All posts by Brendan

Review: Tempur-Pedic RhapsodyBed

We recently bought a Tempur-Pedic mattress for our master bedroom. We replaced our traditional, coil mattress, which we had for 10 years. Before purchasing one, we tried Tempur-Pedic’s entire line at our local Relax The Back. We went up and down the row of mattresses, comparing each one’s characteristics. At the end of day, we chose The RhapsodyBed by Tempur-Pedic, known as one of the firmer mattresses by the Swedish company.After a month, we can say that it was an excellent decision.

The difference between sleeping on a traditional coil mattress and sleeping on a Tempur-Pedic mattress is dramatic. The Tempu-Pedic RhapsodyBed cradles every contour of my frame. Instead of tossing and turning to get comfortable, the bed conforms to me. My lumbar, shoulders, and back are fully supported, but without the pressure points. After a while you wonder how you slept on anything else.

The most surprising thing we’ve noticed is that we wake up in the same position we went to sleep. Because of the Rhapsody’s contouring qualities, there’s a lot less fumbling around, trying to find a comfortable position.

The Rhapsody, like all Tempur-Pedic mattresses, is temperature sensitive, so you reach full comfort after it’s absorbed some of your body heat.  It takes a little getting used to. When you’ve slept on a traditional coil mattress your entire life, making the switch to a high-quality, ergonomically friendly mattress can be a little jarring. But in a good way, like switching from bologna to filet mignon. When we lie down on the Rhapsody, we can feel the difference, as the mattress conforms to our bodies.

To complete the experience, we also purchased a pair of Tempur-Pedic’s ClassicPillows. As someone who usually needs 2-3 pillows to get comfortable, it was a bit of adjustment sleeping on it. Over the last few weeks however, I have gradually stopped using the other pillows. It comes as a surprise to me, but the ClassicPillow provides so much support for my neck and head that I no longer feel it is necessary to sleep on more than one pillow.

Taken together, these features create a sleep experience that leaves us fully refreshed, reassuring us every morning that we made the right purchase.

Steps to Setting Up a Healthy Computer Workstation

If you sit infront of a computer all day, how you set up your space can make all the difference when it comes to the health of your back – and your whole body. You’re spending eight (or more) hours in roughly the same position, so treat yourself to a proper computer workstation. Here are four steps to help you get there:

Step 1: Your Chair

  • Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair
  • Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to or slightly lower than your hips
  • Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions if necessary. If you have an active back mechanism on your chair, use it to make frequent position changes.
  • Adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed.

Step 2: Your Keyboard

An articulating keyboard tray can provide optimal positioning of input devices. However, it should accommodate the mouse, provide leg clearance, and have an adjustable height and tilt mechanism. The Keyboard Tray should not push you too far away from other work materials such as your telephone.

  • Pull up close to your keyboard Tray.
  • Position the keyboard directly in front of your body.
  • Determine what section of the board you use most frequently, and re-adjust the keyboard so that section is centered with your body.
  • Adjust the keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position (100° to 110°), and your wrists and hands are straight.
  • The tilt of your keyboard is dependent upon your sitting position. Use the keyboard tray mechanism, or keyboard feet, to adjust the tilt. If you sit in a forward or upright position, try tilting your keyboard away from you at a negative angle. If you are reclined, a slight positive tilt will help maintain a straight wrist position.
  • Wristrests can help to maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces. However, the wristrest should only be used to rest the palms of the hands between keystrokes. Resting on the wristrest while typing is not recommended. Avoid using excessively wide wristrests, or wristrests that are higher than the space bar of your keyboard.
  • Place the pointer as close as possible to the keyboard.  A trackball mouse maybe something very helpful. Placing it on a slightly inclined surface, or using it on a mousebridge placed over the 10-keypad, can help to bring it closer.

If you do not have a fully adjustable keyboard tray, you may need to adjust your workstation height, the height of your chair, or use a seat cushion to get in a comfortable position. Remember to use a footrest.

Step 3: Monitor, Document, and Telephone

Incorrect positioning of the screen and source documents can result in awkward postures. Adjust the monitor and source documents so that your neck is in a neutral and relaxed position.

  • Center the monitor directly in front of you above your keyboard.
  • Position the top of the monitor approximately 2-3” above seated eye level. (If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level.)
  • Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen and then adjust the distance for your vision.
  • Reduce glare by careful positioning of the screen.
    • Place screen at right angles to windows
    • Adjust curtains or blinds as needed
    • Adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights
    • Other techniques to reduce glare include use of optical glass glare filters, light filters, or secondary task lights
  • Position source documents directly in front of you, between the monitor and the keyboard, using an in-line copy stand. If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the monitor.
  • Also for laptop users you can use a laptop stand for making adjustments your laptop
  • Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands or arms can help.
  • Use headsets and speaker phone to eliminate cradling the handset.

