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  • I personally have, or have used, the majority of these products and endorse them.

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Inflammation

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If I could pick one item for musculoskeletal pain (MSK), it would be an ice pack. It decreases pain by way of decreasing inflammation, and by its counterstimulation effect. Ice packs are helpful in many MSK pain situations but particularly effective in acute pain states. I’ve used the CorPak both personally and in clinics for a number of years now. They get sufficiently cold and are malleable to any body part; they are also durable and inexpensive. If you go for the bigger size, it will cover most of your icing needs.

Although I’m usually recommending ice for treatment, a nice heating pad has its place. I prefer the electric ones over the microwaveable. The microwaveable ones can sometimes create ‘hot spots’ that could potentially cause a burn. With electric heating pads, the intensity of heat is adjustable. This is good since some research would indicate that a lower level of heat over a longer period may be more therapeutic and safer than higher heat for shorter periods. There isn’t really any compelling evidence that moist heat is better than dry, but it does tend to ‘feel’ better, in my opinion. If you suffer from arthritis pain, either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, and assuming that is the cause of your pain and stiffness, heat is good option

I’ve purchased, used, and prescribed many different cervical (neck) traction devices. I’ve not found any of them to be far superior to the others. They all seem to be around the same price point for the same quality. I prefer the pneumatic devices such as this one. They’re reasonably priced, effective, and more comfortable than most.

People with back pain think that an inversion table might be their cure. In reality, only about 5 out of 100 people with back pain will benefit from inversion therapy. That’s assuming you don’t have one of the many contraindications to this therapy, high blood pressure as an example. These things turn into coat racks for most. This is why you may be able to get one on the cheap at Craigslist, or a yard sale. I’ve seen a few in used sporting goods stores as well. If not, you can purchase new. Just make sure you’ve seen a professional that actually recommends inversion therapy for your specific condition before you do.

Not everyone that has back pain needs a brace. In certain situations they can be beneficial. The Mueller brace is available in some large retail stores. It has a semi-rigid lumbar support, and a double pull system. Both you’re looking for in a good brace. There are better braces out there, but you’ll pay for them. If you’ve been recommended a back brace, and you’re not subject to frequent back pain episodes, this is a good option.

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This brace is legit. The Aspen brand produces a variety of different back braces. Assuming we’re dealing with mechanical back pain, and not a fractured vertebra or worse, the 631 will serve you well. If you’re subject to frequent back pain episodes, and have found a brace to be helpful, this one is the way to go.

The Sacroiliac (SI) joint is a common cause of back pain. Anywhere from 5%, up to 30% of back pain cases can be attributed to the SI joint. If you’ve been examined by a professional and it’s suspected that you may have some instability in this joint, this is the best belt for the job. It’s been around for years, and is often recommended by Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, and the like.

If you’re job requires prolonged sitting, or if you’re on the road a lot, this thing is a life saver. We all start sitting with good posture, but inevitably as our backs get tired, we start to slump. This places strain on not just the back, but everything above it as well. The McKenzie roll allows you to assume good posture with minimal effort. It attaches to any chair with a back, or a car seat. It’s adjustable as well. Yes it will slide around a bit, but I haven’t seen a fix for that yet. I can live with it needed to be adjusted here and there for what is does for my back.

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I’ve used the Chiroflow water pillow for a decade. I’ve also worked in clinics that sold the Chiroflow and there were many happy customers. The Mediflow is a very similar design. So how do these pillows work? IMO they’re beneficial because they’re adjustable, which you accomplish by putting in or taking out the water. For instance, if you’re a side sleeper, then the distance from your ear to the widest part of your shoulder (which is going to be different for nearly everybody), is how thick you want your pillow to be. Fill up your pillow to that depth, and your neck will be in a more neutral position, with less stress. Water pillows even have some research to back the claims of decreased neck pain, headaches, and improved sleep. The only people I don’t recommend this pillow to are individuals that like a super thin pillow, as this isn’t.

Pain Gate Tools

Biofreeze and similar menthol based products work their magic through counterstimulation (giving your brain something else to think about other than pain). When they wear off, simply reapply as needed. They are generally pretty safe; even safer when you read the instructions. Topical pain relievers are a flooded market. There are plenty to choose from. There are capsaicin, anti-inflammatory, and lidocaine creams just to name a few. They all work using different mechanisms. They also require more judicious use. The good thing about menthol based creams such as Biofreeze is that you can just slap it on and go without much thought. They work quickly and give a consistent feel. Biofreeze and similar products are convenient way to help control pain.

