Serious tennis players often suffer from pain in the hips and knees, which limits their movement and can make each step an painful endeavor.
Arthritis, ligament injury or deterioration of joint cartilage can be blamed for the pain. The problem isn't always so serious. Referred pain from trigger points in the thigh muscles can be intense and mistaken for a damaged joint.
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If you're experiencing knee or hip pain, your first step should be to look for trigger points and eliminate them with self-myofascial release.
If you have tenderness in the illiotibial band, also known as the IT band, release the trigger points by rolling sideways on a foam roller. Be warned, this can be painful.
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If the IT band remains tight, the problem can be linked to the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle and gluteus maximus.
TFL is a muscle on the side and top of your thigh and the IT band is its thick tendon. The TFL helps bend the knee and hip; it raises the thigh up, rotates the leg inward and stabilizes the hips while walking and running.
An intense activity such as tennis can easily overwork the TFL and cause a build-up of trigger points. Additionally, prolonged sitting and sleeping with your knees up keep the muscles shortened and support the trigger point build-up.
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Pain from trigger points in TFL can be felt in the hip or down the leg. You might not feel pain all the time. If your hips are stiff, trigger points can be easily activated any time you overwork the muscles.
Myofascial release will help to loosen up the TFL muscle and eliminate the trigger points.
How to release the TFL muscle
Lie down on the side and place a foam ball under your hip. The TFL muscle is often well developed in athletes and thick and as a result, which make it difficult to reach the trigger points with the foam ball. In this case, a tennis ball will do a better job of penetrating the thick tissue deeper. With the ball under your hip, start slowly rolling across the hip.
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Be warned, this can be extremely painful. Each time you find a tender trigger point, stop moving, and let the ball push into it, while relaxing and breathing deeply. When the pain dissipates, move to another spot and repeat until you thoroughly "clean" the entire hip area.
If you develop a habit of always looking for trigger points in your muscles and eliminate them before they lead to more serious problems, you'll be playing tennis pain-free for years to come.
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