A licensed massage therapist has created a unique way of using a golf ball as a massage tool, and her patented inventions have created a new niche business.
Heather Karr, who owns Ahhhmmn Massage Therapy in Westlake Village, Calif., said she started using a golf ball as a massage tool by chance, but it's proving a hit with clients, industry professionals and retailers.
Karr invented the SPAball Kaddy, a polymer device that holds a golf ball, allowing a therapist to move it freely over a client's body, and the KaddyBACK, a kind of pouch that allows you to position a golf ball on the back while leaning against a chair, wall or car seat and use it to massage the back.
The idea of using a golf ball as a massage tool came about when a client asked her to use it on his back for deep-tissue massage. It was effective, she said, but after a while started to hurt her hand.
Her goal in creating the SPAball Kaddy was to find a device that would allow the golf ball to do its work while protecting the therapist's hands from injury.
"I've been working on prototypes for two years, and I had several different prototypes. The slightest little change in design made a difference in its function," Karr said.
"The final design, which is made of hard plastic, allows the ball to roll around inside if you push lightly. If you push hard, the ball doesn't move, and you get really deep work. You can also move it in circles for cross-fiber work."
The KaddyBACK was inspired by her desire to be able to use a golf ball on herself to massage her back while driving.
A spokesperson for the American Massage Therapy Association, the industry's largest nonprofit professional association serving massage therapists, massage students and massage schools, said the group was unaware of anyone else familiar with this golf-ball technique.
At the end of November, Karr and her SPAball Kaddy were featured on an episode of the TV show "The Doctors," and since then, she said, sales of her products have taken off.
"They've been selling all over the U.S. and Canada, and I've had a bunch of orders from South Africa and the Netherlands," she said.
She primarily sells the products through her website, www.golfballmassage.com. The SPAball Kaddy retails at $17.50 and the KaddyBACK at $16.50.
The products are also being sold through a massage supply wholesaler in Florida, as well as some small skin care, beauty and fitness businesses in California. Karr said she's currently in talks with several wholesale retailers about expanding.
"They are definitely taking off in so many different markets, so we're busy now planning a marketing strategy," she said. "There's the fitness market and trainers, the golf industry, the spa industry and the gift market."
Karr, 50, became a licensed massage therapist about three years ago after a career as a graphic designer and an art director for magazines. Her change of direction came, she said, after a series of traumatic events in her personal life.
"My sister died of breast cancer in 2002 in her early 40s, and that kind of shook me up in terms of knowing life is short," she said. "It was very life-changing, taking care of her and being there when she died."
She also went through a divorce and said the stress of the events led her to consider becoming a massage therapist to help others cope with stress and pain.
Karr, who is very involved in hospice work, said a percentage of the profits from the sale of the SPAball Kaddy and the KaddyBACK will be donated to The House of Hope, a project to build a residential hospice facility in Ventura County.