A massage is a great way to relax and ease pressure on your lower back and nearby parts that may be affected. But if treating yourself to regular massage therapy sessions doesn’t fit into your budget or schedule, you may be able to reap the same rewards on your own time by using tennis balls. Here’s a closer look at why this self-massage technique can provide welcome relief. You’ll also find some tips for doing it safely and effectively.
Tennis balls have an effect similar to what you would get with a foam roller. Typically, what a massage with tennis balls does is affect the soft tissues within your lower back by:
• Easing tension in spine-supporting muscles and connective tissues
• Boosting blood flow to your lower back area by improving blood vessel function
• Driving more beneficial nutrients to your lower spine and its supporting parts
• Releasing “feel-good” hormones called endorphins that naturally ease pain
One way to do a tennis ball massage for lower back pain is to rest horizontally on your back while facing up—also known as supine position. For this one, you’ll need a few tennis balls and some duct tape. Do this version of a tennis ball massage by taking the following steps:
• Using duct tape to secure two tennis balls to the floor
• Lying down on the tennis balls so they’re situated in the center of your lower back and aligned with your hips
• Adjusting your lower back so the tennis balls are making contact with the large muscles on each side of your spine—the erector spinae muscles
• Further adjusting yourself so you feel comfortable and balanced
• Raising both arms up with your fingers stretched out and arms straight
• Shifting and lowering one arm back toward your head while keeping the other one straight*
• Holding the position for a few seconds before going back to your starting position
*You can also bend your neck backward as you lower one arm to target neck-supporting muscles.
The action of moving your arms will cause the tennis balls to massage the sore areas within your lower back area while also applying gentle pressure. Repeat the steps above with the other arm. Start with what’s comfortable, but aim for 4–5 times per arm with this massage technique.
Another technique you can use is to rest on the floor and put a single tennis ball under your lower back area. It can also go under your buttocks or upper thigh area if your back pain extends into these areas. Gently move around until you find your specific tender spot. However, don’t place the ball directly on your spine.
Variation: If you want more control over pressure, sit on a chair and gently press the tennis ball against your tender/sore spots as you shift around.
This may seem counterproductive, but structures in your feet link to ones in your lower back area. Using a tennis ball under your feet also increases flexibility in your lumbar spine by stretching your calf muscles and hamstrings, which can then ease your lower back discomfort. Do this type of massage by:
• Rolling a tennis ball under one foot
• Positioning the ball so it targets the area between the toe and heel
• Applying pressure along the inner arch of the bottom of the foot
• Pressing down firmly as you roll the ball gently back and forth
• Doing the same thing with the other foot and aiming for about 2–4 minutes of massaging per foot
If you haven’t yet received an accurate diagnosis for your lower back pain, do this first before you start self-massaging with tennis balls. Also, realize it’s just as important to watch what you eat, be mindful of your posture, and take other steps to manage your lower back discomfort. Your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon can offer more tips specific to your situation.
If you’re experiencing severe back pain of any kind, make sure to consult a specialist for accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. The pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute have experience with every aspect of neck and back health, from disc replacement to Coflex back surgery. Los Angeles patients should give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.