Have you ever seen somebody lying on top of a tube at the gym and wondered, “what the heck are they doing?”
Well, here’s your answer: myofascial release.
In our modern world of “text neck” and long periods of sitting, myofascial release can offer a welcome relief from muscle tension and tightness with simple techniques that you can do from just about anywhere.
With the right tools built for effective myofascial release, you can take control of your most troublesome aches, tension and knots.
In this post, we are going to cover 26 of the best myofascial release tools on the market and provide a comprehensive list so you can choose the best one for you.
What is Myofascial Release?
In its simplest form, myofascial release is the technical term for a form of massage therapy that is meant to make connective tissues (fascia) looser and more flexible, this results in relieving tightness and pain in your muscles.
Repetitive motions or injuries can cause the fascia around your body to tighten up and cause “knots” or “trigger points”.
A large part of myofascial release includes targeting these trigger points and keeping steady pressure on them to help release them.
What are the Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage and Myofascial Release?
Deep tissue massage and myofascial release have immense benefits for your muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.
The therapeutic value even extends to your entire body because of the way it improves your circulation.
Myofascial release restores the health of your fascia, allowing it to function properly and prevent adhesions, tension and other sources of muscle pain.
Here are the main benefits you can gain from massage therapy:
- Prepares your body for exercise and helps prevent injuries
- Helps your muscles recover faster from exercise
- Reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Relieves muscle pain and tension
- Improves your range of motion
- Increases circulation
As you can see there are many benefits to myofascial release and in turn, there are also many tools that can help perform it.
The Best Myofascial Release & Massage Tools
Given the overwhelming variety of self-myofascial release tools on the market, you may be wondering which one is the best.
The truth is, different types of massage therapy tools suit different people based on their unique needs and preferences.
To give you a closer look at these various tools, here’s a comparative look at the pros of cons of specific tools on the market:
1. Myofascial Releaser Ellipse Pro
You may have never heard of scraper tools or scraping therapy, but if you have any fascia related pain, you should consider this tool.
It’s a hand-held manual tool great to use for myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization and muscle soreness relief.
These kinds of tools are generally used by clinicians and massage therapists to help in instrument-assisted fascias mobilization (IAFM) and instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), however, it is also possible to use these tools for self-myofascial release.
Scraper tools like the Myofascial Releaser Ellipse Pro are the ideal massage tool for myofascial release and is extremely popular among athletes.
If you have a muscle injury, you most likely experience pain related to fascia damage.
Scraper tools release the adhesions in your fascia caused by muscle tension and muscle alignment problems.
The Myofascial Releaser Ellipse Pro is made of bevelled edges that are hard and narrow enough to apply pressure and “scrape” your muscles and fascia.
This action pushes blood out of the area, causing fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to enter the area and promote healing.
Scraper tools are made with different hard materials, such as hard plastic, jade, stone, copper or stainless steel.
Pros: Easy tool to control for accurate pin-pointed trigger point release, versatile – allowing you to massage virtually anywhere on your body, thin edge allows you to “dig” into nooks and crannies like the muscles around your shins, shoulder blades and spine
Cons: It only scrapes muscles for myofascial release, does not knead or provide percussion to loosen muscles, will require assistance to use on your back
Related: Best IASTM tools
2. Muscle Floss band
The CTM “muscle floss” band created by CTM therapy is an affordable one-of-its-kind tool that combines the functionality of massage sticks and massage balls.
You wrap the rubber band around a muscle area such as your calf, thigh or forearm, and then lengthen the muscle.
When you do so, it digs in and releases fascia and muscle tension.
Pros: Helps relieve pain associated with arm, leg and foot injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, tennis elbow, runner’s knee and IT band pain, combines compression, tension, and movement at the same time to help muscles prepare for activity and recover from it
Cons: Could be argued that a massage ball could deliver the same results
3. Fitness Cryosphere Cold Massage Roller
Sometimes, your muscles need ice to bring the inflammation down.
The Fitness Cryosphere Cold Massage Roller is a unique tool that works a lot like a massage ball, but it stays ice-cold for 6 hours to provide cold relief.
