Therapist

Best stress balls for hand therapy

A woman using a stress ball

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What are stress balls?

Stress balls are therapeutic tools for helping people manage stress through the physical act of squeezing, rolling, or tossing a ball.

Made of various materials, from foam to rubber to metal, these balls can assist people in diffusing emotions like anger or anxiety and may even be able to curb panic attacks.

Benefits of stress balls 

It’s important to note that research doesn’t suggest that stress balls can reduce stress and anxiety.

However, according to experts we spoke to, stress balls may be a beneficial tool for easing stress because they alleviate the physical experience of intense emotions. As Michelle Hunt, a mental health counselor and therapist at Empower Your Mind Therapy, explains, stress is not only an emotional and mental reaction, it is also a physical experience.

“As stress builds in our bodies, it needs a way to be released in order to not perpetuate our emotional and mental state,” Hunt says. “Stress balls give a point of release for stress. They help calm the nervous system and assist with processing.”

More often than not, she adds, the physical release created by stress balls can actually decrease physical sensations of stress, and other powerful emotions.

How does this work exactly? According to Vianey Reinhardt, a licensed professional counselor at Connections Wellness Group, the repetition of squeezing and releasing the stress ball creates the overall effect of stress or tension reduction.

“A user can hold the stress ball in their hand and squeeze the ball for up to 5 seconds and then release,” Reinhardt says. “This process can be repeated several times until the user experiences a reduction in tension.”

Another benefit to stress balls, both Hunt and Reinhardt note, is that these therapy tools are both discreet and socially accepted. People can use them without feeling self-conscious in public and even keep them handy on their work desks without worrying about other people seeing them.

What to look for

Stress balls can be made from a number of materials like foam, fabric, pliable plastic or latex, rubber or even metal. When choosing a stress ball, it’s important to consider the durability of a product’s materials and read reviews to make sure the ball you’re considering is durable, especially if it’s the kind filled with water or foam. (These are more susceptible to pops or punctures, particularly if they’re used by children.)

Another consideration is size and strength. Stress balls come in various sizes and different levels of soft or hardness. Being able to test out a few balls can help you choose the right one for you.

What’s most important, Hunt says, is that you select something that speaks to you in some way, whether it’s the squishability of the ball itself or its shape or color.

“Stress balls come in different styles,” she says. “So, having an item that’s more tailored to your preferences can help with feeling a sense of control in how you express your distress.”

How we chose

We looked at a number of different products to determine which ones to recommend and include.

We evaluated various products based on the following criteria:

  • value for the price point
  • positive customer reviews
  • aesthetic
  • size and strength of each product

We also considered different styles and materials of stress balls to provide a breadth of useful options.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = $15–20
  • $$$$ = over $20

Frequently asked questions

Is there research on stress balls?

Clinical studies haven’t found evidence to support the idea that stress balls reduce stress and anxiety.

However, many people find these products help them focus, calm, or distract themselves, as part of a useful tool in their overall stress management.

Do stress balls work for anxiety?

While Hunt says that stress balls can be great tools to use in the moment to help ease the physical discomfort of anxiety, they won’t solve the cause of that stress.

“It is important to explore the triggers for stress and utilize different coping skills in order to decrease the intensity of symptoms over time,” she explains. “Stress balls alone are not effective in processing where the stress is coming from and understanding the root of the stress response.”

Do stress balls work for anger?

According to Reinhardt, stress balls can help manage symptoms of frustration, stress, or anger. However, she adds that it’s important to monitor the benefits of using a stress ball in reducing these emotions.

“If it appears that the act of using a stress ball provides minimal or no benefit at all, it would be appropriate to seek additional coping mechanisms or seek the help of a mental health professional who can provide guidance and tools for managing challenging emotions,” she says.

Do stress balls help with panic attacks?

While clinical studies haven’t found evidence to support the use of stress balls to prevent panic attacks, Reinhardt says that they can be excellent tools for diverting the brain when someone feels a panic attack coming on.

“Distracting the brain from focusing on the stimulus for that fear and refocusing on a specific task, such as squeezing a stress ball, allows for an interruption of the fear response and gives the brain a chance to settle into a less escalated state,” she says.

