Q: What are massage rollers used for? Are there differences between massage rollers and sticks? What about foam rollers? Which ones are the best?
Welcome to another Weekend Questions post. View our last Weekend Questions (how to keep active during the day) here.
Massage rollers are a great way to stretch out and stimulate all the muscles in your body. They are especially helpful before and after workout sessions to relieve the stress and unwind the tension that builds up from long periods of muscle contraction and expansion. Around 5 years ago, I read this article on how foam rolling (or any kind of muscle stimulation) early on in the morning can improve your day significantly, from your mood to the social interactions you have with friends and family. From that point onward, I have used foam rollers as well as massage sticks to press my muscles and stretch them out every morning.
I want to be clear on one point before we begin, and that is the fact that foam rollers are not the same as massage rollers/sticks. Foam rollers are made of a special hard styrofoam or a softer plastic that you put your body on and roll back and forth. This is an easy way to stretch before or after a workout to get those muscles warmed up or soothed, respectively. Foam rollers can take up two aesthetic designs:
Foam roller made with non-foam material; designed with different ridges for different sensory reactions for your muscles.
The standard foam roller; no ridges means your muscles get stimulated from being panned out.
Massage sticks, or massage rollers as they are more commonly but more confusingly called, are actual sticks that you manually roll on your muscles. Instead of moving back and forth with your body (for example: if you are foam rolling your back, you place your back on the foam roller and put your body weight on it, moving), you use your arms to roll a certain part of your body, like your thighs. There are benefits to each, but this post is for the best massage sticks, tools that will aid you in getting a certain muscle relaxed and smoothed out. Massage rollers are often best for releasing trigger points in your muscles, points that irritate you when you do standard movements. Sticks are also better for reducing specific muscle soreness or cramps in a concentrated area due to the precision-based design. Compared to foam rollers, massage sticks are aimed to target only a small portion of your body, which increases effectiveness in a limited surface area.
Here are what massage sticks look like:
Massage sticks involve using your hands to roll, resulting in more precise muscle targeting.
With that out of the way, here are some massage sticks I have used in the past that worked really well.
Best Massage Rollers
Supremus Sports Muscle Roller
Muscle Roller from Supremus. Note the standard lump design that many other manufacturers mirrored. Despite this, Supremus is still the best seller.
The Supremus muscle roller was the first I ever purchased and owned. When I read the aforementioned article years ago, I immediately went to Amazon.com and looked up a massage stick. The first to come up was this because of its few hundred positive massage roller reviews. I purchased it immediately though it cost me more than I thought these would go for. Years later and it is my go-to. The only times I really use anything else is if I want a different structure.
This muscle roller from Supremus is essentially the original design. The “threads” of the roller were basically the first to ever have it and since then, many other roller companies have manufactured theirs like this model. Still, it is the number 1 seller in massage sticks so you really cannot go wrong.
Elite Muscle Roller Stick
This one I bought after my Supremus when I wanted a different feel after hearing that not all massage rollers feel the same. The Elite Stick has a few extra ridges to create a different soothing effect on muscles. I also loved how it has a dome design, which enables a deep massage without getting too aggressive and potentially hurting the muscles I roll.
My physical therapist recommended me this on one of my visits a year ago. Though I already owned it at the time of the appointment, I felt reassured that I owned a stick that was effective, safe, and gave me a varied feel over the other two I owned.
Solfit Body’s Trigger Roller
Continuing with the trend, I opted for something wildly different from my traditional Supremus roller since there would be no point in owning multiple muscle sticks that emitted similar-feeling rolls. This 16″ stick from Solfit Body has a vastly unique design, with deeper ridges and edges to hit your muscle points.
I would recommend this one to those that perhaps want a more engaging massage since it does hurt a little more while giving a nice post-massage sensation from relieving that muscle stress. I have seen many people recommend this to others that maybe do not feel the effects from regular, flat foam rollers.
Massage sticks: conclusion
Regardless of which massage stick you purchase, the important fact is that you get one. These handheld massage devices are so important to muscle recovery for an active lifestyle, which is something we try to promote as often as possible on our site, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I personally suggest getting both a massage stick and a foam roller. The latter is designed for overall muscle relieving while massage sticks are optimal for giving you therapy to a specific area.