Can You Use A Tennis Ball As A Foam Roller?

After a long game of tennis, it is only natural for your muscles to ache a little. So something I like to do is use a foam roller to help stretch and relax my muscles.

The problem is a foam roller is quite extensive. Too big to carry around in my tennis bag.

Is there an alternative I can use? For example, perhaps I could use a tennis ball as a foam roller?

A tennis ball can be used as an alternative to a foam roller. It is small, portable, and easy to use. It will not be as effective as a foam roller for some muscles. But it works brilliantly on small knots such as around the shoulder.

You will rarely see tennis balls marketed as a type of massage equipment. Nonetheless, I believe that they are even more effective for some muscles than foam rollers.

In this article I will be covering:

  • Whether tennis balls are an appropriate substitute for foam rollers
  • If is okay to use a tennis ball for massage
    • If a tennis ball can be used for shoulder massage
    • If a tennis ball can be used to relieve neck pain

If you’d like to learn more about how you can use a tennis ball for massage, read on!

Is Tennis Ball Suitable Replacement For Foam Roller?

Woman massaging her foot with tennis ball.


Large tennis clubs will usually have a gym for players to use. Within the gym, they may have foam rollers.

If you are lucky enough to be at a club like this, you can play tennis and then stretch out straight after.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a gym on-site. Of course, you could take a foam roller to the courts, but it’s hardly ideal.

Not to mention how dirty the roller will get if used on outdoor courts, or worse, clay.

While a tennis ball will not replicate the job of a foam roller, there are some areas that it can be effective. In some cases, it is more effective than a foam roller.

One thing that a tennis ball is particularly good at is the pressure point release. Pressure point or myofascial release reduces pain by releasing the tension and tightness in specific muscles.

The muscles causing the pain and tightness are known as trigger points.

When you get a sports massage, the massage therapist looks for these points.

Once the therapist has found a particularly tight muscle, they will begin massaging it to break down the knots and release tension.

Using a tennis ball works in the same way. Putting your body weight on top of a tennis ball will massage it and help break down knotted muscles.

Let’s imagine you have been getting some muscle pain around the side of your hips.

You could lie on your side and place a tennis ball under your hip just above the top of the leg.

You can then move your body around while on top of the ball to find a sore spot. Once you have discovered the painful area, hold your body in that position for roughly 25 seconds.

Have a break for 30 seconds and then repeat two or three times.

Using a tennis ball will not work well on all muscles. One example is your calf muscles.

To get the right angle, you will need to lift your body up to an angle where the calf you are massaging is the center of balance.

Firstly, it will feel pretty uncomfortable. Secondly, you will find it difficult to maintain balance.

You will likely feel the ball rolling out of position and not holding steady. Sometimes it will slip out altogether.

For calf muscles you are much better off using a foam roller. A tennis ball is not an effective solution here.

Is a Tennis Ball Suitable For Massage?

female sportswoman uses a tennis ball for relaxation


Whether tennis balls are suitable for massage depends on a couple of factors. The first is the muscle you are trying to massage.

The second is what you are looking to achieve from the massage.

As mentioned in the previous section, tennis balls are ineffective for massaging calves. But they do work pretty well for the muscles around the hips. So tennis balls can be suitable for massage, but not all muscles.

There are also many different types of massage. Earlier on, I talked a bit about sports massage.

If you think you will get a relaxing massage from a tennis ball, you will be disappointed.

After the massage, you will feel some relief. But during the massage, it will be painful. So if you are looking to use the tennis ball to unwind and relax, then it will not be suitable.

If it’s a relaxing massage you are looking for, I’d advise against using a tennis ball or a foam roller.

Just book a Swedish massage.

Can You Use a Tennis Ball For Shoulder Massage?

Back Trigger Point Massage Using Tennis Ball Myofascial Release

The shoulders are areas that tennis balls work really well on, especially around the shoulder blade.

A good way to massage around the shoulder is to do the following:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent a little.
  • Lean slightly to one side and place a tennis ball under your shoulder blade.
  • Move the ball around a little to find the sore spot.
  • Once you have found a sore point, hold your body in that position for 25 seconds.
  • After that, find another sore point and hold for 25 seconds.
  • You can then repeat between the sore spots for 5 minutes or so.

Doing this type of exercise has several positive benefits.

It helps improve flexibility. When muscles are tight, it is harder to move them. By breaking down knots that are restricting the flow of movement, it will improve flexibility.

It will help in injury prevention. For example, performing myofascial release with a tennis ball will increase blood flow to the area.

This works similarly to standard muscle stretches. As blood flow improves, the risk of injury decreases.

Using a tennis ball for shoulder massage also reduces pain quicker. The knot will break down faster if you massage the muscle while it is still warm.

This will speed up your recovery and thus you will be able to play pain free sooner.

Is a Tennis Ball Good For Relieving Neck Pain?

Close up of a brunette woman massing her neck in a room


You can use a tennis ball to relieve neck pain. I, however, prefer just to stretch it. This is because it is hard to hold the ball in place if lying on the ground.

I find it frustrating when the ball slips out from underneath my neck.

Even though it is not as efficient to use a tennis ball if lying on the ground, there is another way you can use a ball to relieve neck pain.

Place the ball on the part of your neck where it connects with your shoulders and upper back. Move it around a little to find a sore point, and then apply pressure.

When you feel the tension beginning to release, you can take the ball off.

You might feel that it also helps gently roll the ball around the neck on the sore zones.

It’s important to remember this. If any sore points have bruising or are swollen, you should not use a tennis ball to massage the area.

Let swelling heal before using a tennis ball or foam roller. You run the risk of making the bruising worse if you don’t.

Final Words

To summarise, I don’t think that a tennis ball can completely replace a foam roller. But it certainly works well in some areas.

The best way to use it is together with a foam roller. Use the foam roller for larger muscles and the tennis ball for minor sore points.

Have you ever used a tennis ball for a massage before? Perhaps you have used other things as a substitute foam roller?

I’m keen to hear about your experience.