If you’ve ever experienced muscle tension or a nagging pain in your back, you know that the struggle to sleep at night is real. Maybe you’re constantly flipping and turning and you can’t seem to find a place for it relieves discomfort. Shiloh Bilge, Principal Massage Therapist and Educator at Spa at Mohonk Mountain House Upstate New York says these types of muscle pain are often caused by microtrauma to the abdominal muscles from repetitive motions throughout the day, muscle strain when exercising, poor posture, or poor sleep quality. Whatever the case, there is a useful tool that may provide some relief and help you sleep at night: a tennis ball.
According to Pileggi, using a tennis ball to apply gentle pressure to the area helps lengthen and stretch the muscles, which can ease discomfort while distracting your mind from the pain. She recommends skipping this technique if the pain is from trauma to the muscles, such as if you were in a car accident. “There is muscle damage from the trauma, and the body needs time to heal,” she says. “There may also be damage to the skeletal system, nervous system, or vascular system, and this needs to be evaluated before any self-help techniques are done at home.” But if you’re dealing with regular back tension and pain, this tennis ball trick can help make it easier to fall asleep at night.
How to use a tennis ball to help you sleep
Lie down and place a small ball under the spot that bothers you. A tennis ball is ideal, Pileggi says, but you can also use any small rubber ball or even a racquetball. It is important that you do this while lying on a bed without a pillow under your head. If you prefer to do this technique on a yoga mat, she recommends using a softer ball. “The more solid the surface you lie on, the less the ball will sink into it,” she says.
The proper placement of the ball is also important. For lower back pain, Bilge suggests putting two tennis balls into a sock and placing one on either side of the spine. Whatever you do, never place the ball directly under the spine or any other bone. Not only will that feel good, but she says the bony spurs don’t have a lot of tissue on top of them, so these areas can easily bruise.
Stay in this position for a maximum of two to five minutes. Pileggi adds that you can also use this technique for pain in other large muscle groups, such as the glutes and hamstrings, that don’t relax on their own due to overexertion or poor posture. Plus, Tennis balls are also great tools for stretchingAnd the Reducing neck and shoulder tensionand for Massage painful knots and muscle aches while traveling.
Precautions to be aware
Don’t sleep with the ball under you. It could potentially bruise a muscle or cause it to stretch to protect itself, Pileggi says, causing more discomfort than what it started with, nullifying the purpose. If you don’t feel any relief within the first five minutes of trying this technique, Pileggi says it may not be the best solution for you because there are other reasons that can cause your muscles to tighten and cause discomfort. If the pain increases at any time, stop and do not continue using this technique.
In these cases, she recommends stretching or applying heat or ice to the area to help relieve discomfort. “You are the expert on your body. It is important to know what works for you,” she says. “If a warm shower or hot compress relieves muscle aches, use it. If you know which extensions help, use them. If not, attend a class with a qualified instructor so you don’t cause more inconvenience than you already are.” If the pain persists and begins to affect your quality of life, see a professional.