If you haven’t heard about this technique, you may be wondering what on earth the title of this article is all about. Well, it’s true – you can massage yourself with a tennis ball, and the results are comparable to a professional massage, and better than home massage equipment.
Tennis ball massage
I’ve been in some car accidents, and I sit at a computer for a lot of hours every day, so I’ve got back, shoulder and neck issues. I’ve got experience with seeing professional massage therapists, and over the years I’ve bought a lot of massage equipment – everything from wooden roller balls to an expensive massage recliner. The best results I’ve gotten definitely came from my current massage therapist, who is extremely skilled and intuitive, and the recliner. Those are, of course, the two most expensive options.
But now I have to amend the list: the tennis ball is right up there with the therapist and the recliner. Whether you’re just adding the tennis ball to an arsenal of other massage tools or the tennis ball is all you use, it’s well worth the time and the minimal expense (I bought three tennis balls at Target for about $2.50 – they should last years as massage tools).
Self massage how-to
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. One of the best uses I have for the tennis ball is to use it while I’m in my desk chair at the computer. I have a chronic spot in the middle of my back. When it flares up, at first it feels weak, and then it starts hurting. I place the tennis ball between the spot and my desk chair, and roll it up and down or side to side (also try leaning forward and back, for a roll at a slightly different angle). I often leave it there, stationary, while I continue to work. This pressure keeps the blood flowing to the area, which can help relax the tension (and seems to prevent my building up more tension in that area).
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 it however you like. This technique gives you a little more control than the chair one, but you do have to keep bending and un-bending your knees – which is good exercise, but does get tiresome and can leave you sore the next day.
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. 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 a tennis ball isn’t so comfortable against skin. 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.