Step 4: Pauses and Breaks

Once you have correctly set up your computer workstation use good work habits. No matter how perfect the environment, prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.

  • Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance.
  • Rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for 10-15 seconds.

Two final tips: do your best to use correct posture when working, and get up and move as much as possible. Include all of this in your work, and you’re guaranteed to have a healthier, happier back!

Tips for Living with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a common arthritis-related illness. Fatigue, insomnia, abdominal pain, stiffness, chronic headaches, dry eyes, muscle and joint pain are symptoms of this disease, which affects 12 million people in the US alone. Besides physical pain, there is a mental and emotional component as well. Many fibromyalgia sufferers experience social isolation, loneliness, and depression as a result of their condition.

Below are some ways to cope if you have fibromyalgia.

Get better sleep. Make sure your bedroom is free from distractions. TV, pets, tick-tocking clocks – all of these can throw off your sleep pattern. For reducing fibromyalgia-related insomnia, create a sleep environment that is calm, quiet, and at a slightly cooler temperature. Your bedding is hugely important for getting better sleep as well. A pressure-relieving mattress that reduces pressure points can be particularly beneficial. Tempur-Pedic specializes in these kind of mattresses, which conform to your unique contours in a way that traditional mattresses do not.

Exercise. Because of the pain and fatigue symptoms, it’s not uncommon for people with fibromyalgia to become unfit through lack of exercise. Aerobic exercise, however, is a good way to reduce pain and stay fit. Strenuous exercise, the kind that improves endurance and stamina, helps release endorphins into the blood stream, which provide feelings of well being. Endorphins also have an analgesic effect on tired, achy muscles. With regular exercise, you can curtail fibromyalgia symptoms noticeably.

Learn to say “no.” This may sound like an odd tip for fibromyalgia. However, learning to say no can help prevent you from feeling tired and overburdened. Life presents us with seemingly limitless demands on our time and energy, so it’s important to prioritize. Take time for the things you value, but trying to do everything can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Keep in mind, too, that constant tiredness makes it harder to heal. To stay on top of fibromyalgia, learn to say no every now and then. Your body will thank you.

Heat therapy. Heat relaxes muscles and encourages blood flow, both essential for speedy healing. Good circulation also helps remove built up waste left by muscle spasms, a frequent fibromyalgia symptom. Perhaps the most welcome effect of heat therapy is pain reduction. Whether using a heating pad or a moist, warm cloth, heat therapy can relieve chronic aches and pains.

Meet others with fibromyalgia. Oftentimes, people with fibromyalgia feel alienated or depressed because of the severity of their symptoms. It can be difficult to talk about, so we recommend finding a fibromyalgia support group. Talking with others going through the same thing can provide a emotional boost. A support group can also be a great resource for pain-relief tips and encouragement. Many health care providers also endorse support group participation as a way to reduce stress and improve coping skills.

Coping with a Herniated Disc

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with a herniated disc, then you know its painful symptoms. Leg pain, numbness, tingling, muscle spasms – all these can make standing or sitting for prolonged periods a real challenge. Luckily, there are numerous ways you can alleviate or improve your symptoms.

  1. Don’t ignore it. This one goes for guys especially. Men are more likely to ignore a herniated disc because they feel that they should just “tough it out”, no matter what kind of pain they’re in. To better cope with a herniated disc, acknowledge your pain and take the necessary steps to heal.
  2. Rest and relaxation. Get your rest. The body heals faster when you are well-rested. Time, and rest, help resolve the symptoms associated with a herniated disc. Try for at least eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep.
  3. Exercise, exercise, exercise. There are a host of herniated disc exercises prescribed by doctors and health care professionals around the world. Exercises that increase balance, strength, and flexibility are excellent for improving the pain associated with a herniated disc. Others include spinal extension exercises, which increase the curve of the back away from the herniated disc. Bouncing exercises, in which you bounce up and down to increase oxygen to the discs, are also good for alleviating pain. Our FitBALL is particularly good for this type of exercise.

    FitBALL Exercise Ball from Relax The Back
    Get more oxygen to your discs with bouncing exercises. A FitBALL is particularly good for these type of exercises.
  4. Reduce your stress. Stress makes everything worse, so learn how to relax. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and physical activity all help to reduce stress, clear your mind, and promote healing. Physical activity also releases a hormone called endorphins, which can promote a feeling of well-being.
  5. Ice and heat. Hot and cold therapy can help relieve the painful symptoms of disc herniation, while also reducing the pain from muscle spasms.

Get in Shape Tips for 2011 from Relax The Back

Getting in shape is a great (and perennial) resolution for the New Year. Below are some tips on how to look and feel your best in 2011!

