There are many reasons for muscle soreness.
For me, the tightness in my hips or back is a result of over use and repetitive motion from years of gym activities. Whatever your case may be, I’ve found the best thing you can do to help muscles recover is to get a massage. There’s almost nothing better for relieving stiffness than a deep tissue massage performed by a good, experienced massage therapist.
But then, a good massage therapist can charge $60 to $80 an hour or even more. To save money and still find relief, sometimes I need to just work out the kinks with my trusty foam roller. Recently I’ve found an even cheaper solution for a quick massage—a tennis ball.
Don’t laugh; a tennis ball is an inexpensive and very effective tool for working a tired or knotted muscle in many parts of the body, including your back, shoulder, hip, and hamstring. You can even relax your feet by rolling your soles over a tennis ball while you’re at your desk. They’re firm enough to provide targeted pressure but flexible enough to help you avoid injury if you press them up against a protruding bone or joint.
The tennis ball massage technique is pretty simple. Just position a ball under a problem muscle and lie on the ball. Gravity and your body weight will press the ball into the muscle. In about five minutes, your tight muscle will start to relax and you’ll barely notice the ball.
A carpeted floor works best, but you can also lean against a wall if the pressure on the floor is too great. You can also roll on the ball a bit to give relief to nearby areas of the same muscle.
If the loose ball is too difficult to work with, place a ball in a tube sock or the leg of old pantyhose. You can place the ball in the middle and tie knots in the sock at either end. That makes it easy to hold both ends and position the ball. Remember, if you’re working your back, keep your knees bent.
To work on sore muscles on either side of the spine, place two balls in the same sock with a knot between them so that you can work both sides at the same time. Do not put pressure directly on the spine with the ball though.
As always, listen to your body, don’t ignore pain and use common sense. While physical therapists often tell their patients to use tennis balls to work their muscles, you still need to use caution. Talk to your doctor first because he or she may have reservations, especially if you have a condition that requires medical care.
And while tennis balls aren’t the end-all solution for muscle pain and stiffness, I’ve found they do help loosen up stiff spots in a pinch.