Here, the best stress balls on the market, according to a licensed mental health counselor.

“Sometimes when a person is feeling stressed, frustrated, or overwhelmed, they have a desire to squeeze,” says Lisa McCrohan, MA, LCSW-C, SEP, a Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapist, Integrative Coach, and author. This is where stress balls can help.

Many things—from genetics to your environment—can cause increased anxiety , feelings of restlessness, and rumination. Fidget toys, such as fidget spinners or stress balls, are thought to aid in relieving stress and distracting individuals from rumination and anxiety. As such, using a stress ball to expel energy and calm fidgeting might be helpful.

Best Overall

Stress Less Stress Balls with Motivational Quotes 3 Pack

Stress Less Stress Balls with Motivational Quotes

Amazon

Pros

  • Uplifting quotes included

  • Packaged for gifting

  • Good for hand therapy

Cons

  • All are the same resistance

  • Faint smell reported

Combine a positive affirmation with a physical outlet for a double dose of stress relief. Sold as a pack of three, these stress balls come with happy quotes written on them to help shift your thoughts from stress to positivity. Made from polyurethane foam and available in four different color options, this is a durable and anxiety-relieving option.

Price at time of publication: $14

Items in set: 3 | External material: Polyurethane | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Polyurethane

Best Color

Power Your Fun Arrgh Rainbow Giant Stress Ball

Power Your Fun Arrgh Rainbow Giant Stress Ball

Amazon

Pros

  • Good for kids and adults

  • Can be washed in water

  • Great customer service and refund policy

Cons

  • Too large for some

  • Some report bursting/leaking

The gentle ombre of rainbow colors and larger size make this stress toy a good option for extra frustrating days when you need physical and emotional stress relief. Whether you need to vent, let out aggression, or keep both hands busy at once (it’s 5-inch diameter is big enough to keep both hands occupied), this is a great option. The rainbow colors are bright and uplifting and this stress ball is easily cleaned if it gets dirty from use.

Price at time of publication: $13

Items in set: 1 | External material: Rubber | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Gel

Best Scent

Lavender Luvies Scented Stress Balls 3-Pack

Lavender Luvies Scented Stress Balls 3-Pack

Amazon

Pros

  • Good for aromatherapy

  • Multiple color options

  • Soft and comfortable exterior

Cons

  • All are the same resistance

  • Material may stretch over time

Smells can have a direct effect on mood. Research shows that lavender has a calming influence over brain waves and neurotransmitters. These stress balls are handmade and filled with dried lavender flowers. Gentle squeezing helps release the scent. They can be smelled, squeezed, and even tossed around in the air due to their lightweight and soft texture.

Price at time of publication: $26

Items in set: 3 | External material: Spandex | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Dried Lavender flowers

Best for Small Hands

MindPanda Empowering Gel Stress Ball Bundle

MindPanda Empowering Gel Stress Ball Bundle

Amazon

Pros

  • Compact case included

  • Multiple resistance levels

  • Latex- and BPA-free

Cons

  • Scent may be too strong

  • Resistance level not specified

Mind Panda stress balls come in packs of three, each with a different resistance level, scent, and empowering questions printed on them. The multiple resistance options allow the customer to choose which fit feels the most comfortable and soothing. A hand-strengthening exercise guide comes with each pack. Use this option for focused strength training or for mindless fidgeting to help fight boredom or anxiety during long meetings, work assignments or any time you need stress relief. 

Price at time of publication: $23

Items in set: 3 | External material: Lycra | Resistance: Soft, medium, hard | Fill: Thermoplastic gel

Best for Strengthening Hands

The Friendly Swede Stress Balls 3 Pack

The Friendly Swede Hand Grip Strength Trainer

Amazon

Pros

  • Multiple color options

  • Ergonomic egg shape design

  • Multiple resistance levels

Cons

  • Exterior is slightly sticky

The unique egg shape of this stress toy is designed specifically for strength training exercises and the relief of hand and joint pain. There are various color options to choose from as well as options ranging from 20 to 40 pounds of resistance. They come in multiple sizes to get just the right fit for kids and adults. They are made from thermoplastic rubber and are designed to strengthen muscles while simultaneously easing joint pain and carpal tunnel pain.

