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10 Pain-Aleviating Moves You Can Do With A Tennis Ball

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Health & Wellness

10 Pain-Aleviating Moves You Can Do With A Tennis Ball

Everyone (even non-tennis players) has muscle soreness at some point, and while nothing beats getting a massage by a trained masseuse, a tennis ball makes for the perfect solution. They get into those tight areas almost as well as a pair of human hands, reaching into the deepest layers of muscle and connective tissue, enabling your muscles to fully contract and stretch.

This series of mini self-massage techniques, from yoga teacher Jill Miller’s fab book, The Roll Model, will help relieve soreness and pain, and increase circulation. So grab your balls and get started!

If You’ve Got… Achy Feet

The ball loosens up stiffness in your sole’s muscles, joints, and connective tissues.


What to do:

  • While standing next to a wall or chair for stability, place a ball underneath the arch of your foot. Keep your heel on the floor and let your body weight sink in. Take deep breaths for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Slowly roll your foot from side to side so the ball crosses your arch. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Roll the ball along the length of your foot from heel to toe for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Repeat on the other foot.

If You’ve Got… Stiff Knees

The ball acts as a spacer to gently traction the lower leg bones, kneecap, and thigh away from one another. This provides an internal stretch within the often-stiff joint capsule of the knee.


What to do:

  • Sit on the floor or in a chair and place the ball behind your bent knee, as close to the side of the knee as possible.
  • Attempt to contract your muscles against the ball, temporarily “squashing” the ball for a count of 10, then relax your muscles for a count of 10. Do this 8 to 10 times.
  • Repeat on the other knee.

If You’ve Got… Tight Thighs

The balls tease motion into the frequently tight IT Band and outer quadriceps muscle (vastus lateralis). This move helps to soothe tight knees and hips at once.

What to do:

  • While sitting on the ground or in a firm chair, place 2 balls on the outside of your thigh. Keep the balls nestled into the side of your thigh and slowly bend and straighten your knee 20 times.
  • Move your thigh from side to side so that the balls cross the side of your thigh. Repeat for 2 minutes.
  • Repeat on the other side.

If You’ve Got… Sore Hips

This move targets multiple large and small muscles that attach on the side of the hip (the gluteus maximus, the medius, and the piriformis). These muscles can be tight either from sitting too much, overuse in exercise, or wearing high-heeled shoes.

What to do:

  • Lie on the ground and place one ball on the side of your hip, then lean into the ball. Make slow circles with the hip and leg as it rests on the ball. Circle 12 times in each direction.
  • Repeat on the other side.

If You’ve Got… A Cramped Back

This move massages and relieves tension in the multiple back and core muscles that intersect in the lower back.

What to do:

  • Place 2 balls vertically between your bottom and your ribs and lie down on top of them. Breathe deeply while shifting your pelvis from side to side so the balls cross your entire lower back. If you’d like, you can place the balls in a tote, stocking, or sock.
  • Move the ball more slowly in the areas where you feel stiffer, and lighten your pressure when you’re near the spine so that you’re not pinching the balls into your bones as you cross from right to left or left to right.
  • Breathe deeply as you roll for up to 5 minutes.

If You’ve Got… Pain From Bad Posture

This move is a postural corrective, an upper back tension reliever, and also helps to revive your breath.

What to do:

  • Lie down and place two balls side by side on either side of your upper back. (You can place them in a tote, stocking, or sock if you’d like.) Interlace your hands behind your head and lift your head off the floor, bringing your chin toward your chest. Lift your bottom off the floor and take 3 deep breaths into your ribs.
  • Keeping your breaths big and steady, roll the balls like a rolling pin up and down your upper back for 3 to 4 minutes.

If You’ve Got… A Tight Chest

This move unglues the over-worked chest muscles that tighten due to holding cell phones, typing on computers, cooking, or carrying kids. It restores breathing and also relaxes your nervous system.

What to do:

  • While leaning against a doorway or wall corner, place a ball just below your collarbone. Spend at least 1 minute simply breathing into the pressure of the ball.
  • Shift from side to side so that the ball scrolls along the upper chest, while you continue to breathe into the ball, for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Try moving your arm and neck while you shift to add extra shoulder mobility into the mix. Continue for 1 minute.
  • Repeat on the other side.

If You’ve Got… Tense Shoulders

This move addresses some of the rotator cuff muscles that often tighten from overuse, poor posture, and repetitive motion.

What to do:

Place a ball behind your shoulder blade while lying on the floor. Experiment with moving your shoulder in every possible direction for 3 minutes on each side.

If You’ve Got… Tired Hands

This move helps to relieve the extra tight flexor muscles of the hand. Hands are commonly overworked due to holding on to tennis rackets, kids, computer mouses, purses, and other handheld tools.

What to do:

  • Place your hand on top of a ball while sitting on the floor or standing at a table. Place your other hand on top to apply more pressure, and squash the ball by leaning your bodyweight into it. Hold the ball steady for 1 minute while breathing deeply.
  • Move the ball from side to side and then up and down, creating an asterisk shape as you roll it across your palm. Continue for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Repeat with the other hand.

If You’ve Got… A Stiff Neck

This move soothes the suboccipital and erector muscles that are responsible for keeping your head staring at your computer screen all day long. They get stiff and tight, especially from non-movement. It is also very relaxing to do before sleep.

What to do:

  • Place two balls side by side in a tote, sock, or stocking, and settle them under the base of your skull while you lie on the floor. Breathe while you rest for 1 minute.
  • Gently nod your head “yes” as the balls nuzzle into the back of your neck for 1 minute.
  • Pivot your head from side to side, as if saying “no.” Continue for 1 minute.
  • Pivot your head to one side, remain there, and nod several times. Then, pivot your head in the opposite direction and nod again. Alternate back and forth for 1 to 2 minutes.

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4.5 USTA rated/open champion level tennis player, vegan, fitness freak, animal lover, and smart ass who firmly believes that champagne is anathema for all ills. Right now I'm either up to my eyeballs in paint swatches and fabric samples, or kicking some butt on a tennis court (hopefully the latter).

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