Most of the time I recommend menthol based products for their safety record and their consistent results. On occasion, capsaicin creams may be more useful. Researchers argue about how capsaicin decreases pain. What is of little debate is IF it reduces pain. There is plenty of evidence that it does. Capsaicin tends to work well for certain neuropathies, and with osteoarthritic pain. There are couple differences between capsaicin creams and creams that work through counterstimulation alone. Number one, people tend to tolerate capsaicin at different capacities. For some people, a dime sized amount may set them on fire, while others require a more liberal application. So start with small amounts and work your way up. Wear gloves when applying; keep it away from your eyes and any orifices. This is the stuff that makes chili peppers hot, after all.

I saw this item at one of my continuing education conventions one year. In lieu of lotion, you can fill the head of the applicator with your favorite pain relieving cream. This allows you to apply creams in hard to reach locations like the low back. The head is detachable, so you can toss it in the fridge if your chosen cream liquefies at higher temperatures. Genius.

A TENS is a TENS is a TENS. From what I can tell, there is no difference in the $15 dollar jobs, and the $1500 dollar jobs. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators won’t ‘fix’ an injured body part, or make you heal any faster. Their primary purpose is to control pain, and for that they do a good job. I’ve never had a TENS 700 unit fail me. Probably because I gave them away before they had a chance too. Most units run off of your standard 9V batteries, and the replacement pads are practically universal, and cheap. If you’re just dipping your toe into electrical muscle stimulators for home use, start with this one. You can learn more about TENS units on the “Resources” page and click on “TENS units.”

Sometimes you need a little more ‘juice’. The InTENSity IF Combo is a step up from your basic TENS unit. It comes with TENS and Interferrential Current (IC). There is some evidence that IC can speed along the healing process, although it’s weak evidence. Even if it doesn’t, this comes with a few perks over and above a basic TENS unit. If you don’t want to burn through batteries, this unit allows you to plug it in. The IC also feels stronger that your standard TENS, without the ‘stingy’ feeling (this may just be my personal preference). I’ve used this unit for a number of years. I hope it serves you as well as it has served me. If you get this unit, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS before use. At least the getting started cheat sheet that comes with it. There are contraindications to electrical stimulation. Contact a medical professional if you’re not sure it’s safe use. You can learn more about TENS units on the “Resources” page and click on “TENS units.”

These are the replacement pads for your TENS unit or IFC unit. I’ve used a number of different brands, and haven’t found any to stand out above the rest. Just look for a brand with a high number of positive reviews and is reasonably priced.

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I’ve tried several different brands of kinesiotape, from top of the line to bargain basement stuff. Even different batches within the same brand will be of different quality. Generally I would stay away from the off brand, cheap stuff. It loses adhesion too quickly, frays around the edges and starts to get caught on clothing and begin to peel off. All this causes you to need to reapply more often than necessary. I like the Mueller brand. It’s not too expensive, and fairly consistent in its quality. For more on kinesiotape and how it works you can click on “Kinesiotape” on our Resources page. www.TheraTape.com is a great resource as well.

I’ve used this massager in practice for years and it has held up nicely. This type of device provides a vibrating massage. In my opinion it would be best suited for someone that is too sensitive for a percussive device. An example would be someone with a more acute injury. I would say this is ideal for fibromyalgia sufferers as well. I wouldn’t spend less than a hundred bucks on a massager. Buy once, cry once. The cheaper massagers just don’t seem to penetrate into the tissues very well.

You don’t have to be a professional crossfitter to enjoy a Hypervolt. It provides a deep percussive massage that feels stimulating and relaxing at the same time, like a good cup of tea. Yes, they’re expensive, but you get what you pay for. I’ve bought cheaper massagers over the years hoping to get the same results, but they just end up donated or in the trash heap.

Yes, you can use a tennis ball, or a lacrosse ball, or a golf ball for trigger point therapy. I only recommend this item because if you’re a larger individual, the tennis ball won’t penetrate deep enough into the muscles to provide any real benefit. My 400lb. trucker patients could sit on tennis ball and not know it. Not this thing though. It’s 5 inches in diameter and works well for self manual therapy.

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I can usually spot a gimmicky product. Which I thought this was when I bought it. The more I used it, the more I liked it though. Over the years I’ve tried different trigger point wands, but the Theracane just seems to be the best shape and firmness for breaking up stubborn knots around the upper traps and low back. It’s also a whiz if you know how to perform some soft tissue release (STR).

