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The Gift of Relief and Self-Care

Cranio Cradle Cup

This mug has classic, colorful illustrations of the craniosacral system and vault hold #3. It makes a great gift and conversation piece.

It was the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Mother’s back was aching
Dad was being a grouse.

The children were all snuggled
Up in their beds
Unable to sleep
Because of the dread

They’d seen mama grimace
And Daddy complain
Would tomorrow be a bust?
On account of their pain?

Looking for a gift that will bring longer-term happiness than a fleeting smile? How about relief from their aches and pain?

If someone you know has periodic or even chronic encounters with pain, consider some of these items. Print out the appropriate post for the pain pattern most closely associated with them. We’ve even formatted the how-to sections for easy printing. Not meeting in person? Just share the link with them in your own personal message.

If you’re interested in the item, click on the picture to link to the page on Amazon where you can also see comparison items.

Back Pain

I have a set of chirp wheels in my therapy room. I use them regularly on my own back. I also loan them out to clients to try them. These work well on low back pain. Also, they do a great job of restoring the curve in the low back.

Several of my clients have tried other brands but tell me they returned them to get the chirp wheel instead. Extra padding and the groove in the center seem to make a nice difference. I recommend getting the 3-pack. There is a big wheel that is great for warm-up and gentle releases. The small wheel can help target specific spots and is easier to balance.

There are several posts where I recommend a yoga wheel to help with back pain. This one is about that sharp pain between the shoulder blades.

By the way, some people don’t like popping or don’t like balancing on the wheel. So, if you aren’t sure, get it from Amazon where the return policy is easy.


The Master of Stretching

This post tells about my discovery of Active Isolated Stretching and how much more effective it is than regular stretching. Many people buy this book to review additional stretches and get direct information on his stretching sequences.

This book has stretches for everything, including your fingers and toes. Also, it has a section on doing them by yourself and another section for doing them with assistance. There is another book with a pink cover that only has stretches that you do by yourself. This one is only a few bucks more and worth it.

The language in the book is a little bit technical for people who aren’t medical professionals. However, it has good illustrations and clients don’t have any problem with the stretches. Be gentle and take your time with the stretches. They work well when used properly.

Many of the Active Isolated Stretches, like this one that I recommend, use a rope to assist with the stretching. A yoga strap actually works better in most cases. This is the most popular one on Amazon. People recommend it for strength and softness. The softness really matters to some folks, especially when you use it daily.

Calf Stretcher

This little calf stretcher makes big differences in foot pain, calf pain, and low back pain.

I’ve recommended this for plantar foot pain and it works well. As the soleus muscle lengthens, the lateral hamstring loosens also creating surprising improvements in low back pain.

This was available to therapists in the 90s and is still a reliable tool for therapists. It’s a simple and great addition to your home therapy tools.


Easy to Handle Ice Cubes

Ice-and-Stretch makes stretching quicker and more effective. These 2-inch ice trays give you cubes that are easier to hold and don’t vanish within a few seconds. I keep these trays in my practice and at my home. My kids often come to me for ice-and-stretch to get relief. These trays have lasted for years in both places.

Check out this post on using Ice-and-Stretch with Active Isolated Stretching.

Ice Packs

I only buy these ice packs for several reasons:

  • They are already covered in cloth, so I don’t have to worry about getting a cloth or having it slip.
  • The clay material mold to body parts and stays on better.
  • They can be microwaved and used a heat pack.
  • They come in many shapes and sizes for everything from necks to low backs and ankles.

I have this pillow in my office and at my house. I pamper my wife and daughter with it. They use it when they have a headache. It is perfect for laying back to watch a movie or just sleep. The ice pack is soft and seems like part of the pillow.

I have one in my practice as well. Clients use it to prop up and ice their neck while I work on their hips, legs and feet. This post uses one on that headache at the base of your head.


Convertible Standing Desk

Many of my clients are only comfortable if they can shift from seated to standing when one position or the other starts bothering them. Tabletop models like this one from Amazon have made doing this more practical and affordable. Amazon has a big selection for desks, for beds, wooden, metal, etc. You’ll see them when you click on this picture.

