Product Reviews and Tips

In the last month, I have spent an enormous amount of time on the internet, researching my illnesses, as well as researching ways to make my life easier.  Some of these things I have tried, some just remain on my wish list.  I thought it might be helpful to me (so I can keep track of what works and what doesn’t!)  and to others (to save you time and give you info before you try yourself) if I wrote mini reviews of products, books, etc, and if I started a list of all the little things that have been helpful to me in making life work.  So, that’s what you’ll find here!

Product Reviews:

Salonpas Patches:
I actually bought these before I was diagnosed, but I have also used them since.  I would have to say: I think these work, at least a little.  That said, it’s hard to say because the patches are small and my pain is large.  I have used them on tight shoulder muscles with some success, though. On the plus side, they smell good and I have had no skin irritation from them.  Just make sure to wash your hands after application.  They’re probably worth a try if you have small localized tightness or pain.  I bought them at Amazon, but I’ve since seen them behind the pharmacy counter at Target. More info: Salonpas Patches

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel:
I bought this with very high hopes.  I have lots of pain in my muscles and joints, and I was looking for some kind of cream or gel that I could use on my lower back and on my shoulders (and possibly my hands).  I read a lot of reviews on Amazon, and settled on Sombra because it seemed more what I wanted than the cold gels.  I used this exactly twice.  The first time I barely put any on and felt nothing.  The second time I used more and within a few minutes my skin felt like it was on fire.  From the inside.  It was awful.  I tried to wash it off and got all of the gel off my skin, I think, but somehow the burning sensation didn’t go away for quite awhile.  This gel has Capsaicin in it, which is what caused my reaction to it.  Some people love this stuff, but I would say- use a small amount before you make a decision.  And now I know: I can not use anything with Capsaicin. More info here: Sombra Gel

Bodyline Back Huggar Lumbar Support:
Again, I did a lot of research.  I have lower back pain most of the time from my DDD in L4-5, and I can not sit comfortably on my couch without some kind of back support.  Right now I am using some throw pillows I found at Target but they aren’t ideal, so I have been hunting for a good lumbar pillow.  I hesitate to give a final verdict on the Back Huggar because I am going to try it one more time on a day with different back pain levels, but I can say that on a day with moderate back pain, the Back Huggar made me feel worse.  The concept of the pillow is great: it’s very firm memory foam in a curved shape so it supports you both vertically and horizontally.  For me, the problem comes in from the curves because even though I bought the XL support, and even though it is definitely wider than I am, the curves start in an awkward place for me, creating discomfort near my hip in my lower back.  Like I said, I am going to try again, and perhaps I’ll amend my review, but I suspect I will need to keep shopping for a better option. More info: Back Huggar

Healing Yoga for Aches and Pain Dvd:
Everyone says that yoga and stretching are great for fibro, RA and DDD.  I believe that.  But finding good yoga options isn’t easy.  There are no classes locally that will work for my various needs, so I turned to the interwebs.  I actually have a list of about ten different yoga and/or exercise videos specifically geared toward people with arthritis.  I just happened to start with this one because it was available for rent on Amazon Instant Streaming on my tv.  All of that said, I disliked this dvd for a few reasons.  One: some of the poses were pretty uncomfortable for me.  Two: there was a lot of talk in the dvd about pain going away because you breathe right or think positively, etc.  I find that pretty offensive, honestly.  My pain is never going away even if I am Mary Poppins with great thoughts all of the time.  Sure I can modify my pain, and I can work to make my body stronger and healthier, but yoga is not going to cure me.  Third: I didn’t get the sense that either of the instructors had any idea how yoga should be done if you have chronic pain.  Maybe I am wrong.  On the plus side, they found ways to use a chair for modifications that was somewhat helpful, except when it wasn’t at all (see reason one). Final verdict: I am going to keep looking for better yoga options. More info: Healing Yoga

Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired (book):
I can’t give a final review of this because I am actually still reading it. Really, I am still skimming it, if I am  honest.  I am not particularly enjoying this book.  There are good aspects to it, though.  It is absolutely affirming to people with chronic illness. It goes in depth in discussing all the ways that life is hard for us, all the feelings we have, etc.  It makes it clear that it is difficult to have chronic illness, especially invisible chronic illness.  All of that is nice.  But honestly, half way through I am finding that it is a)boring and b) depressing.  I already know how hard this is.  I am not sure I need a book to explain in great detail how I feel and how tough it is going to be for my friends and family.  I sort of feel like I am being beaten over the head with these messages.  That said, I do think this could be a good book for someone who hasn’t already done a lot of reading on the subject or who does not have a decent support network; also would be good for someone who is either recently diagnosed or still working toward a diagnosis.  And it’s also geared more toward certain illnesses and for them it might be great: endometriosis, PMS, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, and MS (those were the ones most often mentioned in the book, for whatever reason). I will probably finish the book and if my opinion changes, I’ll let you know! More info: Sick and Tired

