The goal of tennis ball massage is to achieve a “release” by applying just the right amount of pressure: enough to do some good, but not enough to irritate the knot. The sensation should be clear and strong and satisfying, what we call “good pain.” If you are wincing or gritting your teeth, you need to be more gentle. You need to be able to relax.
Once you have adjusted yourself to achieve the right pressure, relax as much as possible and wait for the sensation to fade to about eighty percent of the original intensity. This is the “release” — a change in the physiological state of the tissues, or a “melting” of the knot. This can take anywhere from ten seconds to several minutes.
Does it have to be a tennis ball? Not hardly! Other massage tools for trigger point release …
Don’t assume that all pain is completely muscular. Pain has many different causes; always have a qualified practitioner rule out other disorders.
There are, of course, countless self-massage tools on the market: balls of every description, sticks and widgets, rollers and thumpers, wooden thumbs, and on and on.
Even rocks can make good self-massage tools!
I even know a therapist who collects smooth river rocks — seriously —and gives them away to patients as self-massage tools. It’s a great idea! Although hard as rock, too hard for many patients, they’re perfect for certain self-massage challenges. For instance, they might be ideal for firm “scraping” of the muscles of the forearm — a muscle group which can really take a beating in some people.
Squash balls are softer and smaller than tennis balls, which makes them ideal for massaging some hard-to-reach spots, like the back of the shoulder.
Many of these tools are handy and fun, but one of the most important idea’s in this article is that you really don’t need to go out of your way to buy anything special: most people already have a tennis ball around, and it really is one of the most versatile self-massage tools in the world.