Pain Management Self-Care Products: How do I choose? And, do they make good gifts?

One of the goals of Mayer Wellness, LLC is to help people design a life where they can reduce, eliminate and manage their pain to create a satisfying life. So, it is important to me that I teach my clients self-care. As all therapists know, what the client does between appointments is far more critical in making progress than the appointment itself. Receiving bodywork regularly is a wonderful part of a wellness routine. However, good movement habits and regular self-care is a must to keep pain and stiffness at bay.

I know from personal experience that my old shoulder injury will rear its ugly head if I don’t keep up my regular stretching and exercise routine. My regular activities include lots of shoulder movement, but when I’m at the computer more, I know I can’t skimp on my routine or I will pay for it. Most of the time some light stretching and weight bearing through the shoulders with some yoga keeps my shoulder in check. However, when it decides to flare up, I need more. That is when I turn to my self-care tools.

I have always been a lover of gadgets. Kitchen gadgets, yard gadgets, technology, and of course self-care gadgets. There are many tools on the market now. A search on for self-care products resulted in over 8000 products. How do you choose?! One option is just to keep purchasing them, trying them out for a while, and see what you feel. This is what I have done over the years. I don’t believe I’ve ever returned an item. Not because they were all effective. Far from it. I didn’t feel right returning something after using it for a couple weeks, which I think is a fair trial period. So, I kept them and let them pile up.

After a couple decades of buying and trying I’ve landed on several self-care products, I can’t live without. I’m sharing this because I’m hoping to save you time, energy and expense. And, help you with your own self-care. 20181024_142634I use many of the products in my workshops and with my clients. I don’t sell any of them in my practice, but I have often been asked. I’ve considered it, but the retail business is entirely different from the therapy business, and I’m just not ready to go there yet.

Becuase I have been asked so many times if I sell the product or where they can be purchased, I created is a page on my website dedicated to the products I use in workshops, with clients, and recommend for self-care.  You can continue reading of just go right to my Recommdended Products page and poke around. has a wonderful program (Amazon Affiliates) that actually pays me a small (very, very small) portion of any sale from a link to my website. So, full disclosure: If you buy something I recommend after clicking on my site link to, I profit. It does support my private practice, so I very much appreciate it!

Another thought before I begin unveiling my favorites is gift giving. Those that know me, know I’m weirdly crazy practical. Many years ago for Christmas, I gave everyone in my family and extended family a TheraCane. If you are not sure what this is, it is a self-care tool shaped like a cane with handles that helps you get at the knots in your back. Everyone was a little confused at first now knowing what it was. After a few lessons, they loved it. It ended up being one of those gifts that kept on giving. So, if you need a present for someone you care about, you are sure to find something on my list. Unfortunately, we all have pain or stiffness now and then so if you are practical like me, then these products make great gifts. And, no, the TheraCane is no longer on my favorites list, but I may pull it out on an infrequent occasion.  Here is a link if you do want to check it out. Thera Cane Massager (Black)

You can choose to keep reading or I show and explain the tools in this video.

I am never without my number one favorite tool, the therapy ball. They literally travel with me everywhere. I have used them in the car, hotel rooms, planes, my office, during meetings. I have lent them out and given them as gifts. They are versatile and get can into tight spots almost anywhere in the body. Therapy balls are the primary tool I use in my workshops. There are many tips and tricks to getting in those areas deep in the hip shoulders you can never quite seem to hit.

The best therapy balls are dense but have some give when you press into them. They also have a “sticky” opposed to a slippery surface, so they do not easily slip away from you when you lean into them. Using balls that are too hard is not safe for many people and can damage tissues. Balls that are too soft such as tennis balls are not as effective and more difficult to use. It is also best to find a set of therapy balls that come in a pair and includes a bag or pouch to be used together or individually. This offers more options in your stretching routine.

The Acupoint ball is my personal favorite and the size and density I use in my Myofascial Stretching Workshop. It is excellent for most people, especially women, as they are slightly smaller than other therapy balls (about 2.5 inches). Acupoint Massage Balls PicA smaller ball easily gets in between muscles to reach deeper into the fascial system.

On my Recommended Products page, I have a link to a slightly larger set of therapy balls, a set of therapy balls of various sizes for targeting smaller areas, and a larger four-inch ball for the abdominal area. Yes, I own them all and use them all. They are all wonderful when used correctly.

You can use the therapy balls alone, but to really increase the effectiveness it is helpful to have a yoga strap and a set of yoga blocks. You can substitute a book for the block and a scarf for the strap, but the right tools make a significant difference.