Get back in the gym. Joining a gym or a weight-loss group can help you shake off the wintertime blues. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day – whether it’s swimming, walking around the track, or weight lifting – for better overall health. Also, it’s important to vary your workout routine. Change it up from week to week to stave off boredom and keep your workouts fresh. Relax The Back also has a great line of workout products that can be used indoors, including medicine balls, foam rollers, exercise balls and more!

Eat more green veggies. Your mother was right. Eat at least three servings (1 serving = 1 cup) a day of broccoli, kale, green beans, parsley, brussel sprouts or other dark green veggies to revitalize and rejuvenate your body. Spinach, collard greens, watercress and other leafy vegetables also make a wonderful complement to your average salad.

Turn off the TV. Your body was made to move! Activity helps promote healing, weight loss, and a clearer state of mind, so get off the couch. TV promotes a sedentary lifestyle (and absent-minded snacking), so limit yourself to shows you really want to watch. Even better – try a few exercises while you watch. For some TV time exercise, Relax The Back offers the Gripmaster, a hand exerciser that builds strength in the hands, wrist, and forearm.

Drink more water. It’s the stuff of life for a reason. Many people don’t know it, but oftentimes they’ll eat NOT when they’re hungry, but when they’re thirsty. If you eat slowly and drink more water, you’ll feel satisfied with less food. A good rule of thumb for proper water intake is to divide your weight in half and then drink that many ounces of water a day. For example, a 150-pound man should drink at least 75 ounces of water a day, or roughly nine 8-oz glasses.

Cut down on midnight snacking. Food consumed fewer than three hours before bed time has a habit of sticking around (usually around the mid-section). To keep the pounds off, avoid snacking after dinner.

Log your progress. Write down your fitness habits to track your progress. It’s one thing to think your fitness program is working and another to see exactly how much more you can lift, run, throw, or jump. Keep track of the strides you make to stay motivated. It will also remind you of the importance of persistence.

Don’t beat yourself up. There’s a big temptation to quit on New Year’s resolutions when they aren’t achieved quickly or in perfect succession. But don’t give up. Getting in shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be a few potholes along the way. It may seem impossible at times, but with a little discipline, group support, and persistence, you’ll be amazed at how fit you can be!

Strain vs Sprain? What’s the difference?

The two terms seem interchangeable, but they are, in fact, very different things. Strains are injuries that only happen to muscles or tendons, which attach muscle to bone. For this reason, strains are also called pulled muscles, often occurring during sports or lifting heavy objects.

Strains are an acute injury (meaning they happen suddenly or with extreme sharpness), resulting from overstretching or over contraction. You’ll know it’s a strain by its symptoms. If you experience pain, weakness, limited range of motion, or muscle spasms, then you most likely have a strain, rather than a sprain.

A sprain, on the other hand, is an injury that affects your ligaments. Ligaments are the fibrous tissues, made of cartilage, that connect bones together. Sprains occur when ligaments are over stretched or torn, or when the surrounding joint is displaced from its normal alignment. Sprains have similar symptoms to strains, but differ in that they bruise and swell.

Sprains range in severity. Grade I injuries may only cause painful movement. Grade II injuries, however, happen when the ligament that is partially torn but still intact. If you have a Grade III, then you may have significant ligament tears, which cause immobility and even joint instability. Some common sprains affect the finger, wrist, knee, ankle, back, neck, hamstring, and groin.

So, although they sound similar, strains and sprains are not the same. In a nutshell, strains happen to muscles or tendons; sprains to ligaments, or the connective tissue between bones. Both can be painful, but their symptoms differ in significant ways. With strains, you’re more likely to feel pain or weakness. With sprains, you’ll see bruising and swelling.

Stretching for Back Care

Stretching Exercises

The 3 basics of good back care are doing daily extension stretches, strengthening your core muscles and supporting the lumbar spine.  Stretching exercises are a great, low-cost way to stay in shape and keep your muscles limber. They can also clear your mind and increase your circulation, as well as provide a bit of fun. Below are some simple stretches you can do in the morning, noon, or night, while traveling or in the office.

Neck Stretches

Relax your arms at your sides. Breathe normally and then turn your head to one side. Hold for 5 seconds, then turn to the other side. Repeat this 4 times making sure to breathe at a relaxed pace. This stretch is particularly good for the muscles running along the side of your neck, but you can also stretch the back of your neck by slowly tilting your head forward, holding for 5 seconds and then tilting it back. For added flexibility, you can also try Dr. Riter’s Real-Ease Neck Support, in our NeckTherapysection.

Upper Back Stretches

If you have back pain, stretches are an excellent way to relieve tension and stiffness. To stretch your upper back muscles, lie on your stomach and prop yourself up on your elbows. Then slowly extend your back by straightening your elbows. Hold this position for a few seconds, until you feel a gentle stretch. Then, return to the first position and repeat.

Middle Back Stretches

To stretch your middle back, find an open space and stand with your fee shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your hips and slowly twist your torso to the right, until you feel a stretch. Stay like this for 15-20 seconds and then rotate back to your original position. Stretch your other side by slowly twisting your body leftwards. Hold for 15-20 seconds and then return to neutral position.

