How To Use Tennis Balls to Reduce Tight Neck Muscles

If you ever find yourself with sore neck muscles after a long day at work or after a rigorous workout, consider some do-it-yourself relaxation with the help of two tennis balls. This simple remedy can work wonders when you need quick relief and if your massage therapist is booked for the next couple of weeks. All you need is two tennis balls, a sock and some quiet time to relax.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Place the two tennis balls in the sock and tie off the sock so the balls cannot move.
  2. Lay down on a hard floor. A carpeted floor will make this less effective. It might be more comfortable to lay on a blanket but do not use a pillow. You will need direct contact with the floor.
  3. Place the tennis ball-filled sock underneath the two bony processes at the base of your skull, known as the occiput. This is also the acupuncture point known as gallbladder 20 in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The weight of your head on the tennis balls against the hard floor will stimulate self-myofascial release of the tight muscles. You can think of this as foam rolling for your neck.
  4. Relax and stay in this position for 5-10 minutes.


Start by getting two tennis ballsCredit: Renee Millman Place tennis balls in a sockCredit: Renee Millman Place sock with tennis balls at base of skullCredit: Renee Millman

What You May Notice

After placing the sock under your head, you may notice some immediate tenderness. If so, breathe into this place and imagine you are letting go of the tension and soreness with each exhalation. Try to stay still and relax, but if the sensation becomes too intense, remove the sock for a moment and then try it again for a couple more minutes.

You may notice an improvement in your neck the next morning but have some soreness at the base of your skull where the tennis balls were. This soreness can be likened to the feeling after you have had a deep tissue massage. Within a couple of days, your neck will likely feel great again. Repeat this technique as often as is necessary and keep your tennis ball sock handy for quick use.