If you lead an active lifestyle, chances are you're no stranger to pain. Muscle strains, overuse, tightness or just a good workout can leave muscles sore and achy. While some pain is OK, pain that is sharp or limits movement needs to be addressed. Shoulder pain is a common problem for weightlifters, tennis players, golfers and other athletes whose shoulders take a beating. Therapeutic massage is effective, but not always accessible. A simple exercise you can do at home with a tennis ball may help alleviate your discomfort and improve shoulder mobility.
About Self-Myofascial Release
Muscle strain, overstimulation, and postural stress can cause muscle fibers to become bunched up, forming what are called muscle knots. Basically these knots are just contracted muscle fibers that won't release. They cause pain and can impede range of motion. Although stretching is a good way to prevent knots and lengthen muscles, it won't treat knots. A technique called self-myofascial release involves manipulating the muscle fibers to get them to release, and it is the best and easiest way to find relief from knots.
Self-Myofascial Release Technique
A tennis ball is the perfect size and shape for rolling out shoulder knots. It's small enough to get in between the shoulder blades, or target a spot on the front or back of the shoulder. It's also just the right firmness — not too hard, not too soft. You can perform the tennis ball self-myofascial release exercise standing up or lying down.
If the pain is in between the shoulder blades or in the rear deltoid, you can do the exercise either standing up or lying down. If the pain is in the middle shoulder on the upper arm, you'll find it easiest to do the exercise standing up. If the pain is on the front deltoid, lying down will give you the best access.
How to do it:
- Place the tennis ball in between your body and the wall or ground and against the shoulder knot or area of discomfort.
- Slowly roll the ball up and down and side to side, focusing on the knot or tender area.
- Use gentle pressure, but enough to get deep into the muscle fibers.
- Do this for two to three minutes.
- If you have more than one knot in your shoulder, move onto the next spot and roll it for two to three minutes.
As a treatment for an existing knot, do this two or three times a day until the knot is worked out. For prevention and improved mobility, spend a few minutes before or after each shoulder workout targeting the areas of your shoulders where you tend to experience pain or limited mobility. If you desire a little more firmness, you can move up to a lacrosse ball, which is harder than a tennis ball.