Besides the cooling aspect, another thing that makes it different from a regular massage ball is that it has a holder that allows you to hold the ball and roll it.
You can roll the ball with accuracy along your muscles while holding it in your hand, instead of having to use a wall or the floor to make the ball roll.
However, you can also remove the ball from the holder and use it like a massage ball.
Pros: Reduces inflammation with ice, hard material makes it easy to apply adequate pressure, holder allows you to easily roll the ball using your hand
Cons: Great for treating small trouble spots causing you pain but not the ideal tool for a full-body massage or for kneading out stiff back muscles
4. Basic Foam Roller
Foam rollers are cylinder-shaped manual tools that break up muscle knots and release fascia when you roll on them.
This tool is your bread and butter of myofascial release.
It is the first tool you are likely to use when first starting out. The classic foam roller is extremely versatile and can be used on most parts of the body.
They’re widely used by athletes immediately before and immediately after workouts to support healthy fascia and muscle function.
They may sound like they’d be a soft object, but foam rollers are made with very high-density foam that compresses your muscles very firmly.
In fact, most people experience pain while using a foam roller, which lessens with regular use as the health of your fascia and muscle tissue improves.
Foam rollers are excellent for releasing the fascia of large muscles, particularly in your legs and back.
They’re great for muscle recovery in your legs after athletic activity, and for increasing blood flow in your upper back after long hours at a desk.
Pros: Good for beginners, simple to use, cheap and durable, first-timers will find it less intense than massage balls, releases tension and fascia in large areas at a time
Cons: Not able to target small trigger points or “dig” into hard-to-target areas, in most cases you need to be on the floor to use it effectively
Related: Best foam rollers
5. Gideon™ Neck and Shoulder Therapeutic Self-Massage Tool
The Gideon self-massage tool combines shiatsu massage with a massage stick, allowing you to knead muscles with two shiatsu massage balls when you leverage the stick.
With this tool, you can massage your neck and shoulder muscles accurately and apply direct pressure.
It’s easy to dig into your neck and shoulder muscles with this tool, but you would get more versatility out of a massage ball compared to the balls attached to the stick.
Pros: Releases neck and shoulder tension and pain
Cons: Limited to the neck and shoulders, so you can’t use it for a back massage or to target your shoulder blades, the balls don’t roll
Related: Best neck massagers
6. PUREWAVE™ CM-07 Percussion Massager
Percussion massagers emit rapid pulses of pressure that stimulate blood flow and relax your muscles.
By increasing circulation and breaking up tension, percussion therapy relieves pain and enhances muscle flexibility, range of motion and performance.
Percussion massagers offer comprehensive and versatile deep tissue massage therapy, and are often used by massage therapists.
These handheld electric devices provide the perfect combination of manual control over your massage and motorized percussion that penetrates muscle tissue.
The PUREWAVE percussion massager is the best one on the market, with 6 different attachment heads and 2 motors that provide different percussion intensities.
Pros: Easy to target any type of trigger point in any part of the body using different attachment heads on the device
Cons: Too painful for some people, doesn’t focus on myofascial release or provide techniques like rolling, scraping or kneading
Related: Best handheld massagers
7. KOA Elite Trigger Point Massage Tool
The KOA Elite Trigger Point tool is a massage stick unlike any other.
It has knobs and a grip handle which makes it easy to use with control and accuracy on your neck, arms, legs and other areas.
All you have to do is find a trigger point and apply pressure with the tool.
The KOA tool is small and light making it a great option if you have to take it with you whilst travelling.
Pros: Easy to grip, great for myofascial release, good for small trigger points that larger myofascial release tools cannot reach
Cons: Lacks the benefits motorized electronic devices provide such as percussion and kneading, you have to provide your own pressure with your strength
8. 4KOR Ultimate Massage Balls
Massage balls provide deep tissue massage and myofascial release.
They’re simple, durable and easily portable, but on the other hand, the massage you get from them depends on the work you put in since you have to roll them against a wall or the floor.
