Your nervous system is hard-wired to recoil and restrict in response to stress or threat. Using a hard plastic tool with rigid fingers is likely not going to induce a sense of either safety or relaxation, especially if you are already in pain. It will simply inflict more pain into already sensitized tissues. This, in turn, creates a feedback loop of more pain and, in many cases, more inflammation. Using a soft and gentle approach instead will send the message that it’s safe to let go and it’s okay to relax. Studies also show that the ability to relax into mild sensation (e.g., light pressure) is very successful in pain reduction. While tensing or bracing in response to the fear of more pain can be counterproductive.
Give this a try:
Find a stress ball, or a vinyl toy ball from the dollar store. Make sure it is soft and has lots of give. Lie down on your back and place the tool in an area where there is tightness or pain. (Disclaimer: if you have a serious condition like bulging disk or nerve damage, seek the advice of a qualified professional before trying this.) Take a few seconds to ensure that you are comfortable enough to relax for a few minutes. If not, get up and grab a few blankets or pillows to use as bolsters, and settle in.
Now see if you can soften into the sensation around the ball. Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to think of some positive imagery for about 5 minutes. Bring to mind the last time you felt really happy or at peace, and focus on that memory and any feelings and images that come with it. Experiment with soft enjoyable music, or a YouTube video that sparks a sense of contentment.
After these 5 minutes of pleasant relaxation, remove the ball and continue to rest. Notice any changes in the quality of sensation around where the ball was.
Let me know how it goes!