The History of the Stress Ball (and Why They’re So Popular)

Stress is universal. Life brings stress, no matter who you are or where you are, but luckily there’s relief. Stress balls are one type of tension reliever you may have seen on desks (or in hands), and that’s what I’d like to discuss today.

Welcome to Stress Ball 101! As most people are aware, there are many stress balls in the world and they are must-have at homes, in the office, and pretty much anywhere else. You may not have thought about it before, but most common objects have a history and stress balls are no different.

History of Stress Balls:

Chinese Baoding Balls

Chinese Baoding Balls

The first concept of a stress ball originated in Heibei, China during the Ming Dynasty in 1368 A.D. See, people knew even then that there had to be some way of managing stress through the use of hands! Back then they were known as Baoding Balls (or Chinese Health Balls), and they’re still called that to this day. These types of balls were made out of solid metal once upon a time, but today they are made of chrome with tiny chimes inside.

The use and origin of this design were meant to flow and rotate and create a weighted pressure in the palm of the hand relieving tension by weighing on the pressure points in the hand. They also exercised the muscles and perfected coordination. The theories behind using Chinese stress balls were to increase circulation throughout the body. All ten fingers are connected to the cranial nerves and other nerves throughout the human body. Pretty neat-o, huh?

Today the structure and use of the stress ball are a little different, but still very practical and beneficial. If you look in any random office or cubicle I guarantee you will find stress balls. It is one of the most popular gifts and giveaways in modern day around the world.

Stress balls are so useful that they are favored in therapy sessions and recommended for people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritic hands, and stress injuries. If you use a computer all day or just your use your hands all day, it is extremely beneficial to keep the forearm and hand muscles challenged, and all of this can be done with stress balls!

Stress Balls in the Modern Age:

Modern stress balls come in all shapes, sizes, and colors!

Modern stress balls come in all shapes, sizes, and colors!

The modern stress ball is typically made out of closed-cell polyurethane foam rubber. Foam stress balls are made by injecting the liquid components of the foam into a mold. The resulting chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide bubbles as a byproduct, which in turn creates the foam. The foam is then molded into many shapes and sizes, all varied in style (like these cute shapes, for example).

Some stress balls are often filled with liquid or gel substances for a softer, soothing texture. Many customers not only find stress relievers useful but also use them as practical gifts, often putting logos or sayings on them. Stress balls have proven themselves as a powerful marketing strategy.

Homemade stress balls are also popular for tension relief. Did you ever fill rubber or thick latex balloons with cornstarch, flour, or sand while you were in kindergarten? That’s an example of a do-it-yourself stress reliever. It’s tough to get a logo on those for promotional purposes, though, if that’s your primary goal with stress balls.

Who knew that stress balls had so many subtle differences, huh? There are even differences between the types we sell on our website, such as varied flexibility and varied density. You may want to do a bit of additional research on stress ball density or ask your QLP rep if you’re not sure which one to go with.

So, as you can see, these nifty must-have promo items are fun, practical, and beneficial to everyday life. If you don’t have any stress balls, then GET SOME! They’re great outlets for stress, anger and negativity, and they’re small enough to take anywhere. Always remember, it isn’t just a silly desk decoration: It’s stress management sensibility.

Do you own a stress ball? What’s your favorite shape or color? Do you use them to relieve tension at work?

Image credit to Jeezny.

Serenity Morris

Serenity is on the support staff for Quality Logo Products. Cynical and straight to the point, this no-nonsense gal is loveable and passionate about her various nerdy interests. When she is not geeking out about music, British television, and politics she is usually doodling her troubles away! Her artistic abilities are often commissioned for internal and external QLP promotional materials. You can also connect with Serenity on Google+.


  1. Joseph Giorgi

    Love the rundown of stress ball history, Sam!

    There’s no denying the practicality and affordability of custom squeeze toys, but it’s nice to be reminded of their intended medicinal value as well. After all, they’re called stress “relievers” for a reason.

    Great post! :)

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thank you! I hope they maintain that effect for you since you have to spend your days looking at them, stress ball after stress ball hope they don’t actually become STRESSful balls! :)

  2. Rachel

    I had never really thought about the history of stress balls before; I never knew that they’ve been around. at least in some form, since the 1300s! Wow. Those Baoding Balls look pretty cool too! Thanks for the history lesson :)

    • Cybernetic SAM

      You’re very welcome! I think we can just basically mark everything that exists and its origin to China, I swear EVERYTHING has a history there, for example 2 American icons: did you know that apples and tumble weeds actually originated in China!? Sorry, Just some more useless knowledge for your brain bucket!

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I had no idea that stress balls had been around since the 14th century! I also had no idea that polyurethane foam was actually a byproduct of a reaction. The things you learn at the QLP blog!

    Great post, Sam! Thanks for researching this!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      No kidding! Thanks! I just figured since they are such a hot commodity and such a standard for everyday life it is just nice to know the history!

  4. Amy Swanson

    This entire blog was very neat-o actually, Sam 😉 I had always just assumed (yeah, yeah I know what assuming means hahaha) that stress relievers had only been around since DuPont or NASA invented the material for some other project. Go figure!

    I’ve got quite a collection of stress relievers on my desk, 7 to be exact. Wow. That’s kinda sad actually hahaha. I do use them periodically throughout the day to give my fingers and forearms some rest from typing. I know I’d be lost without them.

    Great post, Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks, Amy! 7…HA! Try 18, which is what I have but I can’t help it — some of them are just so darn cute you can’t help but have them around!

  5. Jenna Markowski

    This is quite an interesting post, Sam! I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen a pair of those Baoding Balls before, but I had no idea that that’s where the idea for stress balls originated from! I’ve got quite the motley crew of stress balls on my desk that I use sometimes during the day to relieve those nasty finger cramps from typing all day, but I mainly love them because they are so cute! :)

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I know what you mean — from a cute little panda that adorns my bamboo plant to the cute sperm stress ball that guards my phone, I love each and every crazy stress ball I find!

  6. Alex Brodsky

    Great post Sam!

    I recommend people with really high stress levels AVOID using the stress balls filled with liquid/gels. A few too many times I have been covered in the sticky goo when I squeezed a little too tightly and they’d burst.

    You would have thought I would learn after the first occurrence, but it was more like 5 or 6 times before I got the message.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I know, I have a bunch of those and they are my favorite but I feel like I am playing with a Jack-in-the-Box. I am just waiting for the day it explodes all over me!

  7. Stantz

    I still can’t believe some of the wacky shapes that are offered in stress balls!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      I know they are really awesome so many ways to say you care about stress elimination!

  8. Amanda

    Great post idea Sam!! My cousin had some of those Chinese stress balls, and I loved playing with them! It’s a little tricky at first, but their fun, and the chimes inside sound so soothing! I love the squishy stress balls too. They are so colorful and cute!! =)

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks Amanda! Yeah I had a set too that I used to try and master but never did I think they were the wrong size. I am totally with you about the squishy stressballs, I love the gel filled ones, but they are dangerous as they often explode!

  9. BK

    Hey there
    I am looking for some fun sayings to use with my Stress balls.
    Don’t Stress….
    If I am giving them away but want clients and prospects to order from my site online … Something catchy.

  10. Ron Young

    I have a stress ball that has leaked a very thick clear liquid on my desk. I cannot find anything to remove the glue like liquid. I have tried Goo Gone with no success. Any ideas?

  11. Amiee

    How would one go about aging the baoding ball. I have a set that was given to us by my 90 year old grandpa and I dont know how to tell the age.

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