Price at time of publication: $17

Items in set: 3 | External material: Thermoplastic rubber | Resistance: 20, 30, and 40 pounds | Fill: Thermoplastic rubber

Best Variety Pack

BAUTVAS DNA Squishy Stress Balls for Kids

DNA Stress Balls

Amazon

Pros

  • Great for kids and adults

  • Variety of textures included

  • 90-day replacement or refund period

Cons

  • Strong odor reported

  • May burst or get punctured

The need for a particular type of stress ball or fidget toy can often depend on our mood at the time, especially for kids. With 8 different toys ranging in color and texture, including some filled with tactile beads, kids or adults have more than enough options to choose from. This is a great option for small classroom settings or families with multiple kids.

Price at time of publication: $14

Items in set: 8 | External material: Thermoplastic rubber | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Silicone

Most Durable

Serenilite Stress Balls 3-Pack

Serenilite Stress Ball 3-Pack

Amazon

Pros

  • Durable exterior

  • Lifetime warranty

  • Good for hand therapy

Cons

  • On the smaller side

  • Resistance levels not specified

Made with high-quality materials, these ergonomic stress balls feature a tear-resistant gel core and non-stick fabric for ultimate comfort. The design is made to combine color therapy and physical therapy to strengthen hands and wrists while calming anxieties and stress. Made for both kids and adults, this stress toy can handle your most frustrating days.

Price at time of publication: $18

Items in set: 3 | Material: Parachute nylon | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Gel

Best for Physical Therapy

GOZATO Squeeze Ball for Hand Therapy

Gozato Squeeze Ball

Amazon

Pros

  • Ergonomic egg shape

  • Multiple resistance levels

  • 100 percent satisfaction guarantee

Cons

  • Sticky exterior

For hand, wrist, or finger rehabilitation, a stress ball may be an optimal tool for physical therapy. The GOZATO squeeze ball set includes five stress balls with multiple resistance levels. Each resistance level—from extra soft (22 pounds) to extra firm (88 pounds)— corresponds with a different ball color, making it easy to find the one you need. The ergonomic shape helps with therapy exercises and makes it comfortable to hold.

Each one is made with thermoplastic rubber which is hypoallergenic, recyclable, and latex-free. Plus, the set comes with a cloth bag, making them easy to take on the go.

Price at time of publication: $8

Items in set: 3 | Material: Parachute nylon | Resistance: 22-88 pounds | Fill: Thermoplastic rubber

Best for Temperature Therapy

Bed Buddy Store Stress Ball and Grip Strength Trainer

Bed Buddy Store Stress Ball

Amazon

Pros

  • Can be heated or chilled

  • Finger loop for optimal grip

  • Filled with natural grains

Cons

  • Doesn’t stay warm for long

  • Ball doesn’t compress well

Heat or temperature therapy is designed to improve blood flow and circulation—soothing discomfort and easing muscle pain. In conjunction with the movements used to squeeze a stress ball, the temperature may provide a multi-dimensional approach to physical therapy practices. The Bed Buddy Store stress ball can be heated or cooled depending on your personal needs. Filled with natural grains, it provides resistance for squeezing and holding in your hand.

The ball is coated in a soft polyester material and it has a small finger loop to keep it from rolling out of your hand. When heating it, place it in the microwave for 30 seconds. When cooling the stress ball, the brand recommends placing it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Price at time of publication: $6

Items in set: 3 | Material: Parachute nylon | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Natural grain

Best for Kids

FIVOENDAR Fun Face Stress Balls 24-Pack

FIVOENDAR Fun Face Stress Balls 24-Pack

Amazon

Pros

  • Large variety

    Good for party favors

    Sized well for kids

Cons

  • Strong odor reported

It’s difficult to stay stressed and frustrated with a funny face stress ball helping you out. There are 24 bright, funny faces to choose from in this pack. At 2.5 inches in diameter, they are comfortable for kids and adults alike. The foam filling is soothing for anxiety, restlessness, or sore hands from typing or writing. The large variety pack is also great for kids party gifts.

Price at time of publication: $18

Items in set: 24 | Material: Foam | Resistance: N/A | Fill: Foam

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