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Over the past few years, foam rollers have become a must-have item in many people's daily activities. No wonder: they're perfect for improving range of motion and reducing muscle soreness. But foam rolling isn't the only way to practice self-myofascial relaxation—you can also use a small, hard ball, like a lacrosse, to work on muscle kinks and soreness.

"Lacrosse is a simple tool that everyone can use to relieve stiffness and pain, and ultimately help with body positioning and performance," said DPT physical therapist, coach and author of "Being a Soft Panther" Kelly S. Tarret said. "They're small and sturdy, so they can get into areas that foam rollers can't. They also happen to be super cheap!"

Unless you suffer from back tension that doesn't go away or belt tension that seems to keep your head up every day, you're probably wondering why you should even set aside time for some soft tissue work. After all, it takes effort to sort out muscle kinks and work connective tissue, ligaments and fascia. But it's time well spent.

"Nor is a rigid organization," Starrett said. "Making your soft tissue healthier with autologous myofascial release can improve work capacity, strength and endurance, and reduce pain."

Ready to try the LaCrosse Self Massage? Remember these four points.

set aside 10 minutes

While it may not seem like much, starting it 10 minutes before bed is ideal. "It's enough to have an impact, but not so long that it's overused," Starrett said. "Additionally, soft tissue work can have a parasympathetic effect, which means it can help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper."

2. Remember to breathe

When you're trying to relieve tension -- aiming for difficulty, overcoming soreness -- maintaining steady breathing can take a back seat. Should not. In fact, your breath should play an important role in this process.

To use the lacrosse correctly, place it under a certain part of your body (like your shoulders, hamstrings, or quadriceps) and let your body weight push the ball down. Scroll until you find a spot that feels a little uncomfortable. Stop there and breathe for four seconds. Then hold the muscle where the ball is and hold for four seconds. Finally, relax the muscles and exhale for eight seconds. "Long exhalations tell your body to relax," Starrett says. Repeat this breathing technique until the area is soft enough that you can put your full weight on the ball. Then move on to the next position.

3. Aim one area at a time

Don't think of a lacrosse release as a full-body exercise. This is a less-is-more situation. Instead of going head to toe, spend one night working your legs and the next night working your upper back. Every night, turn your attention to a different muscle group. The goal is to reach all major parts of your body by the weekend.

One thing to remember: be sure to hit both sides. If you do the right leg, do the left leg the same night. Need some inspiration to position your goals? "Put the ball where you feel stiff," Starrett said. "Or, if you feel pain somewhere, consider targeting the surrounding area." In other words, if your neck hurts, lie down and place the ball under the traps in your upper back.

4. Stop when it hurts.

Don't worry about discomfort, especially at first, but reassess if you experience severe pain. "When you put the ball under a certain part of your body, it should feel good," Starrett said. "If the pain is so severe that you can't take a deep breath, you need to support your weight with your hands or throw a towel over the ball. to reduce stress.”