The Secret Life of a Tennis Ball

I don’t play tennis, softball, or lacrosse, nor do I golf.  Yet, if you were to come over my house you would find a little basket containing at least one of each.  So, what’s the deal?

Cheapest and most personalized massage ever.

You know how good it feels to get a massage.  The relief you feel when your massage therapist finds those pesky knots (especially in your upper back) and works her magic.

Those knots are also known as trigger points.  Trigger points are the localized contraction in a small number of muscle fibers within a muscle or muscle bundle. These localized contractions create tiny knots that develop in a muscle when it is overworked or injured.

When muscle fibers contract and utilize energy, they create wastes like lactic acid and adequate blood flow to the muscle is necessary to move these wastes out.  However, if the muscle remains in a contracted state and blood flow is impeded, wastes build up inside the muscle, it can not relax, and this creates a trigger point.

Trigger points (prolonged muscle contractions) often cause pain and weakness in the muscle itself, but they also pull on the associated tendons and ligaments.  This constant pulling creates pain and dysfunction in the associated structures, like nearby joints.

Trigger points can often be the cause of headaches, neck, jaw, upper and lower back pain.  Just think about how often you look down when working at your desk…is it any wonder that your overworked neck and upper back are riddled with knots?

Applying pressure directly to a trigger point is the best way to get some much needed pain relief, bring blood flow back into the muscle, and break up any present scar tissue exacerbating the problem.  But, for most of us we can find neither the time or the money to get massaged as often as we’d like.  The next best thing and your new best friend…a ball!

  • The Tennis Ball – most versatile, good for beginners and areas that need less pressure.
  • The Lacrosse Ball – good for stubborn trigger points in large muscles like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.  Not for the faint of heart when used on your upper back.
  • The Golf Ball – good for small areas like your arms and the bottoms of your feet.
  • The Softball – good for large areas like your glutes, quads, hamstrings and back.  More diffuse and less intense than the lacrosse ball.

Treating Your Trigger Points

Foot Pain:  Roll the bottom of your foot

Sit down in a chair and place a golf ball in the floor.  Using gentle pressure, roll the golf ball under the ball of your foot.  For a more intense massage, stand and roll.

Calf Pain:  Roll your calf muscles

Sit down with your legs extended in front of you.  Place a tennis or lacrosse ball under the meat of your calf muscle.  Slowly roll the ball under the muscle until you find a tender area.  Let the weight of your lower leg rest on the tender area for 5 – 10 seconds.  Continue rolling.

Leg Pain (Front):  Roll your quads

Lay face down on the floor.  Place ball under your quads near the painful area.  Slowly roll the ball under the muscle until you find a tender area.  Let the weight of your leg rest on the tender area for 5 – 10 seconds.  Continue rolling.

Leg Pain (Back):  Roll your hamstrings

Sit down in a chair and place a tennis or lacrosse ball under you where your leg and butt meet or near the painful area.  Sit up as straight as possible and slowly roll the ball under the muscle until you find a tender area.  Let the weight of your body rest on the tender area for 5 – 10 seconds slowly extending and bending your leg.  Continue rolling.

Low back pain: Roll glutes/low back.

Glutes: Sit on the floor knees bent.  Place a tennis or lacrosse ball under your glute  near the painful area.  Slowly roll the ball under the muscle until you find a tender area.  Let the weight of your body rest on the tender area for 5 – 10 seconds.   For a more intense massage, cross your leg into a figure 4 position.  Continue rolling.

Low Back: Place 2 tennis or lacrosse balls inside a tube sock or knee-high, knot at the end and create the perfect spinal massage tool.  The gap between the balls allows space for your vertebrae while still allowing pressure to massage your spinal erector muscles.  Place under your low back and roll up and down your spine.

Upper Back/Shoulder Pain: Roll upper back

Lie on your back with a tennis or lacrosse ball between your spine and left shoulder blade.  Slowly roll the ball under the muscle until you find a tender area.   Hug your arm across your chest.  Let the weight of your body rest on the tender area for 5 – 10 seconds.   Continue rolling.

Place 2 tennis or lacrosse balls inside a tube sock or knee-high, knot at the end and create the perfect spinal massage tool.  The gap between the balls allows space for your vertebrae while still allowing pressure to massage your spinal erector muscles.  Place under your mid back and roll up and down your spine.

Headaches/Neck Pain:  Roll Neck

Place 2 tennis or lacrosse balls inside a tube sock or knee-high, knot at the end and create the perfect spinal massage tool.  The gap between the balls allows space for your vertebrae while still allowing pressure to massage your spinal erector muscles.  Place under your neck on the base of your skull, where your neck muscles attach or near the tender area.  Let the weight of your head do the work.  Rest on the area for 5 – 10 seconds.

For the quickest relief do any or all of these exercises on a consistent basis but especially after a workout, or when you are particularly tight.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and roll around…you may find areas you never knew were tight, but desperately need a bit of attention.

If you are interested in more information about trigger point therapy and relief visit this site.  They also have all kinds of goodies to take your trigger point massage to the next level.

Happy Rolling 🙂

P.S. – Make a great gift!!  You may not be able to get someone a package of massages, but you can help them feel better!

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4 thoughts on “The Secret Life of a Tennis Ball

  1. bandmom says:

    great article. I use a tennis ball on a regular basis. I didn’t know about the other balls, I will try them.

    • Kathryn says:

      Thank you! The lacrosse ball is excellent for big muscles like your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It can also be a great tool for your upper back, but just a word of caution…it can be painful your first go. But, stick with it…the results are worth it!

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