Back Pain Survival Skills
Products that Have Made Our Lives Easier
Memory Foam – or how I became a foam junkie
Using magnets for back pain relief, or what is that strange belt you are wearing?
Self Massage using the Jerri cane.
Who knew that the day I saw my first memory foam pillow, the one with the sign telling me to “touch me, squeeze me” on the package, that my life would be forever changed?
All it took was that first squeeze, and before I knew it I was sleeping on a memory foam mattress topper pad. And the next thing I knew, I had a good recliner chair for sleeping made purely of memory foam, and I was selling the pad and mattress to friends and family so they would stop coming over to my house to lie down and relax on my new, incredibly comfortable memory foam mattress overlay.
Before finding out about memory foam, I used to wake up incredibly stiff and sore every morning. It would take me about an hour to take a hot shower and stretch before I could even think of beginning my day.
All that changed after just a few nights on my memory foam pad. I remember sitting down to read the paper and drink some orange juice, and it suddenly hit me that I hadn’t remembered to stretch and yet I felt ok. For me this was really something, and I knew that I was forever hooked on memory foam.
I never intended to make a business out of selling memory foam, but people kept asking about my bed and trying it out, so I called the manufacturer and asked if I could be a distributor.
This was back when this product was very new and they were looking for any distributors, so they quickly signed me up. Now the memory foam business is my main business – so be warned, I am biased on this subject and you probably should take my review of this material with some healthy skepticism.
The pad I currently sell is the 2″ thick Isotonic pad, and I also carry a mattress which has a 2″ layer of memory foam. You can find out lots more information on my memory foam website, Healthy Foundations. In general, I have found that this brand of pad works well for making a mattress more comfortable, but has spotty results for back pain sufferers.
In my experience, about 3/4 of my customers think the pad helps with their back pain or makes them more comfortable, and about 1/4 don’t. Similarly, with the Isotonic mattress for back pain, I have in general found that people really like it, but for back pain people sometimes they like it (about 80 – 85% of the time) and others times it just doesn’t seem to help make them more comfortable or reduce their back pain.
For those that find that the Isotonic foam just isn’t stiff or supportive enough, they may find the Swedish-based company’s memory foam to be more what they need. It is a denser foam and stiffer, so it may help cushion and support your back in a different, and perhaps, better way than the Isotonic.
Both the Swedish companies pad and mattress utilize 3″ of their denser memory foam (about 30% denser than the Isotonic). Unfortunately, I no carry this brand of memory foam – I think it is still a good product, we just had a difference of opinion in marketing the product so I am no longer a reseller.
My general recommendation is that for people with serious back pain or back injury issues, they may need this more expensive memory foam pad. The downside of the Swedish company’s product is their expense (example – the 2″ Isotonic queen is $180 vs. $888 for the Swedish company’s 3″ pad; similarly, the mattress is much more expensive than the Isotonic mattress).
The Isotonic pads comes with a 30 day money back guarantee and the Isotonic mattress has a 60 day money back trial; in contrast, the Swedish version comes with a 90 day money back guarantee.
Using Magnets for Back Pain Relief
Magnets are one of today’s hot products for pain relief, and the hype surrounding them is pretty deep. While I am certainly no expert on magnets, I did use them daily for about 4 years , and I loved them.
I wore them on a wrap that I wore like a belt, and I wore them everyday all day (even with a suit once). I found that the magnets really warmed up the muscles in my back and increased my flexibility.
In addition, when I wore the magnets I felt less back pain in general and certainly less back pain the day after I may have overdone it a bit (at that point in my life, that might mean going out to dinner and a movie).
Now that I feel much stronger, I don’t wear the magnets anymore. And while I don’t miss wearing them, I was very grateful to have discovered them and really feel they helped out with both my pain and flexibility.
What Type of Magnets Should I Get?
People ask what types of magnets to get – now that they come in such a wide variety of sizes, shapes, styles and strengths. I always wore them directly on my back, and used the type made to fit on the back.
There are certainly different strengths of magnets, and I don’t have the knowledge to say what type of strength you should look for. But as an example, the mat I had was made of magnets of 2450 gauss.
In general, the different companies make configurations that are specifically designed to be used on your back, and it probably makes sense to go with these. There are also magnetic bed pads and such available, but for back pain I liked being able to put stronger magnets directly on my back and wear them around during the day (under my shirt).
Where should you buy your magnets?
I’m sure that there are lots of good manufacturers out there, and certainly a few Multi-Level Marketing Companies selling the magnets. I, however, chose to buy my magnets from Katherine Philpott – the wife of Dr. William Philpott, M.D. who has written extensively on the subject of magnets.
She sells the Polar Power line of magnets, made by Enviro-Tech.
As an example of prices, the 5″ x 12″ flexible mat that I used, made of 24 small 2450 gauss magnets so it can bend around your body, costs around $80 when purchased with a 52″ wrap that secures the mat around your back and waist. This mat lasted me a couple of years, and maybe would have lasted even longer if I had bothered to wash it every now and then.
One special design feature of these magnets is that they are negative on one side and positive on the other. Some of the other magnets combine polarity so that the magnets have alternating strips of positive and negative magnets.
Dr. Philpott believes that it is important to just use the negative pole – and that in fact, using the positive pole can cause problems. I don’t know if this is true, but it was something I considered when buying magnets. If you want to know more about Dr. Philpott’s thoughts on magnets, Mrs. Philpott does also carry his books such as the Bio-Magnetic Handbook as well.
Bodywork and Massage Therapy for Back Pain Relief
This category encompasses a tremendous range of options – from basic swedish massage to more esoteric techniques like Rolfing and Zen Therapy as well as self massage techniques. I have really benefited from body work, and I hope that these reviews will give you ideas about what type of body work may be of interest to you.
Rolfing is a very specialized type of body work, which can be very deep, that helps to get your body to be more balanced and to move in a more natural, efficient manner. My experience with Rolfing has been mostly very positive, but that may be due to my Rolfer who is very knowledgeable and skilled.
While the work is deep and can be painful, this type of deep work has helped get parts of my body moving when nothing else worked. Try to find an experienced Rolfer and not one that just wants to do a cookie cutter approach to your problem. (Rolfers are trained to do a 10 session series that many practitioners want to use on everyone for every malady.).
There are numerous ways to do self-massage, but the couple I have found useful are the therapy cane and 2 tennis balls in a sock.
The therapy canes are available at many medical supply stores (or see ads in massage magazines) and allow you to massage pretty deep into the back and hip areas.
This really helps me work out the very tight muscles in my lower back and hips. I like the one that I have – it’s metal with wooden balls – called the Jerri Cane (I think this spelling is correct).
There are essentially duplicate canes on the market made out of plastic, but I find these aren’t as easy to use and don’t penetrate my body tissue as well. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a supplier for the Jerri Cane in the past few years, so you will have to ask around. If you do find the Jerri Cane, please let me know on my Contact Page.
The tennis balls in an old sock is a neat trick. Just place the balls in a long sock, leave a bit of room, and tie off the sock in a knot. Then slowly roll on the balls – you can either roll over them while lying on your back or against them in the back of your chair.
Be careful to leave room for your spine – so keep the balls apart so they roll on the side of your spine. Also, don’t go too deep at first, try it softly at first and increase the pressure if your muscles feel ok and you seem to be getting benefit out of it.