running tips: find your trigger point

Let’s face it – running is hard on the body. Sometimes our stubborn running muscles become so tight that stretching alone doesn’t do the trick. As a runner a weekly massage visit is a must but when you don’t have the time or the funds turn to your sports equipment and grab a ball.

Our muscles have areas called trigger points and when activated through sports massage they cause a relaxation to the entire muscle. This is easy to do at home –all you need is a small ball.

what to expect

  • place the ball under your tight muscle
  • find a trigger point by moving the ball around until you feel a twinge of good pain (not a sharp pain)
  • apply a small amount of pressure
  • slowly roll the ball down your muscle and hold on the trigger point for approx 10 seconds
  • release and follow-up with some light

My favourite option is a lacrosse ball but you can use anything you have rolling around the house. Here are some of my favourite trigger points for those notoriously tight runner muscles:

hip rotators

Lie on your side, place the ball under your hip and slowly roll towards the leg.

trigger points - sports massage

glute release

Lie on your back, place the ball under you bum and slowly roll towards the leg.

sports massage - trigger points

IT band release

A foam roller works well but you can also use a ball to roll down the side of your leg towards the knee.
massage after running - trigger points

quad release

Support your body weight with your arms, place your leg on the foam roller or ball and slowly roll.

massage yourself after running

calf release

Place the ball under your calf and roll towards the foot.

release muscle trigger points after running

plantar fascia

Place the ball under your heel and roll along the arch.
release tension in feet after running

This technique doesn’t replace a massage but it’s a great way to bide your time between visits. You can always count on me to have lacrosse ball on hand!

read more related posts:


A slightly more aggressive approach is to use a RumbleRoller ( for these same movements. It gets deeper into the muscle tissue and does an even better job of relieving trigger points.

Comment by Ron — August 10, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

The foam roller is a great tool. After many years of being very active, I would never live without it now. I wish I knew of its effects many years ago!

While the ball may go deeper, when used properly, the foam roller is just as good. I think the foam roller is way easier to balance on and manage the movements to find the trigger points. I do a lot of stretching on it too. It is a great myofascial release tool.

If anyone wants to see more, I have developed exercises and stretches on the foam roller to help you learn it.

Comment by Elle — August 11, 2010 @ 5:45 am

Thanks so much for this post all! I just recently was diagnosed with a running injury and have been using that foam roller to help with my extremely tight IT band.

Since then I’ve been using it to release my hams, my quads and my calves in addition to my IT band and it’s done wonders! Yes it’s a little…what’s the word…uncomfortable but totally worth the pain!! :)

Never thought of using it for my glutes or hips though. Will give it a shot! :)

Comment by Aleksandra S — August 11, 2010 @ 11:43 am

Tnx a lot to your post, now i have clear understanding on how to ease muscle pains after workouts and runs. This will prevent me from injury and it will help me improve my running ability.

Comment by Ronilito T, Mandin — August 11, 2010 @ 1:59 pm


Comment by Gareth Field — October 2, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

As an RMT I would like to dispell the notion of a ‘tight IT band’. It is not contractile tissue so I can’t, technically, be tight or loose. It’s a thick band of fascia that limits or checks lateral movements.

The muscles that have connection to the IT band and can have some influence on the tension of the band itself. Consider doing the foam rolling on the glutes, quads and hamstrings before rolling over the IT band. Between each roll stand up and take your legs for a test drive to see if you’ve nailed down which muscle is cranky.

Interestingly, knee pain can also be caused by the IT band. So stretch after your runs and shake it off. And drink enough water.

Comment by Rebecca — October 22, 2010 @ 11:00 am

Great article. I am a big fan of using the lacrosse ball. It does a perfect job at massaging the muscles that are too tight to stretch. I found that a dozen can be purchased for relatively inexpensive (in comparison to other equipment). I have had good luck with My calves specifically have a tendency to get super tight and the ball is perfect for loosening them up.

Comment by Alex Right — January 19, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

Hi, thanks for putting together this fantastic site. I have dealt with hip, glute, and IT-band trigger points in the past, and all have been relieved with use of the tennis ball or foam roller. Currently I have a spot deep in the front of my hip. It literally feels like the trigger point has developed at the site where the femur and hip joint meet.

Using the tennis ball helps, but it doesn’t ever release completely and any kind of high impact workout makes it painful, tight, and inflamed. As of the last few months, I’ve given up on running.

I’m wondering if you have any other suggestions for how I can relieve the pain there. Ice and Ibuprofen don’t seem to penetrate deeply enough.

Comment by Julie — November 20, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

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