You Don’t Look Sick: Living with Invisible Chronic Illness (book):
While this book has essentially the same premise as Sick and Tired, I actually LOVED this book, for a few reasons.  It was short, it included a doctor’s perspective, and it helped me see that there is going to be a process to how I deal with my disease emotionally.  The personal stories told by the author were helpful because I could relate to them, and the doctor’s perspective helped me see how my doctor may view things.  The only downside to the book (for me) was that she talked a lot about spirituality, which I understand, but I don’t necessarily agree with her view on all of that, but she wasn’t preachy so it didn’t offend me.  I just couldn’t relate to those parts of the book.  I highly recommend this for people who have chronic illness (or for family members).  More: You Don’t Look Sick

The Empowered Patient (book):
To come.

Thera Cane Massager:
To come

The Autoimmune Connection:
To Come

A Delicate Balance:
To come

Chronically Happy:
To come

Stress Free Exercise for Arthritis
I have mixed feelings about this dvd.  It is actually a really good dvd for people who need to move their bodies but have difficulty because of arthritis or other pain.  The dvd shows three levels of modifications, the easiest of which is almost entirely done seated in a chair.    All of the exercised are done for a short time, so there isn’t much in the way of over-doing it on a particular muscle or joint.  There is stretching, a bit of “aerobics” and a bit of muscle strengthening.   I think it is great for anyone who needs an “easy” dvd for exercise but is limited in their ability.  And actually some of the exercises were challenging for me, despite being “easy.”  So why the mixed feeling?  It’s actually because I have a mental block about it.  I can remember a few years back being able to do much harder exercise dvds, so emotionally it was hard to do this dvd, which is so obviously geared toward people who are limited in their physical abilities.  If I can put that mental block away, this is going to be a regular staple for me as I try to get my body moving a little at a time. More info: Stress Free Exercise

Easy Yoga for Arthritis
To come .  More info: Easy Yoga for Arthritis

Great Apps (for Ipad/Iphone)

I use my Ipad ALOT, especially since I had to take off work.  So I am all about the apps.  Most of what I do (app-wise) are games, particularly word games.  But…there are also some great health related apps that I highly recommend.

My Pain Diary
As the name suggests, this is a pain diary.  The app allows you to rate your pain 0-10 on as many parts of your body as you would like, as many times a day as you want.  In addition to the number scale, you can also describe the pain type, any triggers that may have occurred, as well as any remedies you may use.  The app allows you to create your own body part names, etc, so it’s pretty customizable.

This app is related to (which I also recommend highly).  The app will feature the areas of interest you set up in your account.  If you aren’t familiar with medpage, it’s a website of medical “news” geared mostly toward people in the medical community, but also good for people who are interested in medicine.  There are specializations you can focus on like rheumatology, general practice, etc.  I have found some fascinating interviews with doctors, as well as up-to-date info on diagnostics.  The app just puts all of the info in an easy to access place.

I can’t say I highly recommend this app, but it can be useful, esp with the symptom tracker that lets you enter your symptom, answer a few questions, and then gives you a list of possible ailments.  Obviously, a doctor is a better choice.  The downside of this app, and the reason I can’t highly recommend it, is that most of the information within the app is short and to get more detailed info on a particular disease, you end up being routed to their website.  Which is fine, because I like their website, but it just seems like a waste of an app if everything is just taking me to the web.

Two non-health related apps that I love and have made life easier: Paperless and Grocery IQ.  They are both essentially list makers. Obviously, Grocery IQ makes grocery lists, but what makes this app stand out from all the other grocery apps is that you can really customize it.  You can create as many stores as you want and have separate lists for each store.  You can also customize the aisles for each store, so you can delete out all the pre-made aisles for stores that don’t have them.  The app also lets you share your lists with other people, so my partner and I can share the same lists and update from our own devices.  I can not tell you how much easier this has made things for us.   Paperless isn’t quite as flexible, but it is still great.  You can make as many lists as you want within the app; you can make them checklists or regular lists; you can add icons to the list to give them a visual pop.  You can email the lists to people, and you can back them up to dropbox as well.  I find this particular app a little easier to use than the notes app that comes with the ipad, and I also find it a bit more visually appealing because of the customization you can do to the look of it.   And let’s face it: we all need a way to make lots of lists!

Helpful Tips

  • Mini Sticky notes are wonderful.  They are too small for huge lists making whatever you put on them a lot more likely to get done
  • A Keurig Coffee Maker.  I can only drink (at most) one cup of coffee a day.  My Keurig lets me have flavored coffee in one cup quantities so I am not wasting most of a pot.
  • Smart Wool Socks.  They keep you feet warm, and are cushy on the bottom.  Added bonus (for me): as the day goes on and my prednisone kicks in, my swelling goes down which usually means twisted socks.  Smart wool doesn’t move around on my foot nearly as much.
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  1. Product Reviews and Tips (A Not Quite Blog Post) « The New Normal

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