Self care tools for relieving pain, stress, & muscle spasms
The products in this blog are for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician before using any of these products. The reader accepts full responsibility for the use of these products.
There are many self care tools/products available to us that can help manage pain, muscle spasms, and other symptoms associated with dystonia and other health conditions. If you are like me, you have tried a bunch of different things to help alleviate your pain and other symptoms. There are a few I have not yet tried, but most of what I share below is part of my arsenal to help manage my symptoms.
Since there are so many things from which to choose and different companies that make similar products, it would be impossible to include every self-care tool at our disposal, but I hope this covers a good portion. Please contact me if there are others you feel I should add that would be of benefit to readers. I provide a link to most of the products, and for those I don’t, it is best to search the internet to find the best prices. Please keep in mind that we all respond differently to these products, so they may or may not be of help.
Lastly, this blog is intended to share non-pharmaceutical products available to us that we can purchase and use on our own, unlike what we receive from doctors which are often not available without a prescription or hands on assistance. Medical treatments and assisted treatments/therapies are discussed in depth in my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey.
Kneading Fingers: Massage machine made by Clark Wellness that has two rotating balls that work on the neck and back. It is designed to duplicate the firm kneading action of a massage therapist. You can find the best prices for this item on Amazon and eBay.
AcuBall: The acuBall is designed to provide acupressure and heat to help relax tight muscles, enhance joint movement, stimulate blood flow to oxygenate tissues & flush out built up muscle wastes, and reduce pain. The unique design allows the body to relax while the acupoints and heat stimulate blood flow.
Bodo: Handheld device for trigger points that you can reach by hand. There are many handheld trigger point tools, such as the Jacknobber, that you can use. Find what best suits you. The bodo can be purchased from Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy.
Jacknobber massage tool: The knobs of the four legs of the Jacknobber massage tool can be used in many ways to apply deep pressure to muscular trigger points and tension. The smaller knobs provide more intense pressure while the larger knobs provide a gentler pressure.
Shepherds Crook: The shepherd’s crook is a long, curved, metal, rubber, or heavy plastic hook with rubber on both ends designed for working on hard to reach trigger points. The shepherd’s crook can be purchased from Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy. Similar products are called Back Buddy and Theracane, shown below.
Another way to work on trigger points in your back that you can’t reach by hand is to put a tennis ball (or ball of your choice) into a long sock or stocking. Throw it over your shoulder and lean against the wall putting pressure on the area(s) that bother you. You can also lay on a bed or floor with golf balls or marbles under your back to access trigger points. The important thing to remember is to avoid putting pressure on bones. Stay on your muscles.
AccuMassage: The AccuMassage helps release muscle spasms and trigger points in the neck and shoulder, as well as other parts of the body. The unique design of the AccuMassage makes it easy to self massage hard to reach areas.
Relaxamat: The Relaxamat combines the ancient practice of acupressure with modern technology, enabling your body to release endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). It helps the body relax, release tension and stress, and provide relief from back and neck pain.
Foam Rollers: Foam rollers are used for massage, fitness, and stretching. While usually long and cylindrical, they come in many shapes, sizes, and varying textures. When used for self-massage, they help soothe tight, sore areas and speed up muscle recovery. This process of rolling out tight muscles and relieving tension is also called myofascial release. There are endless things one can do with a foam roller, including just laying on it to stretch out the upper body and do balance/core exercises.
Occipivot: The Occipivot, which concentrates on the occiput (back of the head), can be used to treat tension and stress syndromes which include headaches, Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), cervical issues, and tension at the base of the skull.
CBD Oil: CBD stands for cannabidiol, the non-addictive compound found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant, often known as hemp. CBD has a wide range of medical benefits, such as neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, cancer, inflammation, pain, muscle spasticity, arthritis, depression, anxiety, seizures, and many other conditions. Of special interest to those with neurological conditions, CBD studies are showing that it may have a neuroprotective effect. I have tried a few companies and the one I like best is Liberty Lotion. The product I use is Liberty Lixir 1000 mg. If you decide to try it or any of their other products, use the Coupon Code Liberty17 for 10% off. Please click here to read my review of this product.