In addition to your middle back, you can also stretch your arms, wrists and hands by interlacing your fingers with the palms out and extending them in front of you. Hold for 15-20 seconds, relax and then repeat. This exercise works well while using a FitBallExerciseGymBall, which focuses on core strength, balance and coordination.

Lower Back Stretch

For this one, find a sturdy chair without armrests. Push your posterior all the way to the back and then lean over gently to touch your toes. Try to feel the stretch in your lower back muscles and hold for a good 15-20 seconds. Then slowly come up, relieving the tension until you’re completely upright. Repeat 3-4 times. If you would like a deeper stretch, position your feet farther out in front of you. This stretch is good for reducing tension from sitting in a fixed position all day. For other back stretches, the Corestretch is a safe way to stretch muscles, tendons and ligament and offers a variety of and 10 length adjustments.

Calf Stretches

This calf stretch is called the “wall lunge.” Stand about a foot away from a wall, then extend one leg behind you. You may lean on the wall with your forearms but make sure both feet are flat on the floor. Then, lean into the stretch until you feel a gentle tension in your calf muscle. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch legs.

Stretches like these can increase circulation and improve flexibility. Stretching is also good exercise, which can elevate mood and keep your mind fresh for the million things on your daily to-do list. If you would like to learn more about stretching or convenient ways to relieve stress and muscle tension, please visit our Fitness and Therapy section at www.relaxtheback.com for more information.

How to Choose a Tempur-Pedic Pillow: What’s Your Sleep "Personality"?

Tempur-Pedic Symphony Pillow
If you want more sleep, try a pillow from Tempur-Pedic

Known for their mattresses, Tempur-Pedic offers a line of quality pillows for every sleep position. If you sleep mainly on your side, then you’ll want to try Tempur-Pedic’s SidePillow. This pillow’s unique shape was developed by doctors to encourage proper head and neck alignment. Because of its ergonomic friendliness, it promotes deep relaxation, for long-lasting pain relief. The SidePillow also helps prevent snoring by providing improved alignment for your neck, head, and shoulders, which opens up your airway. For best results, rest your head in the center of the pillow. This keeps your chin away from your chest, further opening up your airways.

For particularly loud snorers, your sleep partner will be so thankful.

Tempur-Pedic Body Pillow
The Body Pillow

The BodyPillow is another great one for side sleepers. This pillow is 48”, so it’s a little longer than most models. Its long design, however, provides support for the entire body, making it an ideal pillow for expectant mothers. The TEMPUR material also makes it easy to shape it to your unique body contours.

For Back Sleepers

Tempur-Pedic Rhapsody Pillow
The Rhapsody Pillow.

If you’re a back sleeper, you may want something a little more traditional. The Rhapsody Pillow comes in a conventional shape, with the same pressure-relieving material as the SidePillow. The Rhapsody cushions every contour of your neck, shoulders, and head with a super-conforming inner sleeve. If you have allergies, you can relax with this pillow under your head. It is allergen and dust mite resistant, with a washable cover.

 

If you have a stiff neck….

The NeckPillow, in particular, is recommended for those who need a more therapeutic sleep posture. The dual lobe design supports the curve of you head, neck

Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow
Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow

and shoulders for optimal spinal alignment. However, make sure you choose the proper pillow thickness based on your shoulder dimensions and sleeping position. Proper alignment and posture are absolutely essential for a good night’s rest, so if you’re interested in the NeckPillow, choose the proper pillow thickness according to height and width of your shoulders in your natural sleeping position.

Another pillow that can help relieve neck pain is the TEMPUR-Cloud. The Cloud is built for people who often wake up with a stiff neck or knotty shoulders. It’s an extra soft pillow that provides proper support for the head and neck. It’s designed to increase your relaxation and it got its name for a reason – after a few nights you’ll feel as if you’re sleeping on a cloud.

Designed to Fit Your Body

Part of what makes Tempur-Pedic pillows different is that they are designed for the human body. Their ergonomic friendliness can be especially beneficial if you have suffered an injury or have a chronic condition. In fact, their pillows are designed to complement their mattresses, from basic models such as the ClassicBed to the luxurious CelebrityBed. Whether you sleep on your side or your back, if you snore or have an injury, or if you just want to get a better night’s rest, Tempur-Pedic has a pillow for you.

If you would like to get fitted for a proper pillow, please visit your local Relax The Back store to receive a personal fitting by our staff who are trained in ergonomics, posture, and spinal disorders.

Relax The Back Employee Picks

Employees of Relax The Back pick their favorite ergonomic products.
Employees of Relax The Back pick their favorite ergonomic products.

Part of what makes Relax The Back a different kind of company is that we actually use the products ourselves. We pride ourselves on our customer service because WE are customers, too. Below are the favorite products of a few Relax The Back employees.

