Taking Care of Yourself with a Tennis Ball?

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Besides playing catch with your dog or tennis with your kids a tennis ball can be a very beneficial therapeutic tool for the treatment of some common pain issues in your body. 

Very similar to getting a deep tissue massage or using a large foam roller to relax spasms, the tennis ball can be a more point specific treatment for getting deep into your bodies tissues.  Here are a few examples working from head to toe!

  1. Neck Massage:

 Muscle tension at the base of the head is a common reason for headaches. If you have your head tilted down looking at your IPAD or phone all day then you know what I am talking about.  Grab two tennis balls and place them in a sock. Place them at the base of your head, high up on the neck at the bottom of your skull with one ball on each side of your spine. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, nodding your head up and down to massage the muscles. Stop nodding and now just let the weight of your head do the work as you breathe and relax.

   2.   Upper back massage:

Upper back tension is one of the most common problems for people who are at a desk and computer all day. This tension can not only cause headaches but shoulder pain and even pain radiating into the arms. 

Grab the tennis balls. Lay on your back with your knees bent. Place the tennis balls under your upper back between your shoulder blades with one on each side of your spine. Once you find the painful spots in your muscles (called trigger points) stay on those spots, letting your body weight sink into the muscles as you breathe deeply. Wait for the pain to lessen and then move the tennis balls to a new spot down the spine.  Moving down the length of these muscles will help them to relax and lengthen, decreasing your pain.

3.     Low Back Massage:

Prolonged sitting postures can cause back muscle strain.  You can use the tennis balls to help relieve this tension quickly.  Lie down on your back, with your knees bent and place the balls under your lower back, with the balls on each side of the spine.  Lift your pelvis off the floor slightly so that you can move around on the balls to massage the tight spots.  You can tilt your pelvis forward and back or even side to side strumming the muscles to help get a release.  Breathe deeply and let the muscles soften.

 4.  Piriformis or Glute massage:

 If you have ever suffered from low back pain, sciatica, or leg pain that accompanies disc problems then you know how painful this can be. The piriformis muscle stretches across the glutes and when in spasm can press on the sciatic nerve. Take the tennis balls and sit on the floor with your knees bent, put the foot of the painful leg on the other knee. Place the tennis ball under the painful glute, transfer your body weight onto the ball.  Locate the spots that hurt, move around to massage this area, breathing deeply while you massage, until the pain lessens. Then move on to another spot.

 5.      Foot massage:

If you stand all day, wear heels, run, or have plantar fasciitis these are the best stretches to reduce foot pain.  Grab one tennis ball.  Stand up and place it in the arch of your foot. Place ALL your body weight on the foot. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then move the ball under the ball of your foot. Drape your toes and foot around the ball and again place all your weight on it and hold for 30-60 seconds. When you step off of the ball you will be able to feel how you have released the tissue in that foot compared to the other foot. Repeat on the other foot.

Tennis balls are an easy way to help get into the nooks and crannies of your body and release tight muscles.  A big advantage is that you can take them with you in your gym bag, brief case or suitcase.  Give it a try. You will enjoy having the power to treat your own pain when these little muscle spasms become a nuisance.

  By Donna Gambino, licensed physical therapist and certified Pilates Instructor

To learn more of these exercises, find out about classes, private training or Donna’s books, visit http://www.infinityhealth.org

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