Invigorate Pain Relieving Lotion: Invigorate, made by Resonant Botanicals, is an all-natural lotion made with a combination of herbs, hemp oil, essential oils, magnesium, and MSM. It smells great, is easy to apply, and can help with pain and stiffness. Please click here to read my product review and also be sure to visit their website to learn more. Use Coupon Code RELIEF for 10% off & free shipping.
Ice: For pain, inflammation, spasms, and swelling. It may also relax tremors. There are a ton of ice products available that run the gamut from simply putting ice cubes in a bag to far more advanced technology. I like the ice products from Core Products shown below. They come in different sizes for different parts of the body. Search their site for a ton of other great products. A company that makes similar ice products is ElastoGels. Many people like those made by TheraPearl. They have “ice beads” which make them easier to mold to your body than your typical reusable ice gel packs. I recently learned of another reusable ice pack that stays cold for 8 hours. It is called CryoMAX for those interested in checking it out.
Heat: Heat increases blood circulation and the flow of oxygen and nutrients to muscles. This can help remove cell waste and heal damaged cells, decrease muscle spasm, relax tense muscles, relieve pain, and increase range of motion. I find heat to be most beneficial before I do my stretching, get a massage, when I am extra tight and/or sore, and when I have spasms due to cold weather. Hot baths and whirlpools also relax tight muscles. I like the aromatherapy packs made by BodySense, specifically the NeckEase and Trap Pack shown below. Below those images is their entire product line. They have something for practically every part of the body. I like their products because they provide moist, penetrating heat with the added benefit of aromatherapy. There are other companies that make similar products. Just do a search for “aromatherapy packs.” Some people make their own packs using rice and spices/herbs that are sewn into a tube sock or other fabric. ThermaCare heat wraps and similar brands, and heating pads are also beneficial.
Laptop Laidback: Laptop Laidback is a unique desk designed for working on your laptop, iPad, tablet, Kindle, etc., while laying down. This is ideal for anyone with chronic pain or other issues where they need to lie down to work or want to do some work while resting. Please check out my review. If you would like to get one, they are offering $10 off and free shipping to all of my readers! Click here to order and use the coupon code RELAX.
Topical Analgesics: Topical analgesics are creams, rubs, sprays, and patches applied to the skin to reduce pain and inflammation, and relax tight muscles. Far too numerous to mention, they include products such as Invigorate, BioFreeze, Tiger Balm, Mineral Ice, Sombra, Arnica, Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion, BenGay, Rub A535, MediNatura T-Relief, Icy Hot, and Salonpas.
Essential Oils: Essential oils are the compounds found in the various parts of different plants. Without going into great detail, essential oils can be used orally, topically, and aromatically for reducing pain, relaxing tight muscles, and calming the mind. There are many companies that sell them and a variety of ways to use them. Some essential oil companies include: doTerra, Young Living, Edens Garden, Aura Cacia, Scentsy, Plant Therapy, Fabulous Frannie, Healing Solutions, Rocky Mountain Oils, Radha Beauty, Kis Oils, ArOmis, and Ovvio Oils. It might be best to do an internet search for “essential oils” to learn more, as this is a vast topic of discussion.
Epsom Salt: When my dystonia symptoms were at their worst, nightly Epsom salt baths were one of the most helpful things I did for myself. Epsom salt is both inexpensive and effective, and can be purchased from nearly every pharmacy and grocery store. It pulls harmful toxins out of the body and allows magnesium and sulfates to enter the body. Magnesium helps improve muscle and nerve function, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body. Sulfates are necessary building blocks for healthy joints, skin, and nervous tissue. Regular baths with Epsom salt replenishes the body with magnesium and sulfates, helps flush toxins from the body, reduces inflammation, and builds key protein molecules in the tissues and joints. Learn more about the uses and benefits from the Epsom Salt Council. There are many other bath salts that can be used from companies such as Ahava, San Francisco Salt Company, Tub & Scrub Bath Salt Company and SaltWorks, among others.
