Yesterday, I wrote a blog entry about Hand Cramping. In the comments section, one of my readers, Stewart Holder, mentioned he has been using Baoding Balls to recover from hand cramps for over 20 years. Since I have never heard of Baoding Balls, I decided to do a little research.
I found out Baoding Balls have their roots in Baoding, China during the 1300’s Ming Dynasty. They were created as a kind of meditation and relaxation tool that targets the acupressure points on the hands. The original Baoding balls were crafted from solid iron, which also made them quite heavy. In those days, they doubled as a relaxation tool and a weapon. Modern Baoding balls are made from a wide range of materials, such as jade, marble, and wood, but can still be referred to as Chinese Iron Balls. Most of them are hollow and contain a small piece of metallic material inside in order to generate a chiming sound when shaken up.
Though unsupported by Western scientific evidence, they are thought to exercise hand muscles, improve brain function and reduce stress when used as alternative medicine to stimulate the acupuncture points on the hand. Without going into the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang, symbols of the two forces kept in balance by the flow of your internal energy, Qi (“chi”), which is the energy of life that guides and controls everything, and how Baoding Balls affect this energy, I will concentrate here on their use to alleviate hand problems associated with playing the fiddle.
Baoding Balls are metal balls small enough to hold in one hand. They are used by rotating two or more balls repeatedly in the hand and are intended to improve finger dexterity, relax the hand, or aid in the recovery of muscle strength and motor skills after surgery. Baoding balls are often used in physical therapy to exercise the soft tissues of the hand, wrist, and arm. Regular use of the Baoding Balls will relieve stress, improve and stimulate finger and hand circulation, stretch out muscles and tendons, improve dexterity, and build muscle tone.
Selecting Baoding Balls depends on two main factors, hand size and skill level. They come anywhere from 1 to 2.6 inches in diameter. Some are hallow and others are solid. Hollow balls are better suited for dexterity and coordination training due to the light weight. Hollow balls can have soothing chimes. Solid balls are better suited for exercising your hand muscles. When made of stone, they are light enough for dexterity training as well. Solid steel balls are heavier and really target strengthening the hand and forearms. The small to medium solid steel balls provide a balance of exercise training while not being too heavy for improving dexterity. Most adults start off with the lighter hallow balls in the 1.5 to 1.8 inch range, give or take, depending on the size of hands.
The following videos will illustrate some tips for beginners to Baoding Balls.
I decided to purchase a set to see if they can help me with my hand problems. I chose a classic set that are hollow with internal chimes. They are 1.8 inches in diameter and are made of steel hand painted with pandas on a blue background. They were only $8.75 with $3 for shipping. When they arrive, I will begin to use them, leaving them on my desk to remind me to use them often, and I will report back at some point with my progress and a review.