6 Pain-Fighting Moves You Can Do With A Tennis Ball

We absolutely love using foam roller exercises to work out those nagging aches and pains, but sometimes they can't get into a tight area quite as well as a pair of human hands. The next best option after a massage? This series of mini self-massage techniques using nothing more than a few tennis balls. These moves get into the deepest layers of your muscle and connective tissue to pry apart adhesions so your muscles can fully contract and stretch. They'll also relieve soreness, pain, and increase circulation. So grab a pair of tennis balls (you know there's one buried somewhere in the garage) and get started.

If You've Got... Achy Feet

Try... Sole Searching

Why it helps: The ball loosens up stiffness in your sole's muscles, joints, and connective tissues.

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. Slowly roll your foot from side to side so the ball crosses your arch. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Roll the ball along the length of your foot from heal to toe for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Repeat on the other foot.

If You've Got... Stiff Knees

Try... Kneedy Ball

Why it helps: 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.

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Repeat on the other knee.

If You've Got... Tight Thighs

Try... IT Band Meltdown

Why it helps: 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.

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. Move your thigh from side to side so that the balls cross the side of your thigh. Repeat for 2 minutes.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

If You've Got... Sore Hips

Try... Hip Help

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

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. Repeat on the other side.

If You've Got... A Cramped Back

Try... Low Back Loosener

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

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Breathe deeply as you roll for up to 5 minutes.

If You've Got... Bad Posture

Try... Upper Back UnWind

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

How to do it:

  1. 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.
  2. Keeping your breaths big and steady, roll the balls like a rolling pin up and down your upper back for 3 to 4 minutes.

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