How Tennis Balls Help Health


Do you know how many tennis balls are used in the Wimbledon Championship every year? No, nor did we… Turns out it’s about 54,000! It also turns out that might be a waste of balls! How so? Well, it seems the simple tennis ball can help your health in a number of ways… So!, if you’re one of the millions of people that suffer from shoulder pain, foot pain, snoring, or headaches, a tennis ball could help improve blood flow, relieve that pain and perhaps even prevent snoring…

Shoulder Massage
This is a great way to self-massage when tense shoulders are niggling you. Obviously, it’s best to be sure that you’re not making a serious problem worse, so use this technique to keep things loose rather than cure all ills.

When you’re ready, get hold of a tennis ball… Remember that some of those sold in beach, toy and bargain shops are a little bit softer. They can give you a more gentle massage should you want to start out more cautiously.

Take the ball and find a wall with nothing hanging on it. Make sure there’s a little space around you. Stand with your back against the wall. Put a tennis ball in the space between your spine and one of your shoulder blades. Lean back on the ball so that you’re applying just enough pressure for it to feel satisfying: it’s not supposed to be a pain-endurance test!

Now bend gently at the knees to move your shoulders up and down… You should find the tennis ball rolls along to give a comfortable massage. Continue this for up to two minutes, then switch the ball to the other shoulder.

Incidentally, if you prefer it, this technique also works when you put the tennis ball on the floor and lie on top of it. Just be mindful that it’s a little harder to control the pressure. The floor position is also easier if you want to self-massage the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus… In plain English, that’s your bum muscles.

Cure Snoring?
When you’re asleep, the muscles in your body relax. With some people, the unfortunate side effect of this is that their mouth, throat, tongue or nasal passages vibrate as they breathe… The consequential snoring is the thorn in the side of many people. The irony is, of course, that it’s rarely the snorer that most suffers from the ensuing cacophony. So is there really a way to stop snoring with a tennis ball? Well, yes and no…

The official National Health Service website rightly suggests that you’re more likely to snore if you’re overweight, or a smoker. It also cites two other types of susceptible people: those that drink too much alcohol, and those that sleep on their backs… It’s the people in this last category that can benefit from using a tennis ball to help them sleep on their side. The NHS suggests that you, “…try taping a tennis ball to the back of your sleepwear”. The idea here is that if you do roll onto your back, the momentary discomfort of the tennis ball will immediately compel you to turn back on your side.

It has to be said, however, that this is some of the most impractical advice on health that we’ve ever read! What on earth would tape a tennis ball onto your nightclothes in such a secure way that it doesn’t come off when you toss and turn in your sleep?! So, until recently, we’d written off this advice as something of a pipe dream. But not anymore…

Although it’s not where we first heard the advice, The Guardian journalist Sam Wollaston suggests using an elastic band to trap the tennis ball inside a T-shirt… Simply take a T-shirt you don’t mind scrunching up and wearing in bed. Work out where the middle of your back will be on the rear of the shirt. Put the tennis ball up inside it… Now use a sturdy elastic band, or hairband, to trap the ball in position! Simply put the band over the ball and repeatedly wind it around the cloth and ball. As long as the T-shirt isn’t too loose, this should hold it in place and force the wearer to stop rolling onto their back!

Tennis Ball Squeezes
You can take an old tennis ball and use it to help increase circulation and improve grip in the hands. How? Very simple: hold a not-too-firm tennis ball in either hand and squeeze it like a stress ball. Use all of your fingers to give the ball a powerful squeeze for one second… Then relax your grip… Do this 20 times, then move the ball to your other hand. You may also want to gently bend your hand at the wrist as you do this

Foot Massage
This is useful if you suffer from sore feet, and especially plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. When inflamed, this tissue – which runs all along the bottom of your foot – causes a horrible stabbing pain. It can also feel uncomfortable if you spend a long time standing or, in some cases, sitting down.

To massage the soles of your feet, put one tennis ball on the floor somewhere that you’re able to lean on a wall for support… Stand up, barefoot, and rest your foot on top of the ball. Carefully transfer your weight onto the ball until it feels like you’re achieving a pleasant but helpful pressure. Like a massage, it shouldn’t hurt but it should be noticeable. Start gently rolling your foot over the ball. When it feels like you’ve massaged the entire sole, stop and change feet. This should not only help relieve plantar fasciitis symptoms but also revive naturally tired feet!

Tension Headaches
What causes tension headaches? The long list includes eye strain, new corrective lenses, slouching while standing, slumping while sitting, grinding your teeth and other symptoms of stress. The reason these things take their toll on your head, though, is because there’s a small group of muscles at the base of your skull. Called the suboccipital muscles, this area often holds tension, and radiates pain. So… How can the trusty tennis ball help?

It’s astonishingly simple: take two tennis balls. Drop them into a thin sock. Tie a tight knot in the sock so that the balls can’t move. Put the ball sock on the floor as though it were going to be used as a pillow… And lie down. The tennis balls should sit immediately under the base of your skull…

Let gravity and the natural weight of your head serve as a compression mechanism! Finally, be very gentle as you roll your head slightly back and forth, then side to side for a few minutes. For other fast ways to beat stress, take a look at our other Info Sheets: here.

Back in Shape cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on its Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over medical and health issues, our best advice is always to pop in to see us, visit your GP or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health.