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The 50-cent accessory that could save your trip

By Aimee Cebulski, for CNN
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
After hours on a plane or train, or a long walk in a new destination, tight muscles can be relieved with some tricks using this simple Wiffle Ball. After hours on a plane or train, or a long walk in a new destination, tight muscles can be relieved with some tricks using this simple Wiffle Ball.
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This plastic ball could save your travels
IT Band/outer leg reliever
Back rub
Foot relief
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pressure point therapy can help tight muscles relax after long trips
  • No need for expensive therapy or fancy equipment though
  • A Wiffle Ball can be an effective solution to various aches and pains

(CNN) -- Editor's note: CNN does not offer medical advice. If you have a serious medical complaint please consult a physician.

Long hours sitting in an airport or on a train.

Jet lag.

Miles of walking.

Travel is tough on the body.

About eight years ago I started battling pain whenever I traveled.

The large muscles up and down my leg and hip would get hard and tight, making sitting, standing or even sleeping painful.

Massages, Jacuzzi baths, ibuprofen and yoga alleviated the pain, but temporarily.

While all were helpful, no remedy really provided the "release" I felt I needed to undo those tight spots.

A physical therapist suggested pressure point therapy as a way to help the muscles relax.

She used a device called a Thera Cane, a deep-pressure massage device that's shaped like a large candy cane, to press down hard on my tight spots and help them release.

Voila! I experienced some relief.

However, the bulky Thera Cane isn't really travel friendly.

And it requires a second person to use.

MORE: Airplane yoga: 18 exercises for healthy flying

So simple, so cheap, so effective.
So simple, so cheap, so effective.

I wondered what might work while traveling, even alone?

The ends of the Thera Cane are studded with hard, little plastic balls -- wandering through the aisles of a sporting goods store one day I stumbled across a possible solution: a Wiffle Ball!

For those who aren't familiar with them, the Wiffle Ball (there are a number of imitators) is a perforated, rubbery-plastic ball about the size of a baseball.

For kids, especially in the United States, they're used to play baseball in safe and confined areas.

I bought a three-pack for about $1.50 and tried one out on my legs -- it worked great.

Wiffle Balls are lightweight, durable and inexpensive -- the perfect accessory for on-the-road pressure point relief.

Following the exercises my physical therapist showed me with the Thera Cane, I came up with five "do anywhere" moves for instant tension relief.

MORE: 8 secret acupoints to cure travel ills

1. Foot relief

Sit in a chair or on the edge of a bed, place the Wiffle Ball under your foot (starting in the arch) and slowly roll your foot back and forth over the ball for about two minutes.

The massage motion will increase blood flow and help release tightness in the arch.

2. Back rub

Lay on the floor (better than the bed, which is too soft) and place the ball under your shoulder blade.

Slowly rock yourself back and forth over the ball, moving it around the large muscles encasing the blade.

3. Hip and upper leg tension reliever

Still on the floor on your back, move the ball under one side of your bottom -- place the ball right in the center of the largest part of the muscle and roll around on top of it, letting it move around the entire buttock and up toward your lower back then down to where the buttock meets the thigh.

You should feel tension release down the hip and into the leg.

4. IT Band/outer leg reliever

Runners know the IT Band well -- it runs along the outside of the leg, down the thigh and over the outer part of the knee.

Roll over onto one side, prop yourself up on an elbow and place the ball just below your hip in the large part of your thigh.

Slowly move yourself up and down while bracing with your elbow, allowing the ball to roll up and down your leg to relieve tension.

5. Hip flexor release

Sitting for hours can make the muscles at the front of your hip and leg tighten.

To release, roll over on your stomach and put the ball right in the spot where your leg meets the hip and lay flat for about a minute, rolling slightly until you find your tightest spots.

You'll also access the psoas muscle this way -- the psoas is a rope-like muscle that runs obliquely from spine to the femur -- releasing additional tightness.

What's your favorite tip for relieving muscle pain and tightness on the road? Share them with readers below.

MORE: Is massage good for you, or does it just feel nice?

CNN contributor Aimee Cebulski is the author of The Finding 40 Project, a book about women turning 40 around the world. She lives in San Diego.

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