Stress balls are a truly ancient concept. They have been used in Chinese medicine since many centuries. Although the balls used in Chinese medicine were metal ones as opposed to what we have today. Modern or western versions of stress balls are normally made from soft, malleable materials such as high density foam, polyurethane or soft rubber.
Let us find out in further details the origin of stress balls and how they can help you get relief from stress.
The Origin of Stress Balls – Chinese Baoding Balls
As mentioned earlier, stress balls have been used in Chinese medicine for many centuries.
Traditional Chinese stress balls called the ‘Baoding balls’ are quite heavy and are often made of metal or sometimes wood. They can be solid or hollowed out with chimes or small bells inside that make a sound as they are rolled in the hand.
These balls usually come in pairs. The usage involves repeatedly rotating two solid balls in one hand.
Ancient and modern Chinese medicine works on the presence of ‘Chi’ (also known as ‘qi’ and ‘ch’i’). Chi is a life force energy that permeates all things. Blocked or poor flowing Chi within a body will lead to ill health of mind, body and spirit. The systems of acupuncture and acupressure are about stimulating Chi flow.
The chimes or bells in these balls are also thought to help aid Chi and balance energies. It is the same principle as applied in Yoga with sounds of a certain pitch and tone.
Solid stress balls therefore work on the principle of stimulating acupressure points and thereby freeing and increasing the flow of Chi, benefiting the whole body through the hands.
Modern Stress Balls
The regular stress balls that you find in the market are made from soft malleable materials like soft rubber or high density foam. Some even come filled with gels of different densities. Some are even filled with fine powder surrounded by a rubber membrane.
The modern/western soft balls don’t work on acupressure points in the same way as the solid Chinese versions do, due to their lighter composition.
But there is no doubt that modern stress balls are a powerful tool in the rehabilitation of injuries. They will strengthen the muscles of the hand and forearm with continued use and are used extensively as a physiotherapy tool.
In addition to the regular gel filled or rubber stress balls, here are few other varieties that you will find in the market:
Balls containing gel balls/beads: This type of stress ball contains many small gel filled beads inside. These beads squish and dart around when squeezed making for a relaxing experience.
Spikey Balls: These balls carry soft spikes on the surface that you can feel when you squeeze them. The spikes work on pressure points on your hands and hence can have an effect similar to acupressure. They are also known as porcupine balls.
Mesh Balls: Mesh balls are regular stress balls that contain a mesh netting. When you squeeze these balls, small balls pop out of the mesh covering make them fun and engaging to work with.
Do These Balls Actually Help In Relieving Stress?
Are stress balls effective for stress relief? Many people believe they are.
The continuous action of muscle contraction and relaxation can relieve muscle tension. In addition the rhythmical action of squeezing the hand can regulate breathing which also promotes relaxation.
There is also a possibility that they act in the same way that meditation does to calm and relax. Focusing the mind on just one thing has therapeutic value; lightening the load that the mind has to carry, even if only temporarily.
Considering these factors, stress balls definitely work.
As with many alternative therapies, results are different for different people. Stress relievers are often cheap, they take up absolutely no time as they can be used while watching TV, sitting in a meeting or traveling on the train or bus and there are no side effects. Therefore, there is no harm in trying the use of a stress ball and there may be everything to gain.
Doctors and health organizations have endorsed their use, normally for their physical benefits but increasingly for emotional benefit too.