The 4KOR ultimate massage balls are the perfect set if you want to try out massage balls, since they include 3 different sizes for targeting different muscles and they have great grip for better control.
Pros: You decide how much pressure you want and where you want it, highly versatile (you can use it on almost any muscle, big or small), effective for myofascial release, cheap, come in all shapes, sizes and densities
Cons: Can be difficult to manipulate, requiring a lot of manual effort to target certain trigger points effectively, may be too intense for beginners
Related: Best massage balls
9. Rolflex PRO Edition Leverage Foam Roller
The Rolflex PRO is a unique foam roller or “stability roller” that is designed to target more muscles throughout your body than you could with a regular foam roller.
What makes it different is that it has built-in rollers that penetrate muscle tissue, and you don’t need to use your bodyweight, the floor or a wall to roll them.
You adjust the tool to the desired level of compression and use your hands to move it along muscles.
Pros: Provides the benefits of foam rolling with better ease of use, lets you target more muscles than a foam roller
Cons: Not able to apply as much pressure as regular foam rollers so it’s not intense enough for some
10. CranioCradle Home Therapy System
The CranioCradle massage tool is a simple fix for people working long hours at a desk, since it’s a small, light and easily portable.
It’s designed to relieve tension from your upper and lower back, neck, head and shoulders.
If you suffer from tension headaches or neck and back tension, this could help.
It’s made of firm foam like a foam roller, but there’s no rolling necessary.
It uses pressure and compression to release trigger points when you place it in certain positions on your body (instructions are included).
Pros: Helps treat headaches and upper body tension, relaxes your entire body by releasing critical trigger points on your neck and head, easy to use without the need for physical activity – simply lay or sit still while using it
Cons: Not very versatile, releases certain trigger points but it’s not a tool that can knead out any muscle like a percussion massager
11. Dr. Berg’s Self Massage Tool
Dr. Berg’s self-massage tool, developed by a chiropractor to assist with pain relief, massages your muscles with firm knobs that allow you to apply pressure easily.
Similar to the CranioCradle, it’s shaped in a way that it releases trigger points when placed in certain positions.
Using the instructions provided, you can apply to critical points that can relieve stress and tension throughout your entire body.
Pros: Helps relieve chronic headaches, lower back pain, neck pain and other pains, designed to stimulate circulation and relieve tension in your spine to improve back health
Cons: Prone to slipping, can be difficult to find the right position for relief, requires you to apply your own pressure to knead and compress muscles
12. Cupping Therapy Sets Vacuum Suction Cups
Cupping therapy works through the suction of small portions of your back to draw blood and muscle tissue to the surface.
It’s like a “reverse massage” because it breaks up tension through suction instead of with pressure.
The suction created by vacuum cups breaks up stagnation, releasing the fascia and freeing tight muscles that are hugging onto bone.
Fresh blood then enters the area and helps restore optimal cellular functioning.
Silicone cups like those in the Cupping Warehouse TM Supreme set are easy to apply and remove simply by squeezing them.
There’s no pumping or fire needed to remove air from the cups.
Pros: Minimal work required; you simply relax while the painless therapy is in progress, helps with detoxification, effectively relieves pain
Cons: Not ideal for instant relief on the go, can leave temporary marks on the body
Related: Best cupping therapy sets
13. Theragun G3 Percussive Therapy Device
A percussion massage gun is a device that sends pulses of pressure that penetrate deep into muscle tissue.
They’re handheld electronic massagers that hammer away at your muscles, and most come with different attachment heads you can use to target different muscles in your body that are different sizes.
Unlike foam rollers and massage balls, percussion massage guns don’t require the effort it takes to push into muscle tissue with your own body weight.
It’s also easier to get precise and pinpoint specific trigger points.
Percussion massage guns are highly effective tools for releasing muscle tension and relieving pain.
Most massage guns are notably loud when operated, but the Theragun G3 is a percussion massage gun is of the quieter variety.
It’s also very versatile, with different intensity settings and 4 interchangeable attachment heads.
