A Powerball is a gyroscopic exercise device produced by RPM Sports. It is a “finely engineered and precision crafted gyro consisting of a rapidly spinning rotor enclosed in a solid [hand held] outer sphere. You set this rotor in motion using a cord or your finger and build its speed by subtle rotation of the wrist. It contains no motor or no batteries. All of the energy comes from the user and the stronger you are, the faster you will be able to make your Powerball spin, and the faster you spin the inner rotor the more inertia it generates and the more resistance it subsequently inflicts upon the fingers, hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.”
The company says that “because the inertia (or gyroscope resistance) generated within the Powerball is directly proportional to the speed at which you are spinning the rotor – these precision instruments are just as capable of gently rehabilitating a damaged limb (wrist breakage, carpal tunnel syndrome, RSI, tendonitis, tennis elbow, golf elbow etc.) as they are at building huge muscle in the arms and shoulders – it’s a completely non-impact form of exercise and is all about rotor speed.”
So, does using a Powerball help in treating repetitive strain injuries? I briefly tried one a couple years ago in a physical therapist’s office, and it felt … interesting. When I talked with the physical therapist about the device, she didn’t specifically endorse the product, but she said that some of her patients found it useful. I got the impression that it was a more advanced technique than the simple hand exercises I was shown that day.
The hand exercises have proven sufficient for me, and I’ve never explored hand gyroscopes further. But Jeff’s story has piqued my interest again, and perhaps I’ll look into them more seriously.
Jeff, who experiences rather severe RSI symptoms (“due to my RSI many simple tasks aggravate my symptoms; grasping things is especially problematic”), purchased a Powerball and has been using it for some time. Here’s what he found:
After a couple weeks of playing with my Powerball, my arms feel stronger. Certainly my forearms are more muscular. I have had some increase in symptoms when I overdo it but otherwise, it really hasn’t been a problem. I’m not sure if this has done anything to improve my RSI. It has, on the other hand, not done much to degrade my condition either when used in small doses, so that is a plus.
Interestingly, there is also a Gyrotek Powerball Fan Site where “players” compare their top scores (the device includes a “speedometer” display that shows how fast the rotor in spinning inside the ball, and players compete to see who can generate the highest RPMs) and discuss Powerball tips and techniques. There is also a Wikipedia page on the device.