Chinese Health Balls

Also known as:

Worry Balls, Stress Balls, Lotus Balls, Melody Balls, Therapy Balls, Therapeutic Balls, Exercise Balls, Chiming Balls, Baoding Balls, Qigong Balls, Meditation Balls, Cloisonne Balls, Iron Balls, Miracle Balls, Reflex Balls, Baichi (valuable balls), Baodjan Chu (health balls).

A long time ago, way before I had any hand problems, my mother went on a trip to China and she got me a present there. She knew I was a "health nut" and into all kinds of wierd stuff, so she got me a set of health balls. These are a couple of small metal balls, about the size of golfballs, meant to be rolled around in the hands to promote health. I thought they were cool but I never used them. Years later, after getting into researching hand therapy I came across a mention of these things so I got mine out and messed with them. I knew they were a good thing, but I didn't persist in using them, thinking I needed more powerful therapies. Later I saw them on the shelf and gave them another try. They seem to make a lot more sense to me now that I understand the value of more gentle therapy. This is a way to very gently give a pretty good workout to the fingers and hands. This type of thing is very typical of the oriental approach to physical health, which is more subtle and gentle than western techniques. Tai Chi and Qigong are also very valuable oriental approaches to health.

The health balls are available in three main sizes:

Small - 45 mm (about 1 3/4") diameter
Medium - 50 mm (about 1 15/16") diameter
Large - 55 mm (about 2 3/16") diameter

There are also a couple of smaller sizes - 30mm and 35mm.

The site (link below) has these sizes: 35mm,38mm,40mm,43mm,45mm,50mm.

They can be smooth metal, they can be engraved, they can have intricate and beautiful inlaid designs (cloisonne), they can be hollow or solid, they can be made of stone or jade. The hollow ones have a ball and a sounding plate in them which make pleasant tones when the balls are moved.

These items are not very expensive, usually they are about $5 to $10 a set. You might find them in Asian stores. There are lots of websites that sell them. And there are always lots of them on eBay. Type health balls or Chinese balls in the search box, and you will find a large variety of them. They usually go cheap and there is usually not much competition in the bidding. You may want to check out eBay just to see a bunch of pictures of them.

The basic exercise is just to move the balls around in one hand. It will be easy to move them clockwise in the right hand and counter-clockwise in the left hand. It is easier to use smaller ones at first and then move up to the larger sizes. They can also be rotated in the opposite direction, which is quite a bit more difficult. The balls should always be in contact with each other (rather than clacking into each other). A more advanced exercise is to rotate them without letting them touch each other. Turning the hands over increases the difficulty quite a bit. You can also work with three or four balls in one hand. Some people walk with them. They can also be used as a massage tool, pressing the palms of the hands or the arches of the feet into them. There are all kinds of way to use these and there are people who have mastered some very difficult feats with them. I think this would be a cool subject for some kind of documentary film.

There are a couple of books on the subject.

The Complete Book of Chinese Health Balls - Ab Williams
Subtitled: Background and Use of the Health Balls
1997 Binkey Kok 118 pages (paperback $10.95) ISBN 9074597289

Chinese Health Balls - Hans Hoting
1990 Binkey Kok 108 pages (paperback $10.95) ISBN 9074597033

This is a translation of a German book. This one is out of print, but can be found. See my books page for ideas on finding out of print books. I have this one but not the one above. There is a chance that these may be the same book (or pretty much the same).

The box mine came in says "HEALTH BALL Lotus Pond"
Here is a transcription of the instruction sheet (typos intact):



The Therapy Ball, famed as one of the "three treasures" of Baoding, China, is a traditional product renowned at home and abroad. The production of Therapy Ball dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and it has been being made meticulously by Baoding handicraftsmen through the ages. Originally, the Therapy Ball was a solid ball, and afterwards it is designed hollow with a sounding plate in it. Of a pair of balls, one sounds high and one sounds low. It is a treasure necessary for the aged to build up physical strength and remove diseases.
Function: According to the Chinese traditional medical theory of "Jingluo" (jingluo refers to the main and collateral channels, regared as a network of passages through which vital energy circulates and along which the acupuncture points are distributed), the ten fingers are connected with the heart, that is to say, by means of jingluo the ten fingers are connected with the cranial nerve and vital organs of the human body, including heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, stomach, and intestine, etc. On plucking the iron balls with the fingers, the balls can stimulate the various acupuncture points on the hand, resulting in the unimpededness of circulation of vital energy and blood in the body. It can cause the jingluo (channels) unblocked and thorough, the vital energy and blood to function in harmony, the muscles nimble, the bones strong, and can prevent and cure hypertension and various chronic diseases. If you keep on taking exercise everyday for months and years, you can get the fine results of keeping your brain in good health with high intelligence and good memory, relieving your fatigue, drowning your worries, and, morever, prolonging your life.
Usage: When taking exercise, put the two iron balls on your palm, and crook and stretch the five fingers in sequence to cause the balls to rotate and revolve, either clockwise or counter-clockwise. In so doing, all the joints of the hand are always in motion; and with the crooking and stretching of the fingers, the forearem muscles are contracted and relaxed harmonically. At first, you may select balls of small size for exercise; and when skilled, you can select balls larger and larger in size. Your two hands may practise in alternation and three or four balls may be put on the palm at the same time for showing a variety of figures.
Maintenance: The ball is made of metal, which should be kept dry ad clean and prevented from violent collision. If it is to be put unused for a long period of time, coat it with wax or grease for sealing and preservation. The Dingzhou Therapy Equipment Factory, Hebei Province, China

Some links:
Has some info on the use of the balls. Sells various sizes and types of baoding balls. Also sells Dynaflex Powerballs.
Various therapy balls and other products, including a video about Chinese Therapy Balls

A web search with any search engine will reveal many more sources for purchasing health balls.

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Revised 07/30/08.