Pros: Effective on virtually any muscle no matter where you’re experiencing pain and tension, easy to use by holding it in your hand with no manual pressure required, gives you the benefits of myofascial release and deep tissue massage
Cons: Most guns are loud, they tend to be expensive
Related: Best massage guns
14. Rad Rod
Massage roller sticks are a great tool to manually roll out your knots. The small design makes this a more portable version of a foam roller.
Muscle roller sticks are a popular myofascial release tool among runners and athletes, due to how quick and easy it is to use after a run or workout session to prevent tight calves.
Muscle roller sticks like the RAD Rod provide myofascial release, similar to the way a foam roller works.
Instead of rolling against the floor, however, you can simply roll the massage stick or glide it along your muscles in your hand.
The RAD rod has an add-on massage ball sold separately, which allows you to manoeuvre the ball while it’s attached at the end of the massage stick.
By leveraging the stick in your hand, you can control and manoeuvre the ball.
If you’re thinking to try out a massage ball, consider the RAD rod with its massage ball attachment an alternative that’s more versatile and easy to use.
In general, massage muscle rollers are easier than foam rollers to use on the go, because you can target muscles in a seated or standing position and they’re more portable.
Pros: Effective for self-myofascial release along smooth long muscle surfaces, portable and easy to use, good for the lower body such as the quads, hamstrings and calves, great tool for runners
Cons: Not ideal for kneading and digging into muscles that are hard to reach like those around your shoulder blades and along your neck, not as versatile as a ball or foam roller
Related: Best muscle roller sticks
15. Spoonk Acupressure Mat
An acupressure mat is a spiky chiropractic mat you lay on that stimulates pressure points on your back that are just below your skin.
Rather than massaging muscle tissue, these tiny spikes help correct imbalances in your body’s systems and physiological functions.
As a result, they relieve pain and provide other therapeutic benefits.
Acupressure mats are great for people who want to relieve tension at the end of the day before going to bed, but don’t want to put a lot of effort into it.
These spiky mats are virtually maintenance-free and all you need to do is lay on them.
Most people with chronic back pain, neck pain and headaches who try an acupressure mat are surprised with how effectively it relieves pain, especially with regular use.
Spoonk is one of the best-recognized brand creating acupressure mats, and their mat actually comes as a set including an acupressure ball and pillow.
Pros: Easy to adjust the intensity level by wearing a shirt or removing your shirt, no manual work involved to get results
Cons: Doesn’t manually break up muscle knots like a tool that kneads, compresses or provides percussion, can take some time of regular use to get relief from chronic pain
Related: Best acupressure mats
16. MOBOT Water Bottle Foam Roller
Not sure if you should bring a foam roller with you to the gym?
What if it was your water bottle?
The MOBOT water bottle doubles as a high-quality foam roller.
It’s made with steep ridges and high-density foam and can withstand up to 350 pounds of pressure without caving.
It’s easy to use as a regular foam roller and it even keeps liquids cold up to 5 hours.
This is a great idea if you want to take a foam roller with you to the gym but want to save space.
Pros: Doubles as a foam roller and water bottle, durable and high-quality, smaller and easier to take with you
Cons: Not as long as regular foam rollers making it harder to target the width of your back, doesn’t target small trigger points
17. Body Back Buddy Self Massage Tool
Massage sticks are versatile myofascial release tools for self-massage.
Most of them have knobs on them that are designed to help you reach hard-to-reach trigger points on your back, neck and shoulders.
You can also use the length of the stick for myofascial release on larger muscle groups when you push it along the muscle the way a foam roller would roll.
Massage canes are typically shaped like an “S” with strategically placed handles along the design for you to get a good grip.
Multiple knobs and each end of the “S” can be used for myofascial release by pressing the knobs into tender areas on the body.
The Body Back Buddy is a one-of-a-kind S-shaped massage stick with 11 knobs.
Its shape is designed to access every trigger point in the body.
While it takes a lot of manoeuvring to achieve the correct positions for accessing the trigger points, it comes with instructional videos you can access online with your purchase.
Once you get over the initial learning curve, the Body Back Buddy can easily become your go-to tool when you have stiffness or pain, because it helps you accurately target hard to reach places with pressure you can control.