A yoga strap is an excellent adjunct to your yoga practice or your myofascial stretching routine. Yoga beginners who are just diving into improving their flexibility appreciate the extra reach they get from using a strap. In your myofascial stretching routine, a strap allows you to move your extremities in an unlimited amount of directions to change the angle of your pressure with the therapy balls. While you can use a belt or a scarf, yoga straps come in different lengths and provide more options. My favorite yoga strap, the Therapist Choice Stretch Strap, has elastic loops you can slip your hands through to decrease the amount of grip needed to hold the strap. This allows you to relax your body more as you stretch. The downside of this strap is that it cannot be made into a circle for bound poses in more traditional yoga practices.

You may also choose a traditional yoga D-ring strap. This brand comes in lots of colors and lengths (6, 8 or 10 feet). Why different lengths? The longer your legs or the reach of your arms, the longer your strap should be. A very tall person might want the longest strap length to provide the most options for using the strap. A shorter person may do just fine with a shorter strap. I have an 8-foot strap which serves me well. I’m 5’7″. The D-ring also allows the strap to be made into a circle for binding or securing the body in certain positions.

Yoga blocks are essential for someone just starting yoga. Blocks allow you to ease into poses and support you when you can’t quite reach the floor or need extra space when moving through many poses. Blocks can also dramatically increase the effectiveness of your myofascial stretching practice when using the therapy balls. Yoga blocks come in different sizes and densities. Depending on your intention for use and your experience you may choose different blocks.

If you are purchasing blocks to use with your therapy balls, it is a great idea to have a set with two different sizes of blocks. This provides options with how far you can lift or tilt your body areas to angle into the therapy balls. The link on my Product Recommendation page offers a 3 inch and a 4-inch wide block.

If you are purchasing blocks to support you as you ease into a yoga practice, I recommend a broader 4-inch set of blocks. This width is often more stable and comfortable on your hands as you lean into them. If you want an even greater sense of stability with your blocks, choose a cork option. They are heavier but offer some give when leaning into them. I love my cork blocks. They are pricier, but when I’m doing a lot of sun salutations, they are helpful to provide a little extra room and stability with pulling my legs through from down dog. The brand I recommend offers both foam (in lots of pretty colors) and cork options in a 3 or 4-inch block set at a reasonable price.

One of my most used props in my toolkit is the half-roll. The calf stretch is the hands-down most crucial stretch you can do for keeping your fascial system relaxed and open. While you can use a rolled yoga mat or a book to do the calf stretch, having a half-roll is convenient and can be used for many other stretches or balance exercises. It also looks nice if you want to use it at your standing work-station (which I highly recommend). I keep one at work and one at home. I often use it while in the kitchen prepping supper.

I’m generally not a fan of foam rollers and almost never recommend them to my clients or use them in my workshops. However, many people do use them. If you do roll, I suggest you use a roller with texture. Smooth rollers may press into the tissues and loosen tight areas, but they smash everything else in the process. I recommend you roll to locate tight spots then press and hold to release them. A roller with texture gets in between the tissues and provides points of pressure deeper than a smooth roller can.

The hand-held single ball roller is excellent for when you don’t have time to get down on the floor and use a therapy ball. Using them in the car or at work is excellent. It is also an easy way to help out a loved one when they ask you to rub their shoulders. It feels great, and they make lovely gifts.

When you need to get in a little deeper a roller with two handles can really do the trick. This tool is pricey but by far the best hand-held roller. Great to use when a loved one asks for some TLC.

Many of us have pain and tension in our necks periodically. Getting into those muscles is tricky. Massaging and lengthening them is helpful and feels good. I own and use the following two products when my neck needs some TLC.

The Cranio Cradle gently presses into the muscles at the base of the skull.  It can also be used in the upper and lower back area. It is soft and flexible, but sturdy enough to support the weight of your body. You can also change the angles for your best stretch. It can be used anywhere you can lay down.

20181024_150235This neck hammock is easy to set up and provides a very gentle stretch. It is also suprisingly comfortable with little cushion in the neck and ear areas. You can control the amont of stretch by moving your body further from the connection to the wall/door.  The connectors are sturdy elastic so you feel well supported. Using a hammock can help train your neck to relax. To up the effectiveness while in the hammock, meditate.

While all these tools are great, there is nothing like an expert practitioner to help you find the tight areas and teach you how to use them to their maximum effectiveness. You can also purchase gift certificates for a workshop, a stretching consultation or a one on one myofascial session by contacting me directly.

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