If you're suffering from tension headaches or stress-related neck and jaw pain, and you don't feel comfortable seeing a massage therapist right now, take matters into your own hands. Liz Letchford, who has a PhD-C in kinesiology and Rehab Science, shared this video to show how you can give yourself relief using just a lacrosse, tennis, or therapy ball.
"Self-massage helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, aiding in recovery, alleviating muscle and fascial pain while helping improve your balance and strength," Letchford told POPSUGAR. By using soft pressure, you are stimulating the musculoskeletal, nervous, and lymphatic systems of your body to work together to improve performance and decrease pain.
Rubbing and rolling a ball is similar to foam rolling in that it increases blood flood to the area, which physical therapist Erin Adams, DPT, said in a previous interview, "decreases pain, repairs muscles, and restores vital nutrients to the area in need." It also helps keep fascia (connective tissue in muscles) loose. Foam rollers are big and bulky and great for large muscle groups, but they're not great for reaching smaller areas, which is why using a ball for self-massage is so effective. Try these techniques on both sides:
- Rub one side of your chest with the ball
- Press the ball firmly into your chest muscles as you circle your arm in both directions
- Press the ball firmly into your upper trap muscles (between your shoulder and neck) as you circle your arm in both directions
- Roll the ball along your jaw
- Press the ball into your jaw as you open and close your mouth
- Roll the ball along your temple (side of the forehead)
This video is sped up, so be sure to take your time and explore different areas of your chest, shoulders, neck, and face. Also experiment with varying degrees of pressure and different movement patterns of the ball, like constant pressure, circling, back-and-forth. You can also lean your back or chest against a wall with the ball in between you to add more pressure.
During your self-massage session, Adams said make sure to breathe deeply and relax your muscles as much as possible, and only go as intense as you feel comfortable. It's normal for this type of self-massage to feel very intense at times as you pause on the tender spots until you feel them release, but you don't want to really hurt or bruise yourself. This is supposed to relieve tension and stress, not cause more!