Obusforme: The Obusforme Backrest support transforms ordinary chairs into ergonomically correct seating. It puts your spine into a more anatomically correct position to enhance overall posture by supporting proper spinal alignment. There are a variety of styles from which to choose and it is portable, making it easy to use it at home, the office, car, sporting events, etc.
Adjustable Wedge Pillows: Wedge pillows help keep your body supported in a comfortable upright position, allowing maximum circulation while you recline. Products made by Relax the Back provide a 4 piece set, but other companies provide similar wedge pillows.
TENS Unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): Pocket sized, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals. The electrical currents produced are mild, but they can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphin (natural pain killer produced by the brain). It can also be helpful for increased circulation and healing, increased motion and function, faster recovery from exercise and injury, and reduced muscle spasms. Not everyone benefits from a TENS unit or benefits in the same way. If you had DBS Surgery (Deep Brain Stimulation), a pacemaker, etc., please use extra caution with a TENS unit and most definitely consult with your doctor before using. My favorite TENS unit is called Quell, made by NeuroMetrix. Click here to read my review. Unlike most TENS units, Quell is wearable which makes is very convenient to use.
Saunders Cervical Traction: The Saunders Cervical Traction Device is designed to provide safe and effective traction (stretching) to the neck region while keeping it in a neutral position.
Gravity Table: The theory behind using a gravity table is that by inverting your body, you are able to unload the bones, joints, and discs in the back and neck. This is thought to create a traction force through the spine. It has been theorized that this form of traction can decrease back, neck, and shoulder pain, among other beneficial things. The table I use is called Teeter Hangups. Shop around to find the best price.
Inversion allows your joints and spine to elongate, creating space between your ligaments and discs. This helps relieve some of the pressure accrued over the course of your daily activity (or inactivity). Proponents of inversion therapy claim that it helps relieve back, shoulder, neck, and joint pain caused by the compressive force of gravity, improves circulation, promotes lymphatic drainage, relieves the discomfort of varicose veins, eases stress on the heart, improves posture by counteracting the downward pull of gravity, revitalizes and tones facial tissue, and enriches the brain and eyes with oxygen rich blood.
Far Infrared Sauna: Far infrared waves penetrate deep into our body for a deep heating action which allows for the body to activate the sweat glands. It is thought that far infrared saunas that use this technology are helpful for relieving muscle pain, strengthening the immune system, removing toxins, easing joint pain and stiffness, and reducing stress and fatigue, among other things. This is me using the personal sauna at my acupuncturist’s office. This one is made by Relax Saunas. There are other brands available that vary in price. Do an internet search for “personal far infrared sauna” to learn more. Two of the great features of this product is that you do not need to stay in long to get the desired benefit, and it is portable.
Video demonstrating some of my favorite tools:
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), founded by Gary Craig, is a form of acupressure based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the use of needles. Instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input energy onto specific meridians on the body.
Tapping is done simultaneously while you think about a specific problem (a traumatic event, an addiction, chronic or acute pain, an illness, etc.) and say positive affirmations. This is thought by practitioners to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological disorders, and has the advantage of being a simple, self-administered form of therapy. Click here to learn more about EFT and watch different EFT videos.
Mindfulness Meditation: A simple definition of mindfulness is, “a practiced skill of non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of our present-moment experience, including all of our unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges.” Mindfulness teaches us to accept all of our unwanted internal experiences as a part of life, regardless of whether they are “good” or “bad.” Jon Kabat-Zinn is well known in this field and has some great programs to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain, and illness. He has a great program for beginners, aptly named, Mindfulness for Beginners. There are many other mindfulness programs, as well as guided muscle relaxation programs, so find what suits you best.
There are so many things we can do to make our daily lives a little more tolerable. It may take trial and error, but never give up looking for ways to bring more comfort to your life. Please contact me with any questions and/or if there are products you would like to see in this blog that I did not mention.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram