Tennis Ball Massage: The In’s and Out’s

Dedication; This blog comes to you by the request of one of my patients. She has loved tennis ball massage and how it made her feel. She wants to ensure that the secret gets out and how good that this tool can make you feel. This one’s for you D.L.


 Have you ever tried to stretch a muscle but wasn’t ever able to get into the right spot? if ever feel like that it just wasn’t enough? Tennis ball massaging is a good way to help combat some of those hard to reach areas. So in this blog we are going to talk about some of the advantages, as well as some of the myths of using tennis balls as a massage tool.

 Side note: I will be referencing tennis balls throughout the blog post but you can use other  spherical objects like lacrosse balls, golf balls or hard dog toys for these techniques. I would not recommend golf balls, as they do leave dents into the wall. I am speaking from personal experience on that one.

Positive Effects of Tennis Ball Massage:

 The positive effects of using the tennis ball are usually short-term. The positive effects can include similar effects as going for a massage. The benefits of going to a massage include increased circulation (of both blood and lymph fluid), decreased muscle and joint stiffness. This can sometimes lead to temporary changes in flexibility BUT will likely go back to being tight if you do not take appropriate action to maintain them. There are also some positive mental effects of going for a massage like relaxation and decreased stress but I am not going to promise that. Using a tennis ball to massage the areas of tension usually is uncomfortable and often painful. I assure you that it will feel better once you are done, but no relaxation while doing it. 

self massage technique renata nunes
Myths of Tennis Ball Massage:

As I mentioned before, tennis ball massage has some benefits BUT there are some things that it doesn’t do. 

Do Not Break up Scar Tissues: the forces produced are too low to create any permanent change to the tissue. Scar tissue is extremely strong. They are actually stronger than healthy tissue. 

It Doesn’t release or change the fascia significantly or specifically. Fascia is like the sausage casing that you use to make sausage. But instead of it just encapsulating a single link, it covers the entire muscle and the muscles next to it. So for tennis ball massage to specifically target fascia is nearly impossible. Also as related to scar tissue, fascia is very resilient and takes a lot of force for it to change. You will not be able to create enough force through the tennis ball to change the fascia tensility. 

Favorite Areas to Tennis Ball Massage:

I like using the tennis ball in 2 areas. I’m not saying that you can use them in other areas, but these are the 2 that I find people get the most results from.

Shoulders: Take the tennis ball and place it to the front of the shoulder. Then stand facing the wall. Use the wall to help guide the ball over the areas. There will likely be some knee bending and swaying from side to side to get to the areas that are sore in front of the shoulder. Sometimes the tennis ball will even fall to the floor if you let up on the pressure. 

Butt: The technical term is piriformis and gluteus maximus, but for our sake we are going to lump them together and say butt. This is going to be very similar to massaging the shoulder. Placing the ball into your butt and using the wall to guide it to the sore spots. If you are wanting more pressure, you can try putting the ball on the floor then sitting on it. I warn you, this is very intense and I DO NOT recommend it for first time users. 

Tennis ball massaging is a great way to enhance your stretching but should never replace it. It is a good adjunct to your care. Remember that it will feel uncomfortable but should never be painful. Tennis ball massaging will give you temporary benefits similar to massage but it doesn’t break down scar tissue or fascia.