Ernest Benion, Jr., Sales and Training Manager
Foam Roller
-I love the Foam Roller.  The added intensity is perfect for me in the office.  After sitting for long periods, I like using the foam roller on my back to help me feel rejuvenated and refreshed.  I also love its versatility, as I can gently or aggressively massage any area of my body.  I recommend using this $30 item at the office a few times per day.  You’ll be amazed how much better you feel, and how much better your mental clarity will be!

 

SANYO Foot Massager
SANYO Foot Massager

Betsy Rodriguez, Marketing Project Manager
Sanyo Foot Massager – As a participant in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, I often think of the Sanyo Foot Massager during my training walks. I’ve tried many foot massagers over the years that were too hard on my feet, but I LOVE the Sanyo Foot Massager.  I jokingly call it my boyfriend.

Robert McMillan, Chief Financial Officer
Human Touch 1650 Massage Chair
– I have a Human Touch 1650 massage chair which I try to use every day. I am an avid tennis player but I broke my ankle twice when I was young and it can cause me some mobility problems. If I can get at least ½ hour on the massage chair after playing I am good to go for my next match.

 

Lifeform Mid Back Executive Chair
Lifeform Mid Back Executive Chair

Matt Geer, Chief Creative Design Coordinator
Lifeform® Ultimate Mid Back Executive Office Chair – I sit in a Lifeform® Ultimate Mid Back Executive Office Chair at work and I must say, it’s done wonders for my back! Before coming to work here I had major back problems from sitting incorrectly in poorly-designed chairs all day. By switching to an ergonomic office chair all those back problems have cleared up. Not only that, but it’s the most comfortable office chair I’ve ever sat in.

Donnikah Y. Castillo, Customer Service Representative
Portable FIR Heat Back Wrap
The Portable Far Infrared Heat Back Wrap is one of my favorite products to use in the office. I get cold easily and this wrap is a great “warm up” for the day. The belt can be hidden under your clothing so no one can tell you’re wearing it! I love how it has a rechargeable battery so I can leave my desk as I please and I don’t have to worry about getting yanked by any cords. I just turn it on and I’m set for the next 2-3 hours.

Brendan Gill, E-Commerce Manager
Theracane – I love the Theracane, a lightweight, handheld massager. It’s hard to believe how many knots I had in my back before I started using it. I use the Theracane twice a day and it has made my neck and shoulders a lot less stiff. My range of motion is better, too. If you don’t have time for a massage, I recommend this $35 device. It provides a similar level of comfort, in as little as two minutes.

Contourside Travel Pillow
Contourside Travel Pillow

Mandy Stevens, Customer Service Supervisor
ContourSide Travel Pillow –
A few years ago I received the ContourSide Travel Pillow for a Christmas gift, and I don’t think I have slept without it since.  Before I started using the ContourSide Pillow I would wake up with all this tension in my neck from the lack of support I was getting from my traditional pillow.  Now I wake up well rested and tension free.  I have found that the support I get from this pillow is far above any other pillow I have ever slept on.  So much so, that I take my pillow everywhere I go.

Jeff Dewane, Real Estate Manager
Back-A-Traction Inversion Table—I love the feeling when I finish a session on my inversion table. You can exercise, stretch, or just relax in an inverted position. The ability to lock in position at -30, -15 and 0 degrees gives you the extra sense of control. Every time I use it I few refreshed and renewed. I recommend you use just prior to going to bed to maximize the benefits of inversion therapy.

Mastercare Inversion Table
Mastercare Inversion Table

Bad Ergonomics – the iPad

Cricket iPad and Laptop Stand
Cricket iPad and Laptop Stand

Ah, the joys of iPad ownership. Quick, convenient access to the web, email, work files, e-books, and more – all while drinking a latte at your local coffee shop. Still, there’s one thing to keep in mind before you have the iPad surgically attached to your body – although it is extremely useful, the iPad isn’t necessarily ergonomically friendly.

The iPad makes it difficult to view the screen without straining your eyes. If you’re typing while it’s in your lap, your eyes have to look down at an unnatural angle. You ever wonder why you see so many photos of people using the iPad while sitting down or with their legs crossed?  It’s because, without any elevation, the device causes a 90-degree downward gaze, which causes neck and eye strain. In fact, if you hold it with your hands at any angle, eventually it will strain your arm and shoulders.

However, with a Cricket iPad and Laptop Stand, you can reduce the chance of repetitive stress injuries that comes with an iPad. The Cricket elevates the viewing screen and keyboard of your laptop or iPad to a customizable viewing angle

The Cricket makes it easy for you to view the screen, without straining your eyes or your muscles. The Cricket elevates up to 9 inches in height, so you can look comfortably at the computer screen. Remember, the correct viewing position should be at a slight downward angle of 15-20 degrees, with your screen directly in front of you.

