Arthritis exercise: 7 Emma Raducanu-inspired exercises to aid pain using just tennis balls
Emma Raducanu: British teen wins US Open
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If after watching Emma Raducanu’s awe-inspiring performance at the US Open, you’re feeling empowered to try tennis – don’t let arthritis stand in your way. Did you know that a tennis ball is an easy and inexpensive tool to help you relieve pain in your muscles and joints? Joined by two arthritis experts, Express.co.uk has seven simple tennis-inspired exercises you can do at home to help arthritis
Arthritis fighter and fitness instructor Sandra Franco, and David Vaux, Therapies Manager & Exercise Lead at Arthritis Action talk us through seven exercises you can do using just a tennis ball to relieve arthritis pain.
Sandra Franco is a pilates instructor who was diagnosed with arthritis five years ago aged 35 and swears by the exercises she does with her tennis ball.
Sandra says: “The human body responds very well to touch and visual feedback so props such as a tennis ball are a great way to enhance the movements we are trying to achieve.”
The reason tennis balls are so useful to people with arthritis is because they can encourage isometric contractions. These are ways of making muscles contract with minimal movement.
Sandra explains: “As Arthritis is an inflammatory illness – we want to stick to isometric contractions as the muscle’s fibres are not rubbing against each other, reducing the chances of causing inflammation.
“Isometric contractions also improve strength, mobility and longevity in the tissues and joints.”
David Vaux, from Arthritis Action, adds: “Exercising and stretching is an important part of a person’s ability to manage their arthritis.
“Research has shown stronger muscles around an arthritic joint can equate to decreased pain levels.”
There are many different ways you can use a tennis ball for your arthritis, these are seven exercises that can help.
1 – Shoulders exercise
If you suffer from joint pain in your shoulders, try this exercise: all you need is a tennis ball and a floor. You might want to use a yoga mat if this makes it more comfortable for you.
Sandra says: “Lay down flat on your front with your forehead resting on one hand and extend the other arm above your head holding a tennis ball onto the floor.
“Engage your core muscles and tense the extended arm, keeping the elbow as straight as possible, gently press the ball downwards into the floor with your fingers wrapped around the ball.
“Intensify the pressing down little by little until you are pressing as hard as you can, and then hold. This process should take between 5 -10 seconds, depending on your strength capacity.
“Slowly release, then tense the arm again, holding the ball tight, try lifting the arm off the floor without bending in the elbow. Try to hold for five to 10 seconds. Slowly lower and repeat.”
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2 – Ankle lifts
To keep your ankles strong, why not try this ankle exercise you can do while sitting in a chair?
Sandra says: “Sitting in a chair, take this exercise one leg at a time. Place your heel on the floor and put the tennis ball under the ball of your foot, creating a flexion in the ankle.
“Try lifting the toes and the ball of your feet off the ball, keeping the heel on the floor. Hold for five to 10 seconds if you can. Repeat this five times.”
3 – Back massage
David Vaux explains how tennis balls can be used to relieve tension in your back, particularly if you’ve been sitting in one position for a long time.
David says: “If you are feeling pain in your back or shoulder, place the tennis ball against a wall and, whilst standing, gently lean the affected part of your back or shoulder against the wall for around 15-30 seconds.
“Be careful with this exercise if you have balance issues. Always ensure you are steady on your feet and in a safe space. Perhaps try some deep breathing as you do this exercise.”
4 – Foot massage
Foot pain affects many arthritis sufferers. If you have stiffness and pains in your feet, try this exercise.
Remove your shoes and stand near a wall or with a chair next to you in case you need to hold on for stability.
Put the tennis ball under one of your feet and gradually put your body weight onto the ball, moving around as the ball finds your tension and soothes it – don’t forget to hold onto something if you need support with your balance.
Repeat this on both your feet for one to two minutes.
5 – Hand strengthener
Arthritis in your hands can affect the strength of your grip, but you can use a tennis ball to improve your strength and relieve pain in your hands.
Tightly squeeze the tennis ball in your hand and bounce it on the ground, when you catch the ball tightly squeeze it again. Bounce the ball 20 times on each hand.
David Vaux adds: “Rolling a tennis ball in rhythmical motions on and around the forearm muscles, using very light pressure can help to relieve tight muscle around your wrist and hands.”
6 – Stiff knees
This exercise can be done while you’re sitting down so it can really easily be something you do while working or while watching TV.
While you’re sitting down, just place the tennis ball behind your knee. Imagine you’re trying to crush the ball and squeeze your muscles as hard as you can, for 10 seconds at a time, 10 times over before repeating on your other knee.
7 – Tight hips
Your hips have many muscles in them which can get tight and sore – but this exercise can relieve some of the tension.
The gluteus maximus, the medius, and the pitiformis are the muscles that join in the hip, and these can ache for a number of reasons – from sitting too much, to over-exercising.
Lie down on the ground and place a ball on one side of your hip, facing the floor and leaning into the ball, move your hip in circular motions for the ball to work out the tension.
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