Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About How to Use a Tennis Ball for Back Pain Relief
It’s possible you have a professional pain relief tool hiding in your home. Here’s everything you need to know so you can use a tennis ball for back pain.
When you’re having back pain, you want pain relief STAT!
You don’t want to wait for pain relievers to kick in, and you don’t want to wait for your doctor’s office to open (because your back never seems to hurt at a convenient time when the doctor’s office is open, am I right?).
And, you absolutely don’t want to try to just wait for the pain to go away (because that’s like trying to win an argument with a toddler—you’re destined to lose).
It can feel frustrating, infuriating, and even depressing.
Pain is no joke, and when your back seizes up, it can turn your world upside down.
Thankfully, there’s something you can do to take action RIGHT NOW and find some immediate relief for your back pain. Plus, it’s likely that you have this professional pain-relieving tool just lying around your house.
What is it?, you wonder. What could it be?
Dead Tennis Balls
Yeah, that wasn’t the answer you were expecting, was it?
It sure wasn’t the answer I was expecting when my chiropractor introduced me to dead tennis ball so many years ago. And yet, they work.
These magic balls that no longer serve a purpose on the courts help people rid themselves of pain. And, believe it or not, it’s super-important for you to use dead tennis balls (as opposed to the live ones out of a can).
Why Dead Tennis Balls?
Take a moment to think about a tennis ball when it comes right out of the can. It’s hard, unyielding, a force to be reckoned with.
Now, think about a dead tennis ball. They’re a little squishy, fuzzy, submissive. They allow pressure and, once the pressure is released, they spring back to being perfectly round balls.
So, if you were going to use a tennis ball for back pain and you had to choose between the two, which one would you want: the hard and unyielding ball or the soft and submissive ball?
Once you’ve got a dead tennis ball or two, you’re ready to start trying some rolling exercises. When you roll, you accomplish several beneficial tasks for your body:
- Muscle massage.
- Myofascial adhesion destruction.
- Increased blood flow to the rolled area.
First of all, when your muscles are tight and cranky, nothing helps them relax faster than a nice massage.
Second, when a muscle is injured, it creates a tiny adhesion to a neighboring muscle while it heals. This is a myofascial adhesion. Unfortunately, when your muscle heals, nothing in your body breaks up the adhesion to allow the muscle to return to work. Something outside the body has to do that. Enter you + tennis balls.
Finally, when you roll, blood is sent to the area you’re rolling. This is awesome because your blood cells are actually your body’s cleanup crew. They come in, gather any debris or waste, and remove it. This can leave you feeling tons better.
How to Use a Single Tennis Ball for Back Pain Relief
If you are only using a single dead tennis ball for back pain relief, your rolling strategy is going to be slightly different from someone with two dead tennis balls. When you roll your spine, you want to roll one side of your spine at a time against the wall. Trying to do this on the floor would be a mistake because the unevenness could cause unwanted pain or intensity.
When it’s time for you to roll your glutes or hamstrings, it doesn’t really make a difference whether you’re using one ball or two when you follow the directions below.
How to Use Tennis Balls for Back Pain Relief
However, if you’ve got two dead tennis balls, I think it’s best to try to roll on the floor. Here’s what you need to know to roll two key areas that may be the source of your pain–your spine and your hamstrings (the backs of your legs).
Rolling the Spine
Whether you have upper back, midback, or low back pain; you’ll want to use your dead tennis balls to roll your entire spine.
- When you come onto your back, place a tennis ball on each side of your spine. The tennis ball should feel like it’s midway between your scapula (shoulder blade) and your spine. Plus, you want to make sure the balls are level with each other.
- At first, it will feel sort of like your back is a 2 x 4 sitting on a tennis ball. After a few breaths, you should feel your muscles start to melt over the tennis balls. If you don’t feel like you’re melting or if you start to suddenly feel more intense pain, move on to the next spot. Otherwise, hang out and let yourself melt over the tennis balls for a couple of breaths.
- When you’re ready to move on to your next spot, press your hands and feet into the ground while you lift your hips. Slide yourself backward, and feel the tennis balls roll down your back. Challenge yourself to only move about half an inch at a time.
- At each new spot, hold and breathe until you feel the muscle relax. (Or, if it doesn’t relax, move on to the next spot ASAP!)
Rolling the Glutes
When the gluteus maximus is tight, it can pull on your pelvis and tailbone. For this reason, once I finish rolling my spine, I like to keep the party moving and roll on down to my glutes.
- If you are just using one tennis ball, pick different spots around your buttocks and try to feel your muscles melt around the tennis ball.
- However, if you are using two tennis balls, you want to make sure your tennis balls are located in comparable spots on both sides.
- Find a spot that feels tight.
- Feel your muscles relax.
- Then, choose a new spot. You can either roll to a new spot or use your hands to move the balls to a new location.
- Make sure to roll right along the side of your tailbone. (Don’t roll directly on your tailbone.) Lots of pain-causing muscles connect to the tailbone, so it’s good to search for those muscles to relieve any possible spots of tension.
Rolling the Legs
Believe it or not, if your hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your legs) are tight, they can cause low back pain. You can choose to either roll one leg at a time or both at the same time.
- Place your tennis ball so it’s just past your SITs bones. (Those are the bones that press into the floor when you’re sitting on your bottom.)
- At first, it will feel like your muscle is a 2 x 4 sitting on top of a tennis ball. After a couple of breaths, you should feel like your muscle is melting over the tennis ball.
- Breathe. Feel your muscle relax. When you feel like you’ve relaxed, use your hands to scoot you back so the ball rolls about half an inch down the back of your leg.
- Roll down until you get just above the back of your knee. You should NEVER EVER roll the back of your knee.
- If the backs of your legs seem to be really tight, skip the back of your knee and move down to your calf. Sometimes tight calf muscles can pull on the hamstrings, which can pull on the pelvis, which can pull on the low back.
Would You Rather Have Me Talk You Through It?
If you’d rather have me talk you through it, check out this free video to teach you how to use tennis balls for back pain relief.
More About Rolling
If you’d like to learn more about how to roll your body, check out my posts:
- Use Tennis Balls to Relieve Pain,
- Everything You Need to Know About How to Use the Orb Massage Ball, and
- Lacrosse Ball Massage: A Memorable Experience.
Or, if you’re more of a visual learner, check out these videos:
- Massage with Tennis Balls,
- Tennis Ball Massage for the Neck and Upper Back, and
- The Tennis Ball Trick to Relieve Pelvic Pain.
More About Back Pain Relief
If you’re searching for more ideas to help you relieve back pain, check out the Pain Relief page. Click on whichever type of back pain you’re having for more pain-relief ideas.