How many of you squeeze stress balls to strengthen your hands? Stop! It’s a big mistake. Using stress balls on a frequent basis has been linked to tingling in the hands, weakness in your grip and a variety of tendonitis complaints including tennis and golfer’s elbow.
From a doctor’s view, stress balls should have a warning label on them (as should cell phones, computers and video games) telling the unsuspecting public that they are hazardous to their health. Since the FDA is unlikely to mandate these labels in the near future, let me explain the dangers and let you decide for yourself!
When you squeeze a stress ball, you strengthen the flexor muscles of the forearm that run along the inside part of your elbow to your palm. These flexor muscles already tend to be over-strong and tight in the majority of the population because we use our hands all day to write, type, text or handle materials at work. The stronger the flexor muscles become, the weaker the extensor muscles on the opposite side of your forearm become.
If your flexor muscles are over-strong, they can compress the median nerve that runs inside of your carpal tunnel, causing tingling in your hands. In addition when you have the imbalance of tight/weak muscles in the forearm, it leads you open to tendonitis such as tennis and golfer’s elbow — which are not fun!
So instead of strengthening the over-strong flexor muscles, start strengthening the extensor muscles of your forearm by putting a tight elastic band around all of your finger tips and stretching open all of your fingers at once. We even have special elastic bands available at our office, free of charge, and can show you how to do this exercise safely and effectively.
The next time you see a co-worker using a stress ball, tell them the risks and get them a band to use instead!
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