This model raises and lowers easily. Also, they have different sizes to match your desk and height. The model that follows works for laptops and adjusts to more heights and environments. This one is better for desktops where you need to support big screens and move the keyboard with them.

This post discusses how to set up a proper desk environment to avoid pain and poor posture.

Portable Desk for Couch, Bed and Coffee Shop

Many people work in coffee shops, on a couch, or propped up in bed. Laptop stands like this can do a lot to raise the screen and tilt the keyboard so that you’re not hunched over a table, leaning on your elbows, creating high, tight shoulders.

Most are inexpensive and designed to fit in your bag. This one is my favorite because it adjusts for standing or working in bed. It also has a mouse pad and cooling fans.

If you mostly work at a table, there are less expensive ones that raise and swivel the laptop. There are elegant ones that stand beside the couch like a TV table. Then, there are the cute little wooden ones that double as a bed-time TV tray. Get the one that helps you maintain good posture in your most common setting. Amazon has a great selection.

Cushy Foot Rest

Pamper your giftee with one of these plush footrests. This one adjusts for different chairs and leg lengths. It’s warm and cushy for achy feet and for working through long periods. It also lifts the legs to take the pressure off of your hamstrings. It is a great gift for the home office or to keep snuggled under a desk.

This footrest is one of several accessories that I suggest for creating proper seated posture while working. Check out this post.

Supporting You to Travel Well

One day, you’ll travel again. This pillow is great and comes with an eye mask and earplugs. Yay!

I’ve bought several at the airport. If I give this pillow to my wife and the Bose noise-canceling headphones, she goes peacefully to sleep. Car. Tour bus. Plane. Doesn’t matter. She’s out like a light.

We had one, and on a subsequent trip, found ourselves on the plane without it. It was a long flight to Europe, and she had a cranky neck for a few days. Now, these are about twice as much at the airport, but I’ve bought several, so we don’t have cranky days on our vacation. And I like to pamper her a bit. Avoid the cranky neck and high prices. You can get these on Amazon.


Fitness Tracker / Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor is one of the most important pieces of fitness equipment you can own. I have a Fitbit and use it every day. Resting heart rate is a useful indicator of changes in health.

I use mine for regulating my pace while jogging. Models like the Versa have apps that allow you to target your heart rate. It vibrates when your heart rate is too high or too low.

One of the uses is to monitor my sleep. When I’m injured or sick, the evening heart rate rises about 10 percent. I fell and hurt my back in August and could see how much it impacted my daily and nightly heart rate. If you’re concerned about sleep apnea, the Versa 2 has an oxygen sensor. Also, it stores and plays music via Bluetooth. If you don’t care about those, get the Versa Lite.

The sleeker, less expensive Charge models record your sleep and steps but are missing critical apps. Heart rate alarms, timers, the weather and more are apps I use every day. This one is well worth the little bit extra.

They are quite a bit more expensive, but iPhone users often prefer the Apple Watch instead. However, this Apple Watch is comparably priced and recommended by Amazon.

Best Home Dumbbell Set

In the early 2000s, I had converted the front half of my house into a gym for personal training. These Power Blocks were a great addition. They offer a full set of dumbbells from 5-70 lbs in a small space. Due to covid, I now have a gym in my home and still use them. I’ve looked at others, but these are tough and simple to use.

The parking space sized gym, because, you know, covid.


When clients ask me for nutritional advice, I stick to the basics and usually refer them to books or on-line videos to guide them.

These pre-biotics are one of the most common choices that they make. They’re safe, effective, and make nice changes in the short and long term. I take these myself before meals.

By the way, We make a tiny amount on the sale of these items. Last month, we averaged $.07 on each item sold. This list is here because we’d really like to see Better Bodies Through Shared Expertise. Happy Holidays.

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

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Tony Preston

*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and include more patterns with better self-care. Meanwhile, there may be formatting, content presentation, and readability inconsistencies. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.