If you haven’t heard about this technique, it’s pretty amazing. Because tennis balls have a certain level of resistance but still some give, they can make surprisingly good massage balls. And you really can give yourself a great tennis ball massage.
Tennis ball massage
I’ve tried a ton of massage devices, and I’ve had professional massages. And massage chairs. But there’s something about using a tennis ball to massage. I find it works best for sore spots and muscle knots. Sometimes even a human masseuse can’t really get at those when they’re down deep. And that’s where the tennis ball really works.
Here’s what you need to do with your tennis ball. Keep in mind, I’m including just a few ways you can use it for massage. You can explore whatever you like, and these basic techniques will help you find what works for you.
Against a chair. If you have a chronic spot in the middle of your back or shoulders, you can use the tennis ball on it. Sit in a chair. Place the tennis ball between your aching spot and the back of the chair. Roll it up and down or side to side (also try leaning forward and back, for a roll at a slightly different angle). When I’m at my desk, I often leave the ball there, stationary, while I continue to work. This pressure keeps the blood flowing to the area, which can help relax the tension.
The reason this technique is so awesome is that it counteracts the tension when and where it’s developing, instead of trying to straighten everything out after the damage has already been done.
Against a wall. This technique works much like the chair one. You put the ball between yourself and a wall, and roll your body against it however you like. This technique gives you a little more control than the chair one.
On the floor. This technique really shines for shoulders, neck (including the base of the skull), legs, arms and hips. Put the ball on the floor and lay on it, and then roll it around under you. It’s a little tricky under the neck at first, but once you get used to it, the ball rarely rolls out from under you. Loosening up the hips can be extremely beneficial, even if they don’t ache or seem to trouble you in any way – many of us gather a lot of tension in the buttock area, and relieving it takes a load off your whole body. Thighs and calves can also get surprisingly tight, and this ball technique is a great way to roll out the tension. It also feels wonderful.
You can also turn on your side and get a great facial massage. I’ll warn you – tennis balls aren’t a nice texture against the face. You can cover it with a pillow case if it bothers you. But if you tend to grind or clench your teeth in sleep (or while awake!), you can develop extremely tight muscles around the jaw hinges and up toward the ears. Headache sufferers may find relief by massaging temples, parts of the scalp, or the base of the skull. You can also just hold the ball up and press it against your face for massage – this is a very different massage than you get using your fingers. I find it more relaxing, personally.
Under your foot. Sit somewhere and put the tennis ball under your foot. Press down with your foot and roll around to loosen up tight foot muscles. I recommend wearing socks for this, since the texture of the ball can be really ticklish. Note: calf spasms can come from tight feet, so try loosening up your foot muscles the next time you have a calf spasm.
The basic idea with all these techniques is, of course, to put the ball between you and a stationary surface so you can roll it around to massage your muscles. This is similar to using wooden roller ball massagers, but the tennis ball has a bit more give. In my experience, that enables it to go deeper than a wooden ball because the pressure distributes differently.
You can adapt these techniques any way you like, so feel free to experiment.