A display screen that is too high or low – one in which you have to look up or down to view – can cause neck and shoulder strain over time. With the Cricket you can set it at an angle that won’t strain your eyes or muscles. The Cricket also improves air circulation, so your iPad can run cooler while you play the latest computer games or surf the web.

The iPad has taken the consumer-computing world by storm, but it doesn’t mean it’s ergonomically friendly. While new smaller computers and multi-media phones make our lives easier, they are increasing the possibility of awkward postures and increased eye strain. So, before you spend hours and hours with Apple’s latest technological wonder, make sure your workstation is set up for comfortable computing. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a stiff neck, tired eyes, or both.

Avoid Airline Fees – Bring Your Own Travel Pillow

Wrap Around Neck Pillow from Relax The Back
Save money on airline travel by bringing your own pillow.

Airlines love to charge. Love it. Headphones, snacks, wifi service – even your luggage. Last year, airlines collected $7.8 billion in fees. It is any wonder consumers are getting fed up?

One way you can cut down on these nickel-and-dime charges is to bring your own travel pillow. It makes no sense to pay $6 for a pillow when you can bring your own. Besides the price, the pillows the airlines hand out are ill-suited for comfort on a long flight and wear out easily.

Relax The Back, however, offers a variety of pillows designed to support your neck and back and help you fall asleep on long flights.

The Wrap Around Neck Pillow curls around your neck and provides a gentle cheek cushion, while aligning your chin and neck. It also releases a pleasing lavender aroma to help you relax. The Wrap Around is designed to create a “spa-like” experience, and over the course of an 11-hour flight, it’s probably as close to a spa as you’ll get.

Tempur-Pedic makes an excellent travel pillow. Over the years, Tempur-Pedic has become almost a synonym for quality, and the famed mattress maker’s U-Shaped Travel Pillow is no exception. This pillow is designed for riding in a car, train, or plane with a great degree of comfort. It does a great job of surrounding and cradling your neck proper support. I recommend this one highly for frequent flyers or commuters traveling by train.

If you prefer to sleep on your side there is a pillow designed especially for that – the JetRest Memory Foam Pillow. This ergonomic pillow has an L-shape design that cradles your head so you can rest comfortably on one side. Although it provides support for one side, it doesn’t neglect your head and neck. Its rectangular body gives you a firm but flexible upright support to those areas. For frequent flyers (or anyone else who steps on a plane), it comes with a convenient carry bag as well.

These products may not make it “cheap” to fly, but they can reduce the final tally. They’re also much more comfortable than airline pillows, which are often… not. So, the next time you fly, I recommend you save a few bucks and fly with your own travel pillow. That way you can concentrate on relaxing and not pulling out your wallet or purse over and over and over….

Review: The Theracane

Theracane
This funny-looking device can give you a therapeutic, low-cost massage, if you’re willing to do it yourself.

The Theracane may not ever win a beauty pageant. It’s green, shaped like a shepherd’s crook, with two round-tipped handles and an assortment of other knobs. If you compare it to the sleek Sogno DreamWave Massage Chair, it will always be the ugly duckling.

But looks can be deceiving.

Made of solid fiberglass, the Theracane is a lightweight, handheld massager that can reduce your muscle tension in as little as two minutes. It doesn’t require a degree in kinesiology to use, either. You simply have to know where it hurts.

The Theracane can easily massage away knots and stiff areas, relieving weeks and months of tension – even years. Its hook design is specially made to massage those hard-to-reach areas on your body: the middle of your back and shoulders, the soles of your feet, and the back of your legs. All it requires is a gentle back and forth motion, with a round tip focused on the problem area.

Be careful not to put one of the treatment balls directly on your spine or sciatic, however. That can hurt more than help. Just knead your muscles with the cane until you feel your tension dissipate. If you’re stumped for ideas on how to use the Theracane, it comes with a useful booklet with pictures. The tips are helpful, but if you’re like me, you’ll come up with a few ways to use the $35 device on your own.

When I first looked at the Theracane I was skeptical. I didn’t think something so simple (and funny looking) could possibly help with chronic muscle tension and fatigue. But I was wrong. Its simplicity is its advantage. You can use the Theracane in the car (while not driving, of course!), at the office, or on your lunch break (I often do). It doesn’t require any maintenance and it stores easily in a closet or medium-sized drawer. Its low-tech elegance makes it a breeze to get a nice low-cost/no-cost massage anywhere. You just have to be willing to withstand a few stares at first.

That is, until your friends, co-workers, or family members want to give it a try.

Review: McCarty’s Sacroease Back Support

McCarty's Sacroease Back Support
Reduce tension on your back while driving with a Sacroease.

Calling all Lexus, Mercedes Benz and BMW owners – your luxury car may not be complete without a proper ergonomic back support.