If foam rollers are too aggressive for you, or you have trouble getting up off the floor, this roller is a handy massage tool. I’ve tried different ones in the past. I won’t name names, but one pulls your hair out, and on the other the cross-guard gets stuck in your clothes. This product is fantastic for tight IT bands.

What can I say; foam rollers are simple and effective. Although nothing compared to a professional, you can give yourself a pretty good, almost full body massage with a foam roller. It’s doubly effective if you roll before, during, or right after a stretch or workout.

Exercise bands won’t get you buff, but they are an affordable option for performing rehabilitation exercise for shoulders, hips, and the like. There are tons of brands to choose from. Cando has been around for decades, is reasonably priced, and I see no real difference between their bands and the more expensive options. Most companies produce exercise bands that work reasonably well, but all will break down over time. I prefer the bands over the tubes for a couple reasons. 1. It’s easier to spot nicks and tears. If your band does have some, toss it. You don’t want these things snapping during exercise. If they do, they could put out an eye. Seriously, not to sound like a parent, but it’s not unheard of. 2. If they do happen to break during exercise, the bands don’t have quite the whip the tubes do, making them a little safer in my opinion. 3. If you don’t purchase a handle (most of the time you don’t need one), wrapping bands around your hand, ankles, or even head, tends to be more comfortable than the tubes. Check out our ‘Resources’ page and click on ‘Exercise (at home)’ for more on caring for you exercise bands.

These little guys are handy. If you are using exercise bands or tubes for rehab, have a door somewhere in your house, and you don’t want to be tying and untying knots all day, then get a couple of these.

Most of us wouldn’t think of including the neck in a list of body parts that need to be exercised. But if you have neck pain and/or headaches, you should. Strengthening the upper back and shoulders can certainly help, but why not just go straight to the source. I use the Synergee neck exercise kit. It’s a little pricey, but suits my needs. The closest thing I can find on amazon is the J Bryant Neck Harness. It has four D-ring points, included exercise band and door knub. Stick with the bands, and avoid hanging heavy weights from your head. That’s silly.

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Bands are bands. But there are a few things that set Bodylastics apart from the rest. Firstly, I've used these for years, and they hold up pretty good. Secondly, they have anti-snap technology. They contain a piece of paracord inside the rubber tubing, so if they do break they won't "snap" back and cause injury. This is especially useful if you're using them with the Neck Harness, which is what these are best for IMO.

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Rocker boards are fantastic for the rehabilitation of sprained ankles, especially chronic/recurring ones. They not only build up strength and endurance of the intrinsic muscles of the feet and lower legs, but help with postural control as well. Individuals who are subject to recurrent ankle sprains often exhibit a deficit in postural control. I have a dual purpose rocker/wobble board that I bought at a continuing education event years ago. The CanDo is dual purpose as well. Once the rocker board (two balls underneath) becomes easy, you can increase the difficulty by switching to a wobble board (one ball underneath).

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CanDo Hand Exercise Webs do for the hand and wrist what the Wobble Board does for the feet and ankles. It allows for finger flexion and extension, forearm flexion and extension, supination, pronation, radial and ulnar deviation. It's really an all-in-one for hand and wrist.

Books and Misc.

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I buy, read, and return a lot of books. Some are so good that I re-read, and keep for reference. Todd Hargrove’s: A Guide to Better Movement is one of those books. He has a real knack for distilling complex information into the understandable, and usable. Any movement that doesn’t produce pain, will reduce pain. This book can help you understand why that is.

Screenshot 2024-06-11 at 16-41-24 Weight Loss A Beginner's Guide No B.S. Steps for Sheddin

The title says it all "Weight Loss: A Beginner's Guide. No B.S. Steps to Shedding Pounds."

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The math of weight loss is simple; calories in, calories out. The psychology of weight loss is a whole different ballgame, and is why most people fail to maintain long term results. The title of the books says it all: Weight Loss Secrets You Need to Know: Why your brain, body physiology, emotions, and primordial drives want you fat and what you can do about it.

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They don’t call hypertension (high blood pressure/HBP) the silent killer for nothing. For some, their first symptom may be the last thing that ever happens to them. In the form of a stroke or heart attack. I won’t dive into how to treat HBP here. However, I do see a lot of patients in practice that have undiagnosed HBP or poorly regulated HBP. I’ve used the Omron cuffs personally and in practice for years. I test them periodically to manual cuffs and they’ve always been spot on. If your batteries get low it can give you some wacky readings. I prefer this one because you can plug it in if necessary.

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