Thursday, September 1, 2016

Self care tools for relieving pain, stress, & muscle spasms

The products in this blog are for informational purposes only. Thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas! 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, but it is probably best to search the internet to find the best prices. Amazon and eBay tend to have the best deals for most.

I do not receive any compensation for the sale of any of these products. I just want people to know what is available to them. 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.

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.

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.

OPTP Products (Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products): OPTP provides a variety of orthopedic, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and fitness products. They include products for training and conditioning, core strength, balance, stability, stretching, and resistance, as well as a variety of self-care techniques. Not only does their website contain many helpful tools, it is rich in self-care educational content.

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.

: 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.

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. 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.

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 BioFreezeTiger BalmMineral IceSombraArnica, Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion, BenGay, Rub A535MediNatura T-ReliefIcy 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, ScentsyPlant Therapy, Fabulous Frannie, Healing Solutions, Rocky Mountain Oils, Radha BeautyKis Oils, ArOmis, and Ovvio OilsIt 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 endorphins (natural pain killers 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.


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 TableThe 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.

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 Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram


  1. Thanks for collecting this information.

  2. Awesome Information Tom, thank you :)

  3. Thank you, this is very helpful. It is great to see some alternatives to medications!

    1. You're welcome! I find many of these things to be very beneficial.

  4. wow thank you so much for the info I can't wait to try some

    1. I hope you find some that help and please share what you discover!

  5. Thank you for sharing! I'm working through some tough pain and it's nice to see what other CD people use to find relief.hope all is well. Great job as always....

    1. I am very sorry about your pain! I know how it can be and these tools have been life savers for me. I hope you find some that help :)

  6. Thank you for your list.
    My daughter is 16 and we are desperate to try anything that would help.
    Going to buy a Tens machine today and Epsom salts.
    Thanks Lucy

    1. You're welcome! I hope you find these items to be helpful. It takes a lot of trial and error so if one thing does not help, keep trying to see if there are others. I use a lot of different things because no one things gives me a lot of benefit. It is a combination of several, and most importantly, used consistently. My best to you and your daughter and please reach out anytime if I can help in any way.

  7. I strongly believe I have symptoms of dystonia. I have involuntary head shacking back and forth, people say my voice flutter and I sound like I'm crying often( even though I'm not). Also I choke on food often and cannot swallow. I attempted to make an appointment with a neurologist but they told me I need to see an orthopedic doctor. And wouldn't even take me to rule out that it's not neurological. Is an orthopedic doctor a good place to start?

    1. Any doctor familiar with dystonia is fine to see. Ideally, the person you want to see is a neurologist that specializes in movement disorders. Along with dystonia, given how you describe your voice sounds, please also mention dysphonia, which is a form of dystonia affecting the vocal cords (laryngeal area). It is also known as spasmodic dysphonia.