Self-Care Tools for Relieving Stress, Pain, and 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.
If you are suffering with pain, muscle spasms, and stress, the tools below may be of help. The pain I have is from a condition called dystonia and if you are like me, you have tried many things to help alleviate your symptoms. We have to keep in mind that doctors only see us for very short periods of time and can only do so much, so the majority of our care must be in the form of self-care. Along with a healthy lifestyle, these tools can help in that regard.
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. I provide a link to most of the products, and for those I don’t, 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. You can get a copy on my website or Amazon.
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.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. This is by far my favorite self-help tool.
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.
Painless Pain Relieving Lotion: Painless, 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. Their other products I like are called Goodnight and Calm Day. UPDATE 9/7/2020- They now have 4 new products. One is called Painless PM that has more hemp oil than Painless, and indicated for nighttime use. Another is Neuro-Soothe, which is indicated for neuropathy, dystonia, and fibromyalgia. I like both of them the same and use one or the other every day. Then there is Painless X which is a reformulation of Painless PM, designed to offer more help to get to sleep and stay asleep, free of pain. Finally, there is Royal. According to their website, Royal is the result of feedback from customers who were trying to mix their different products to find the best combination for their unique pain. The company then took the best parts of their muscle, joint, and nerve pain products, combined with 1000 mg of Hemp Oil Extract, and created Royal. It is essentially all of the ingredients from Neuro-Soothe, Painless X and MSR, with 1000 mg CBD.
Oska Pulse: Oska Pulse is a small, portable PEMF device (about the size of a computer mouse) designed to break the cycle of inflammation, reduce pain and muscle stiffness, increase mobility, promote joint and muscle recovery, and release the body’s natural endorphins.. The Oska Pulse is calibrated for 4 specific frequencies related to bone repair, cartilage repair, increased blood flow, and pain reduction. Please contact me and I can give you a code that I set up with the company where they will take $55 off the price. Click here to read the review I wrote about this device and how it helps pain and other symptoms.
PEMF technology is designed to target inflammation at the cellular level for healing and long-term pain relief. The company refers to it as “massaging the cells” by increasing nutrients in and increasing waste out. Unlike a TENS unit, you won’t feel any pulsing or tingling with the Oska Pulse. Optimized PEMF is intended for you to feel nothing, although some people notice a slight warming of the afflicted area due to increased blood flow. I never feel anything when I use it.
CBD Oil: CBD stands for cannabidiol, the non-addictive compound found in the cannabis 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 used products from several different companies and have not yet found one I like best. Please shop around and do your homework about the practices of the company.
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.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.
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. The image of the pack on the woman’s neck is called a Tri-Sectional, which is great for icing the neck, upper back, and shoulders. A company that makes similar ice products is ElastoGels. Some 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.
Airoflux 4 Piece Silicone Cupping Set: If you have ever been to an acupuncturist, you may be familiar with these cups (or the glass version) which are used for muscle pain and recovery, stiffness, massages, cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks and more. For the purposes of this blog, these cups can be used on to help loosen up muscles and relieve pain. They also can be used as a massage tool that helps draw up stagnant blood to the surface. For some, it feels better than a pressure massage. The great thing about them is their ease of use. You just squeeze the silicone cup and it will do the rest. Click here to check them out on Amazon.
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. The blue rollers are standard rollers and the green roller (321 Strong Foam Roller) has a texture to it that provides medium density deep tissue muscle massage and myofascial trigger point release.
The Miracle Ball Method: The Miracle Ball Method is a healing kit containing two miracle balls (each should be around 4-1/2 to 4-1/4″ in diameter) and a fully illustrated book. By resting the balls under the back, head, knees, hip, elbow, or wherever there’s pain, and then resting, rolling, or rotating on them, pain and tension is supposed to drain out of the body.
PowerStick Massager: The PowerStick is designed to prevent injuries, improve strength, flexibility and endurance, prepare muscles for physical activity, disperse the effects of lactic acid following activity, and accelerate muscle recovery. They come in different sizes and can be used on any part of the body.
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. The Back Shop also has some helpful devices.
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. Below is the standard TENS unit and below that is the Quell unit.
ComforTrac Cervical Traction Unit: The ComforTrac Cervical Traction Unit 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.
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, Apothecanna, BioFreeze, Tiger Balm, Rescue Remedy, Life-Flo Magnesium lotion, Mineral Ice, Sombra, Arnica, Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion, Bengay, Medi-First Topical Skin Refrigerant cold spray, 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.
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, and SaltWorks, among others.
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.
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 the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.