large amount of leverage and control it affords the user in accessing places that are notoriously difficult to reach without a tool of this nature. Moved the Fitness Answered Original up into the second slot, as users continue to report examples of its effectiveness in relieving muscle tension before and after exercising, eliminating knots, and easing pain in the legs and lower back. It's a great value when you consider its performance, ease of use and affordability.
Hyperice Hypervolt While it may not technically be a massage stick, the Hyperice Hypervolt offers the same muscle relief but requires less manual effort on your part. Many may actually find it to be more effective too, since it provides percussive therapy rather than just pressure rolling. It boasts interchangeable heads too, allowing it to suit a variety of needs. hyperice.com
Health Benefits Of Massage Sticks
Trigger points may manifest themselves as joint pain, tension headaches, reduced range of motion in the extremities, and even lower back pain.
Massage sticks provide many health benefits to the body. The different shapes the sticks come in are designed to provide varying levels of relief and pressure, and can directly influence how effective they are.
Massage sticks are most commonly used to reduce muscle pain, especially after a workout. This pain is clinically called delayed onset muscle soreness. For a long time, lactic acid was seen as the cause of DOMS, but new studies indicate this is not true. Lactic acid is indeed a byproduct of working out, but it actually carries helpful oxygen when the muscles are depleted. Lactic acid is also only present in the muscles for a couple of hours, yet DOMS doesn't appear until one to three days after a workout.
Tears in the muscle are actually the cause of DOMS. These microscopic tears occur in the body when muscle is pushed to its limit through weight lifting or aerobic exercise. These tears damage the muscle cells and the connective tissue surrounding them. This inflames the muscle's nociceptors, making them more easily stimulated. This inflammation and sensitivity is what causes the pain of DOMS. Luckily, massage reduces the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness.
This reduction in DOMS symptoms from self-massage also helps prevent muscle injuries. People following a regular workout routine are used to working out in spite of DOMS. This often causes the body to overcompensate, putting unnecessary stress on other areas of the body. For instance, a person with sore legs may unintentionally engage their back muscles throughout the day. This puts them at an increased risk for injury.
Massage sticks are also great for managing trigger points. Trigger points are distinct irritating spots in specific bands of skeletal muscle, often called muscle knots. Trigger points cause inflammation and local pain in the muscle on which they appear . They can be found anywhere in the body, and cause many secondary symptoms.
Trigger points may manifest themselves as joint pain, tension headaches, reduced range of motion in the extremities, and even lower back pain. Self-massage of these trigger points is one of the easiest management techniques. Massage sticks allow the user to work deep into the knot causing the pain and stretch it back out. Loosening up a trigger point increases circulation and can relieve many secondary symptoms.
Who Can Benefit From Using A Massage Stick?
Many people in the modern era can see the benefit of using a massage stick. Advanced research done in the realm is the reason behind this shift in understanding.
Advanced research done in the realm is the reason behind this shift in understanding.
Athletes remain the largest consumer of massage sticks globally, as they provide an easy way to relax the muscles after an intense workout. They are small enough to fit in a gym bag, and sturdy enough to be stuffed in a locker or the trunk of a car without worry. Muscle recovery time plays a key role in any athlete's optimal performance and ability to improve. Using a massage stick can speed that recovery time.
Office workers benefit from massage sticks, as well. Sitting in a chair for hours at a time is actually very tolling on the body. Sitting upright causes up to 90 percent more stress on the back than standing. Improper sitting also causes reduced blood circulation and can influence inflammation in the legs. Massage sticks can relieve tension on a lunch break or after a long day at the office.
Tools like massage sticks also make great travel companions, as keeping the body in the same position for hours on end during long road trips in the car causes muscle tension that you can relieve at a pit stop. Self-massage easily relieves the tension accumulating in the arms, legs, back, and neck.
The idea that massage tools are not for everyone is antiquated. Everyone from child gymnasts looking to stretch their muscles to elderly people looking for relief from aching joints can benefit from their use.
How Do Massage Sticks Amplify The Effects Of Massage?
The design of most massage sticks is very similar. They are generally made of a hard wood, metal, or plastic, and have a hand grip on either end. The part of the design which varies is the area of active use between these two grips. This area is usually comprised of a bar that spins and has any variety of knobs or grooves built into it. The designs of these bars are meant to reach deep levels of tissue as easily as possible. Self-massage is a great recovery tool for everything from a regular workout to symptoms of osteoarthritis, and can even reduce stress in working individuals.
The designs of these bars are meant to reach deep levels of tissue as easily as possible.
The effects of self-massage are diminished if it takes a lot of energy or and effort to complete the massage. This added effort causes many people to neglect self-massage as a daily care ritual. Luckily, the effects of a massage can be easily amplified through the use of a massage stick. The shape and design of the sticks are optimized for self-myofascial release.
The myofascial system is the network of fascia running throughout the entire body. Fascia is a sheet of connective tissue made up of mostly collagen, which lies beneath the skin and on top of the muscles. It surrounds muscles, organs, and other tissues. Its primary function is to support, separate, and stabilize the different elements in the body. This fascial tissue can become tight through strenuous activities, heavy workouts, or even sitting in a chair for many hours of the day. Dysfunctions in myofascial tissue cause many of the common problems we see today.
The term used colloquially to describe myofascial release is breaking the fascia. This is the process of influencing the fascia to return to its original state. Massage sticks are one of the most important tools used to accomplish this at home. Self-myofascial release techniques done at home using these sticks can have a beneficial effect on range of motion, delayed onset muscle soreness, and muscle performance. Massage sticks amplify the effects of a massage by breaking apart fascial tissue and stretching out tight or sore muscles. The effect is significantly better than simple massage techniques, as most manual self-massage techniques cannot reach into deeper tissues.