Plus, it lets you release more points at a time than you could with a small handheld tool.
Pros: Lightweight enough to throw into a suitcase for travel, easy to adjust the amount of pressure you need, allows you to compress and release virtually any trigger point from your neck to the soles of your feet
Cons: Doesn’t massage large muscle groups or release large areas of fascia the way a foam roller or massage stick roller can, although they can be versatile they are not as versatile as a foam roller
Related: Best trigger point massage sticks
18. The Davinci Tool Soft Self Massage Wedge
The Davinci tool is similar to the CranioCradle, but with its own unique shape.
If you benefit from a foam roller but you wish it could release muscles and fascia in delicate, hard-to-reach areas like your shoulder blades, neck and shoulders, you may like it.
It’s made of plastic and utilizes gravity and your body weight to dig into trigger points when you position it properly.
You can use it virtually anywhere from head to toe, and there’s no rolling necessary.
Like with a foam roller, it can be painful. However, the pain lessens with regular use as your muscles and fascia heal.
Pros: Digs into crevices like your scapula with its edges, versatile for head-to-toe use, lightweight and portable
Cons: Too hard and painful for some, can be hard to keep it in place while using
19. Thumb Saver Massager
The Thumb Saver massage tool provides an ergonomic grip with a thumb-shaped knob you can use to dig into tight muscles the way you would use your own hand.
Of course, it applies a lot more pressure than you could achieve with your own fingers, and it saves your joints from the wear and tear of self-massage.
The Thumb Saver is made of plastic and great to use with massage oils.
Pros: Easy and intuitive to use as it’s designed to mimic your own hand, low priced
Cons: Still requires a lot of manual effort to perform a self-massage, only targets small trigger points at a time
20. Rumble Roller Beastie Ball
The RumbleRoller beastie ball gives you the benefit of foam rolling, but with deeper and more targeted penetration.
Unlike a regular massage ball, it has ultra-deep ridges with bumps that dig deep into your muscles and open up the fascia.
The other thing that makes it unique is the base it comes with.
When you place the ball on the floor using the base, it won’t roll away while you compress a muscle onto it.
Pros: Compact and portable, small enough to target small places in your neck, scapula and more
Cons: Too small to meet the needs of larger muscle groups, too painful for some
Related: Beastie Ball review
21. Neck Track Massager Tool
The neck massager tool uses a foam block, massage balls, and gravity to gently release sensitive trigger points in the neck.
This multi-tasker can also be used for other body parts.
Don’t have massage balls lying around? No problem.
You can also use tennis, lacrosse or other similar sized balls instead.
The main selling point of this tool is that it holds your massage ball still rather than having it roll around everywhere.
Pros: Holds massage balls in place to prevent them from rolling, raises the balls off the ground to allow more pressure into the neck
Cons: Could achieve similar results with a peanut massage ball placed on a yoga block, have to lie down on the floor to use it
22. RAD Peanut Massage Ball
The peanut massage ball (otherwise known as the double lacrosse ball) has a double ball design that provides stability and accuracy for myofascial release all over the body.
The small design is great for people who travel and need a lightweight, portable massager.
The peanut massage ball is often one of the most underrated myofascial release tools.
Most will have come across this tool for running down either side of the spine, which it works well for, but it also works well for other body parts.
For example, it is great for running down the length of your quads, calves and even around the hip area.
It provides a different type of pressure that is two-pronged rather than the standard one pressure spot from a normal massage ball.
Pros: Cheap and effective, more stable to use than a single massage ball, great for rolling down the spine and back of the neck, you are bound to find new trigger points when using this kind of myofascial release tool
Cons: May take time to get to used to, can be uncomfortable at first
23. Lacrosse Ball (standard massage ball)
The standard small massage ball is a versatile, portable and effective massage device.
Massage balls work like foam rollers, but they help you massage the smaller areas foam rollers can’t reach.
You can use a massage ball on virtually any muscle by using the ball to apply pressure against your sore muscles.
