How To Move Without Pain

5 Ways to Use a Tennis Ball for Everyday Aches and Pains

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

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Tennis balls are great for many common pains throughout the body. From tight muscles in the neck to achy feet, tennis balls can provide a massage that can easily relieve tension and pain.  Massage therapy has been commonly used as an aid to reducing pain and promoting recovery of injured muscles.

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Why the tennis ball?

The size and firmness of the tennis ball is optimal for kneading tight muscles, improving flexibility and relieving tissue tension. Tennis balls are inexpensive and easy to find, they allow you to be proactive with your own tissue tension and pain.  

The tennis ball massage is a popular technique for self managing pain because it works.

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Using a tennis ball to massage your own tissues allows you to be proactive with your pains and muscle tension, but puts you in control of the treatment. Self massage works because you can control the amount of pressure and location of the massage.

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Research has shown many benefits from massage to ease pain. 

  • Reduces inflammation: massage causes a decrease in inflammatory cytokines, which may reduce pain by the same mechanism as conventional anti-inflammatory drugs, such as NSAIDs. 
  • Reduces scar tissue and adhesions: scar tissue is a normal response to healing of damaged tissue.  It can cause adhesions, reducing flexibility and increasing stress. Massage can help relieve restriction by breaking down adhesions and the collagen fibers that form in response to healing, to decrease pain and reduce stress.

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  • Increases circulation: massage facilitates circulation by relieving the tissue tension and helping congested areas open up so blood flow can come into the damaged tissues to promote healing
  • Improves joint flexibility: relieving tension in muscle, tendon, connective tissue allows the joint to move more easily, reducing stiffness and risks of injury
  • Stimulates tissue repair: massage relieves tissue tension and allows circulation to improve to the area, providing essential oxygen and nutrients required for the repair of damaged tissues. 
  • Reduces muscle tension: massage relieves muscle tension, improving movement, relieving spasms, and reducing injury to tissues. 
  • Releases endorphins:  massage promotes the release of endorphins that interact with the receptors in our brains that reduce our perception of pain.

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A tennis ball is a great way to self treat our tight muscles and tense tissues. Many soft tissue ailments and diagnosis can be improved with using a tennis ball to massage the tissues and relieve the tissue tension.

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5 Diagnoses that can be Treated with a Tennis Ball

  1. Plantarfascitis – roll the ball along the bottom of your foot from base of heel to ball of foot, throughout the arch
  2. Tension headaches – roll a tennis ball along your shoulders and neck (best if done while laying on the balls (with tennis balls on either side of the spine) or have a partner do it for you
  3. Sciatica – roll a tennis ball in a circular pattern around the sore area of your buttocks
  4. Texting thumb – roll a tennis ball up and down your forearm, focusing on parts of the forearms that feel particularly sore of tense
  5. ITB (Iliotibial Band) Pain – roll a tennis ball up and down the outside of your thigh, focusing on areas that are sore, tight or tense.

The next time you find yourself with tension in a muscle or an achy within a muscle belly (the meaty part of the muscle, consider using a tennis ball to massage out the tension and relieve the stress within the tissues. 

*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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holding a tennis ball in a purple sweathisrt