With my current flare up proving to be one of the worst I have had in 5 years (ugh!) I have had to bring out the “big guns” to get it calmed down. In addition to my top 5 pain management tools I use on a day to day basis, I wanted to give you a list of some tools I use for the really bad flares. I bring you My Top 5 Pain Management Tools: Part Two!
I covered heating pads in my first post on pain management tools, but this flare up required something a little more customized. I have been having terrible pain in my neck and shoulders from a sprained Trapezius which caused something called “Thorasic Outlet Syndrome,” or as my chiropractor calls it “office rib” which is where the muscles pull the first rib towards the clavicle, putting pressure on the brachial plexus nerves and arteries that run between them. To combat the pain during the work day, I found this heating pad that is shaped for exactly that purpose! Best yet, it has velcro to hold it in place around your neck. I’m in love!
If having cords hanging around you isn’t your thing, this heat pack a great secondary option. I actually love this for times when a cord is cumbersome or impossible, such as traveling. On long road trips (or even short ones, say an hour or more) you may want something to help with shoulder and neck pain, and these do the trick well! I’ve even used it (years ago) when I was at the movies and slid it under my hoodie so I could be comfortable!
It works by clicking a small bead in the gel by pressing it starts a chemical reaction in the pack releasing heat. It is reusable by boiling in hot water to reset the chemicals, so unless to are traveling to a friends house or somewhere you would have access to a pot of boiling water, it can be a limitation.
A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit provides gentle electrical stimulation to your muscles, and it feels like a gentle massage. The best part, these have become incredibly affordable, this one on Amazon is less than $30!
I personally feel like it really helps break my muscles out of a cycle, or at least gives me a momentary break from the pain. It can be annoying because the pads quickly loose their stick, and you have to clean them with a damp rag, and its best to use when you don’t plan to be moving around much. I like using when on my laptop on the couch, watching Netflix, or reading a book, which is best since I am usually laying down and helps the pads stay in place. You can also buy replacement pads for when your old ones have completely lost their ability to stick.
I have had ultrasound done on my arms so many times during physical therapy appointments, and I love this at home unit! It allows me to continue treating myself in between appointments and keep the healing going. This at home unit is less powerful than the medical grade machines at your PT office, which makes it safe to use since the wand doesn’t get too hot if you don’t move it fast enough. Its tough to use on yourself for back and neck injuries, so it helps to have a helpful partner to assist you.
This is something I would recommend talking to your doctor about before using. My chiropractor recommended this for me to work on correcting the curve in my cervical spine… which is currently non-existant. I only use this for a few minutes each day, and it is actually too tall for me, so I place a pillow under my shoulder blades to raise my shoulders and dramatically reduce the pressure while using. I have noticed that using this for even a few minutes at the start of a headache can actually help me stop it from developing into a full blown migraine.
For me, it is of upmost importance to do my exercises every day… and flare ups like this show me just how much I need to make this a priority even when I feel fine. I’ve gotten plenty of print outs of exercises from Physical Therapists over the years, and I have really been working hard to make sure I do them once per day. These resistance bands make it easy to do my exercises and band up when I’m ready for a stronger band.