You can also use it against a wall, in your hand or on the floor and rolling on top of it.
You can use most massage balls on any part of the body which is why they are an essential myofascial release tool.
They are particularly effective when used on the neck, biceps, forearms, back, chest, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and feet (practically any body part!).
They come in all different surfaces, densities and sizes meaning you’ll be able to find the perfect massage ball for whatever your needs.
Pros: Come in a variety of different densities and sizes, easy to acquire (everyone has a ball lying around somewhere!), can be used on any part of the body, can reach the smallest of trigger points, easy to carry around
Cons: For best results you need to get on the floor or use a wall, may be too intense for beginners depending on the ball
Related: Best massage balls
24. TheraFlow Dual Foot Massager Roller
The Theraflow foot is an example of a ‘foot roller’ massager, which is a wooden roller with small pegs for a deep-tissue massage.
This model is designed specifically to help with plantar fasciitis and trigger points in the feet.
Foot rollers are designed to be placed on the ground.
You then, sit down and gently roll feet back and forth over the massager, stopping for several seconds on any trigger points.
This massager has no give because it is made of wood, so “tread” gently.
Pros: Provides a deep tissue massage for the foot, releases deep trigger point in the foot, can help with plantar fasciitis, can reduce foot pain
Cons: Specific to the feet only
25. Jacknobber Tool
There are a variety of tools that don’t fit into a specific category other than looking ‘weird.’
These tools come with pointy ends of different lengths, shapes and sizes designed to reach deep trigger points around the body.
Funny name aside, the Jacknobber tool is a handy little massager for myofascial release.
This is discreet enough that you can keep it at your desk at work.
As handheld massagers go, this does not require much grip strength and can be pressed down using your hand rather than having to lie on it.
Pros: Can release the smallest and deepest trigger points, small and easy to carry, low price, different sized heads for different pressures
Cons: First-time massagers will find this tool too intense, not useful for large muscle areas, not as versatile as a trigger point stick
PRO-RITE mimics the hand and elbow of a masseuse and is designed to precisely target tense muscles on several areas of the body including the psoas.
Its patented design allows for deeper penetration than other massage tools and it offers trigger point therapy, high-quality recovery, and deep-tissue massage at your convenience.
With this option you have a masseuse at your service 24/7.
To use the PSO-RITE you lay on it and manoeuvre your body until you find a tender spot. Once you find it you hold on to it and the tightness should release.
The PSO-RITE is a great tool for anyone who wants to apply a lot of pressure and target deep trigger points.
Pros: Portable and easy to use, reaches deep trigger points, able to target the PSOAS, light and portable, made from safe and recyclable ABS plastic
Cons: Relatively expensive for what it is
Related: PSO-RITE Review
Why So Many Different Myofascial Release Tools?
When you are prepared with the best myofascial release tool and knowledge of the right techniques you can expect great results.
However, finding the right myofascial release tools for your body is easier said than done.
Different trigger points can be harder to reach than others and may require a tool that is a different shape and level of firmness depending on where the trigger point is located.
For instance, you can use a foam roller to hit trigger points on your calves, however, for some people, a massage ball is more effective as a massage ball can sink deeper into the muscle.
In addition, the more you perform myofascial release, the more likely you’ll find that the tools that used to work for you aren’t as effective.
As time goes by, you’ll discover new trigger points that are located deeper in harder to reach locations thereby requiring new tools in order to reach and release them effectively.
A large part of finding the right tool means trying a lot of different ones and sticking with the ones that work for you.
In conclusion, there are many types of tools for myofascial release. Choosing the right one for you may take some trial and error.
If you’re starting out definitely go with a foam roller.
As time goes by you’ll likely need something that can create more pressure in smaller areas.
This is when you should perhaps look at the other tools.
You can pick up two or three of these tools for the price of a single massage, so don’t be afraid to try them out and see which ones work best for you.
With regular myofascial release, you can relieve pain, gain better flexibility and enjoy feeling better in your day-to-day life.
However, when in doubt, seek the advice of a trained massage therapist or physical therapist for help learning how to use these myofascial release tools.