Use a small dog tennis ball to apply pressure on one side of the spine’s bony ridge. Pin it between a wall and your back, controlling the pressure. Keep your back as relaxed as possible. Roll slowly or pause 30+ seconds on a spot to relieve stiffness and pain in the smallest spinal muscles!
- Potential relief: 5 – The relief you can get from this is awesome.
- Universality: 5 - So little relief is given to the spine’s laminar groove muscles in other treatment methods, even though I find practically everyone is stiff or achy deep in there. This method fills that void, and will help practically anyone with upper, middle, or lower back pain – possibly dramatically! It's safest and easier against a wall, instead of the ground.
Cautionary exceptions are rare: As with all direct pressure techniques on the back, consult a diagnosing professional if you have spinal medical conditions or vertebral joint weakness. This technique may require a bit more caution in the lower back or around nerve impingements, as the pressure is directly behind the spinal column and discs. In the rare chance it feels fiery, shock-like, or disabling stop immediately and consult a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or other medical professional.
- Ease: 5 - It takes just a couple of minutes to get the hang of placing the ball, rolling steadily on it, and pausing at an ideal pressure for you.
- Low cost: 5 – A small dog tennis ball costs about 75 cents at a local pet store! Don’t order severely overpriced options online.
- Low time investment: 3 – Usually, relief happens within a few minutes in an area.
- Comfort: 3 – As you apply pressure, it may trigger some discomfort or pain in the area, or may send (“refer”) pain/sensation to other areas. As with similar techniques, you’re looking for a “good hurt” that’s ultimately relieving.
About Laminar Groove Back Pain
Along each side of the bony ridge of the spine is a vertical groove filled with dozens of small muscle fibers that hold individual vertebrae together. You can feel some of each groove most easily in the mid-back: slip your fingers between the bony processes of the spine and the bigger vertical muscles; that slight gap up and down each side of the ridge is an access to the deep “laminar groove” of the spine.
Both laminar grooves are filled with deep, small, postural muscles, which frequently get achy and exhausted from poor posture, spinal curves like scoliosis, or chronic contraction after past injuries or car accidents. They can radiate pain and fatigue outward and downward across your back, just like your neck muscles can give you headaches.
It can be *so* refreshing to contact laminar groove muscles directly and massage out that tension! How do we do that ourselves without breaking our fingers?
While you can use a Theracane/Back Buddy, they’re slow and cumbersome. Golf balls don’t work because they grind and bump against bone. Normal massage balls, which I review here for the lower back, are too big to affect that roughly half-inch space.
The best solution I’ve found – by accident – is to use pet store tennis balls designed for small dogs! Small dog tennis balls have enough give to conform to the bumpiness of the spine, but are strong and small enough to sink into the deepest layers.
When you hit a good spot, you may feel a very deep ache in that area of the spine, or even send an ache to the front of your body.
I *love* this method to relieve my scoliosis symptoms.
To use a small dog tennis ball in the grooves of your spine, stand against a wall with bent knees, so you have some weight pressing into your back on the wall. Then, place one doggy ball between your back and the wall, next to one side of a spinal process (spine ridge bump). Your back must be as relaxed as possible! If not, the big, strong surface muscles will contract and block the ball from affecting deeper muscles.
Apply 30+ seconds of pressure to a tender spot, and then slowly move your body up or down to roll the ball to another sore area. If everything’s sore, feel free to enjoy slow long strokes up and down each side of the spinal ridge. For a visual, see Wizard of Health’s video demo on putting a lacrosse ball on the lower back, then follow this article’s directions on how to affect the laminar groove instead.
If pressing against the wall is not enough pressure, and you have no medical risks with direct pressure, you can lie down on the ground and carefully place the ball underneath you. Ease into it, and make sure you can breathe and relax into the pressure. Since the lower back naturally arches away from the ground, you can tilt your pelvis to press your lower back better into the ball.
If constant 30 second pressure is too intense or too boring for a spot, you can also get relief by rolling an inch or two back and forth over the spot, at least a dozen times. I would like to record my own video of this in the coming weeks, but do try it in the meantime.
Enjoy your more buoyant and pain-free deep spine!