I love my Lexus. On the days I get it washed and detailed, it’s like riding in a luxury hotel suite. As someone with a heavy daily commute, that’s a wonderful thing. Still, I have to admit, its seating is a little less than luxurious. I did some research and discovered that Mercedes Benz and BMW drivers often have the same complaint. It seems that luxury cars are well-known for high-performance engineering, but they leave a little to be desired in the ergonomic seating department.

After an informal poll, I found that a LOT of vehicles, luxury automobiles included, make it difficult to maintain good posture. Most seats, whether made with rich, Corinthian leather or not, encourage bad posture by not supporting the lower back and spine. This often results in drivers, like me, hunching over the steering wheel, their backs contorted into a “C” shape.

But, rather than gut my Lexus to put in all-new seating, which would have been way too expensive, I decided to try the Sacroease, from McCarty. The difference was immediate and profound. Instead of driving hunched over, the back support practically forced me to maintain a healthy posture. It helped me to sit in an ergonomically correct “S” curve when driving. It also provided support behind my back and under my hips.

According to back specialists, this kind of support takes the strain off your spinal discs, allowing fluid to flow in the spine. Occasionally, I’ve noticed an uncomfortable swelling in my lower back after long road trips. After using the Sacroease, however, I found that my back could “breathe” better and my muscles felt less tense. Since I’ve started using it, I’ve also experienced fewer pinched nerves, which in the past have affected my entire body.

But perhaps the biggest difference has been less road vibration. No matter how often I replace my car’s shock absorbers, gravel, potholes, bumps, dips and other road hazards make it rattle like a mini earthquake. With the Sacroease, though, I’ve noticed that a lot less. It seems that the road vibrations are absorbed by the rubber support, not my spine and hips.

I will say that one advantage the Sacroease has over other posture correction products is its customization. It’s not made one-size-fits-all like other wood or plastic travel supports. It’s made of a bendable metal that I went to my local Relax The Back to have fitted to my body’s unique contours. Relax The Back remains one of the few specialty retailers that provides this service, but you have to do it in-store.

One last reason I recommend trying the Sacroease is that it comes with a five-year warranty, the same as my Lexus. In that way, my vehicle, back support, and me are made for each other.

Review: The PureRelax Mattress by Relax The Back

PureRelax Mattress by Relax The Back
The PureRelax Mattress by Relax The Back

People have been sleeping on mattresses, in some form or another, for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians slept on palm boughs heaped in a pile in their homes. The Romans slept on bags of cloth filled with wool or hay. It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that the science of sleep took a leap forward. In the decade after the Moon landing, scientists at NASA developed a material that became known as memory foam.

With a memory foam mattress, there are no pressure points to strain the joints or muscles. Pressure points can be the cause of restless tossing and turning, preventing you from sleeping the entire night through. This interrupted sleep can be detrimental to your health over time. For years, studies have linked lack of sleep to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, weight problems and more. Although there is disagreement in the medical community about the exact effects of little sleep, anyone who’s pulled an all-nighter can tell you it throws off a host of body functions.

With that in mind, I tried the PureRelax Mattress by Relax The Back. The common wisdom with memory foam mattresses is that you have to try them for 15-30 minutes in the store without getting up. Then, if you like what you feel, you should try it in your home for a minimum of 30 days. The reason behind the 30-day minimum is that it takes that long to get the mattress’s full benefit.  Because, although it looks comfortable, it takes a while to get used to it. At first, it was awkward, trying to adjust my shoulder blades (and posterior) to the memory foam. But, after a week, I found myself a lot more comfortable. When I adjusted to the memory foam technology, my body’s shape, weight and temperature did all the work, making the bed my own.

Because I now experience less tossing and turning, I find that I wake up ready to start the day. With the PureRelax mattress, I hit the snooze button a lot less. Perhaps the best thing about my foam mattress experience is that my expectations have been raised. Now, I expect to sleep longer and more deeply, as well as wake up more refreshed. I realize that I don’t have to spend the night drifting in and out of sleep on a flat mattress, in which I conform to it, rather than the other way around.

People often balk at the price of memory foam mattresses and I don’t blame them. Let’s face it – Tempur-Pedic and other memory foam mattresses don’t come cheap. But, for me, it was about making an investment in my health and well-being. I wake up now feeling much better than I used to. For me that’s hard to put a price on. It also goes with my philosophy that you should spend the extra money on things you use every day for extended periods of time. For example, it pays to have quality shoes, cell phones, and computers because of how much and how often we use them.  The same goes for mattresses, where we spend, hopefully, eight hours a day.

Or, more accurately, a third of our lives.

Review: Sogno DreamWave™ Massage Chair by Inada

Sogno DreamWave Massage Chair
Sogno DreamWave Massage Chair massages both the upper and lower body. This chair also has 12 Months, No Interest Financing Available.

Once you get in the Sogno DreamWave Massage Chair, it’s hard to get out.

