The use of stress balls is a truly ancient concept. Modern versions are normally made from soft, malleable materials such as high density foam, polyurethane or soft rubber. The idea is that these balls are squeezed and manipulated in the hand and it is claimed that stress balls actually help relieve stress. They are also called stress relievers as many of the modern versions are no longer just ball shaped. Let us find out the origin of stress balls and if or not they work.
The origins of stress balls
Stress balls have been used in Chinese medicine for many centuries. Traditional Chinese stress 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 sound as they are rolled in the hand.
Ancient and modern Chinese medicine works on the presence of ‘Chi’ (also known as ‘qi’ and ‘ch’i’), a life force and 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 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.
Do stress ball work?
There is no doubt that modern stress balls and relievers 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.
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.
The modern soft balls and stress relievers don’t work on acupressure points in the same way as the solid Chinese versions do, due to their lighter composition.
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.