Stress balls are small balls or objects filled with a malleable gel or clay that are held in the palm of your hand. The act of repeatedly squeezing the ball may help to release tension and relieve stress.
The balls can also be used as a physical therapy tool to help strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist. Consult with a medical professional before treating stress or injuries on your own.
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Stress balls help to relieve stress. Exercises with stress balls may also help to strengthen muscles in the hand and forearm.
Using Stress Balls for Relaxation
Squeezing the ball activates the muscles of your hand and wrist; releasing the grip allows the muscles to relax. The repeated pattern of grip and release helps to alleviate tension and stress, and it is an activity you can do at your desk without anyone working or studying around you.
You can continue the relaxation beyond your hand and forearm. Move through your entire body, one muscle at a time. Squeeze and tighten the muscle, then allow it to relax.
You can also give yourself a hand or foot massage to help relieve stress. The University of Colorado recommends rolling your feet over a golf ball to relieve tension, but you can also try this technique with your stress ball depending on the firmness of the ball.
If squeezing the stress ball isn't enough, try some other stress-relieving activities when you have time for a break such as a short meditation, deep breathing or yoga poses. Taking a walk or getting some sun may also help to relieve anxiety.
Strengthening and Rehabilitation Exercises
The muscles in your hands and wrist can become weak from numerous conditions, such as overuse, arthritis or a fracture or sprain. It may be caused by an injury higher up on your arm, such as your elbow. Certain medical conditions and treatments may also cause weakness, including fistula and chemotherapy-related numbness.
Squeezing a stress ball can help to rehabilitate your hand and improve grip strength, advises Performance Orthopedics. Hold the ball in the palm of your hand and squeeze it as tight as possible and release. Complete three sets of 10 repetitions.
Your doctor or physical therapist may instruct you to do this exercise on both arms or just the affected arm. You can also place the ball on the table and press your fingers into the ball.
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center notes that you can also use the ball for your feet and toes. Place the ball on the floor and curl your toes into it and push on the stress ball with the balls of your feet.
Avoid stress balls that have an added scent or are made of polyurethane foam. The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark found that children's toys made of the same substance emitted high levels of harmful and carcinogenic compounds, including dimethylaminoethanol and methylene chloride.
- University of Colorado: "25 Quick Ways to Reduce Stress"
- Performance Orthopedics: "Elbow Rehabilitation Program"
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Fistula Care"
- Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center: "Use These Tips to Combat Chemotherapy-Caused Numbness and Sensitivity"
- Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark: "Analysis and Risk Assessment of Fragrances and Other Organic Substances in Squishy Toys"