Friday, February 09, 2007

Relieve Back Pain with Tennis Balls!

I could write a whole chapter on how amazing and effective tennis ball acupressure is...

but I'm sure that someone has already done this!

For the purposes of this entry, I want to focus on the benefits of tennis ball acupressure for the back.

A quick lesson on acupressure first:

I like the definition provided by the Acupressure Institute out of Berkeley, CA: "Acupressure is an ancient healing art developed in Asia over 5,000 years ago, using the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body's natural self-curative abilities. When these acupressure points are pressed, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of blood and the body's life force energy to aid healing. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points and meridians, but acupuncture employs needles, while acupressure uses gentle but firm pressure and integrates bodywork therapies, therapeutic touch, somatic work, healing imagery, energy psychology, and massage therapy techniques."

I often incorporate acupressure into my massage sessions, and clients often feel a rush of energy through the points along the energy meridians, releasing pain and tension. And, the great thing about acupressure is that you can do it yourself using some simple tools.

Here's what you can do: purchase at least two tennis balls at your local sporting goods store, and you'll have all the tools you need. Use tennis balls because they have some give in them (a pool ball, for example, would be quite painful!). Place these two balls on the floor about four inches apart (or the width of your spine). Gently rock yourself back and onto the tennis balls in the area of your tension. For me, the area between my shoulder blades needs the most attention, so I allow the tennis balls to settle on either side of the spine of my upper back. I take deep breaths and feel the firm pressure gradually soften my muscles. I usually move the balls down to my low back and then up to the base of my skull for some added tension release.

Alternative techniques for back acupressure:
  • Sit at your desk chair and lean back against the tennis balls.
  • Lean against a wall, and move your back up and down the wall against the pressure of the tennis balls on either side of your spine.
One caution area to be aware of: the T-12 area of the back, where the kidneys are located. Most people don't place the tennis balls here because it generally feels a little tender and uncomfortable, but be gentle with this area and avoid deep pressure. And, as always, if anything hurts or becomes too sore when you try these ideas, discontinue doing the exercise. Tennis ball acupressure is powerful and transformative, but it isn't for everyone. You want to be sure that the exercise is going to relax you, not effectively tighten all the other muscles in your body due to the pain. This exercise should feel pleasant and ultimately relieving!


Kristen Bergsman said...

Courtney, you hit it on the nail. My chiropracter used to tell me about tennis balls, and she was right. They are great. Also, my PT recommended racquet balls rolled with firm pressure along my forearms for tendonitis....which is wonderful for softening things up.

Courtney Putnam said...

Great point, Kristen! Tennis balls can be used on so many trouble spots. I've used them for my tendonitis as well, and I've encouraged clients to sit on tennis balls to reduce tension in their piriformis muscle (this muscle, when tight, can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause shooting pain down the leg). The options are endless!

Beat Slot Machines said...

Very amusing phrase