If you’ve been writing a big essay and your hands feel stiff, or you’ve gone for a long run and your knees ache, or if you’ve been hunched over your computer and your posture is bad, you could be experiencing this Myofascial pain. (1) Myofascial pain syndrome typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively, which puts pressure on sensitive points.
Why a Tennis Ball?
The purpose of using a tennis ball for muscle pain relief is for its rubbery elasticity, which allows our muscles to stretch out. This article will look at some of these muscular trigger points in our body, and how a tennis ball can quickly reverse pain in these areas.
#1 Strained Neck
The suboccipital and erector muscles need relief after a long day at the office. When you aren’t moving these muscles a lot during the day, it can cause them to tighten up. (2) This exercise stretches out these muscles while soothing your neck before bed.
- Lie face-up on the floor, with two tennis balls under the base of your skull.
- Nod your head up and down, allowing the balls to nestle into the back of your neck.
- After one minute, change direction by pivoting your head from side to side
- Pivot your head to one side, and then nod while in the same position, repeat on the opposite side and nod in a different direction, altering for two minutes.
#2 Uncomfortable Shoulders
The next exercise will stretch out the rotator cuff muscles, which are groups of tendons that stabilize the shoulder. If you have poor posture or engage in repetitive motion such as shoveling snow or lifting heavy objects, this will relieve tenderness in the shoulders. (3)
- Simply place one tennis ball behind the shoulder blade while lying face up on the floor.
- There is no specific movement to this exercise; experiment with what relieves tenderness by rolling over the ball with your shoulder.
#3 Tight Chest
A compressed chest can be a result of common daily activities, from holding your phone, to cooking, to just sitting down for long periods of time. The results can be very uncomfortable, resulting in problems breathing and nervous system problems. Decompress your chest with these three steps:
- Find a door or wall corner, and place a tennis ball below your clavicle. For one minute, breath deeply into the pressure of the ball.
- Shift from side to side, and up and down, allowing the ball to move along the upper chest.
- Move your arm and neck after doing this for a minute, to incorporate other muscular mobility and continue on both sides for another minute.
#4 Sore Back
Your back pain could be caused by the way you sit, the shoes you wear, or the position you sleep in. (4) Regardless of the cause, tennis balls can release tension if you follow these steps.
- Lie on your back over two balls between your ribs and your tailbone.
- Shift your pelvis from side to side, allowing the balls to cross over your lower back
- Slow down movement in stiffer areas of your back, and lighten pressure near the spine
- Do this for up to five minutes while breathing deeply
#5 Aching Hands
Whether you’re a student or just an avid note-taker, writing for long periods of time can cause a great deal of tension in the flexor muscles of your fingers and palms. (5)
- On a table, place your hand on top of the tennis ball, while placing the other hand on top of that for added pressure.
- Press the ball while holding it steady for one minute, leaning your entire body weight into the ball.
- After a minute, move the ball vertically and horizontally, so it stretches out in all directions of your palm. Continue this for three minutes, and then repeat this steps with the other hand.
#6 Bad Posture
We’re all a little guilty of this one. The age of technology has caused us all to lose track of how we sit, stand and sleep. (6) This can have serious long-term repercussions on our muscles and our spine, and the short-term pain including difficulty breathing can be challenging to fix.
- While lying face up on the floor, placing two balls on either side of your upper back. Place your hands behind your head, as if doing a sit up, and lift your head off the floor.
- Bring your chin toward your chest, then lift your hips and take three deep breaths
- Breath deeply and steadily, while rolling the balls up and down your upper back for up to four minutes.
#7 Aching hips
Sitting for long periods of time, wearing unsupportive high heels, and overusing your hips during exercise can result in pain in the large and small muscles that attach on the side of the pelvis, namely the medius, piriformis, and gluteus maximus. (7) To release this tension:
- Lie down on your side and lean into the ball, which should be between the floor and your hip
- Make slow circles twelve times, then repeat on the other side.
#8 Tender Thighs
Tennis balls will produce motion for the outer quadriceps muscle known as vastus lateralis, as well as the IT Band, which can be straining when cycling or running. (8)
- Sit in a firm chair, placing two balls on the outer side of your thigh. Slowly bend and straighten your knee thirty times.
- Move your thigh horizontally, letting the ball scroll across the side of your thigh.
- Continue on your other side.
#9 Cramped Knees
This exercise will provide an internal stretch in the joint capsule of the knee. The ball is a spacer to create traction between the thigh, kneecap, and lower leg bones.
- Sit in a firm chair, and nestle the ball behind your bent knee, close to the side of the knee.
- Contract your muscles against the ball ten times, and relax your muscles ten times.
- Repeat on both sides ten times.
#10 Sore Feet and Plantar Fasciitis
The last and final is probably the most common muscle pain, that arises from being on your feet for long periods of time, and wearing unsupportive shoes. This can result in painful plantar fasciitis and upper back pain in the long term. The flexibility of the tennis ball is perfect for stretching out your feet.
- Simply stand on the ball, with the tennis ball under your heel.
- Roll the ball up and down so it covers from your heel, up into your arch and extending to the ball of your foot.
- Repeat for one minute on either foot.
The elasticity of a tennis ball provides effective muscle relief to almost every muscle group. Although there are many practices you can assume to prevent pain in certain areas, the tennis ball provides a quick and successful fix for sore muscles.
- Desai, M. J., Saini, V., & Saini, S. (2013, June 12). Myofascial Pain Syndrome: A Treatment Review. Pain and Therapy, 2(1), 21-36. doi:10.1007/s40122-013-0006-y
- Hogg-Johnson, S., Velde, G. V., Carroll, L. J., Holm, L. W., Cassidy, J. D., Guzman, J., . . . Peloso, P. (2009). The Burden and Determinants of Neck Pain in the General Population. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 32(2). doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2008.11.010
- Luime, J., Koes, B., Hendriksen, I., Burdorf, A., Verhagen, A., Miedema, H., & Verhaar, J. (2004). Prevalence and incidence of shoulder pain in the general population; a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, 33(2), 73-81. doi:10.1080/03009740310004667
- Baker, A. D. (2011, July 07). Risk Factors in Low-back Pain. An Epidemiological Survey. Classic Papers in Orthopaedics, 261-263. doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-5451-8_64
- Cailliet, R., & Richardson, G. S. (1983, September). Hand Pain and Impairment. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 72(3), 416. doi:10.1097/00006534-198309000-00035
- Dettori, N. J., & Norvell, D. C. (2006). Non-Traumatic Bicycle Injuries. Sports Medicine, 36(1), 7-18. doi:10.2165/00007256-200636010-00002
- O’Reilly, S. C., Muir, K. R., & Doherty, M. (1999). Effectiveness of home exercise on pain and disability from osteoarthritis of the knee: A randomized controlled trial. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 58(1), 15-19. doi:10.1136/ard.58.1.15
Original article and credits: HLL