With its 3D adjustable rollers, eight pre-programmed sessions, and infrared body profiling, it kneads the stress right out of your body. Luckily, part of my job is reviewing massage chairs like these, so if my boss sees me in one and accuses me of loafing, I can say, “No, it’s research. You know, for the good of humanity.”

Quite simply, the DreamWave finds the knots and tight areas in your muscles and then gently massages them away. From the tops of your shoulders to the bottom of your feet, it works on your body in 15- and 30-minute intervals to increase circulation and comfort.

What’s great about this massage chair is its settings. It has one for seemingly every time of day, body part, or state of tension. If you experience muscle stiffness when you wake up, you’ll want to try the Morning setting. As someone who spends all day at the keyboard, I really appreciate this setting which includes a forearm massage. A lot people think massage chairs only relieve back pain or tension, but the Sogno DreamWave provides an excellent arm and hand massage. Using up to 20 inflating air cells, it loosens my arms to relieve the several tight knots I develop during the day spent writing blogs like this one.

If you experience more tightness or discomfort in your lower body, however, I recommend the Night massage setting. This setting provides a gentle, side-to-side swaying that really opens up your hips. This, in conjunction with its firm calf and foot massage, gives your lower body a relaxed, dreamy feeling, like you’re floating on air.

Whether you need a massage to get your motor started in the morning or to unwind after a hard day’s work, I recommend that you try these settings in the reclined, zero gravity position. This position relieves tension on your spine, allowing for even greater comfort and stress reduction.

Lying at a reclined angle also helps the skinnier of us get a fuller massage. As someone who has a hard time casting a shadow, I often feel like I’m being pushed out of the chair when receiving a massage in the upright position. At zero gravity, though, I feel gravity’s pull working in my favor, allowing me a deeper massage.

If you’d like to learn more about the customizable settings on the Sogno DreamWave™ Massage Chair by Inada, please visit Relax The Back.

Need a Unique Father’s Day Gift? Try an Inversion Table

Back A Traction inversion table
Back A Traction inversion table

If you’ve ever stressed out your dad – and let’s face it, who hasn’t? – then you can help him relax with a unique Father’s Day Gift: an inversion table.

An inversion table can help relieve back pain, nerve root pressure, and decreased mobility caused by the long-term effects of gravity (and rambunctious offspring). That’s something even the finest silk tie can’t do.

Inversion is one of the oldest natural therapies, dating back thousands of years. By hanging at inverted angles, Dad can elongate his spine, and relieve some of the pressure that gets built up during the course of the day. Although I’m not a dad (yet), after 20 minutes on the inversion table, I felt my vertebrae gradually spreading apart, like a slowly opening fan. Kids or no kids, it helped put me in a much more relaxed state of mind.

Here’s a little bit of science: The inside of our spinal discs is made of a jellylike substance called nucleus pulposus. During our waking hours, gravity works to compress this gelatinous material, resulting in a temporary loss of height (approximately 0.5-0.75 inches).  Over the course of a lifetime, people become shorter essentially because their discs lose moisture. As a 5’11” guy, I’m doing all I can to hold on to what I got. In fact, I’m hoping a few extra minutes on the Flexstretch Inversion Table every morning will help me reach the vaunted 6’0”.

Even if an inversion table may not actually make you taller, it can lessen Dad’s spinal pressure and make him feel taller. Greater muscle relaxation and better circulation are other benefits of this age-old remedy. After regular use, he may even temporarily forget he has to mow the lawn or paint the garage.

Technique is important when it comes to inversion table therapy, though. It’s not as simple as just hanging upside down and letting the blood flow to your head. For beginners, I recommend the Back-A-Traction Inversion Table, which has a locking mechanism at four different angles.  With the locking mechanism, Dad can concentrate on relaxing, while moving between inversion levels only as he feels comfortable.

When he has developed some familiarity with the table, he can even do simple exercises to relieve pressure, realign the pelvis and spine, and increase mobility.

Here are some exercises for beginners:

  1. Raise your arms over your head for a full-body stretch.
  2. Raise your back into a slight arch to provide a gentle back stretch.
  3. Turn your body on its side for a side stretch. After holding for a few seconds, turn to the other side and repeat.

To get the most out of an inversion table, it’s best to go slow at first. Dear old Dad shouldn’t move too quickly between inverted positions, which can cause head rush. It’s recommended to start out lying parallel to the ground, for 1-2 minutes, and then slowly build up the amount of time and degree of inversion.

Fifteen degrees is a comfortable level of inversion, in which your dad should feel his muscle pain and tension decrease.  All of the benefits of inversion can be achieved at this angle including improved posture and balance.  At 30°, Pops should feel his ligaments stretching, his muscles lengthening and increased separation in his weight-bearing joints.  This is a great angle for Dad to work on his 6-pack abs by doing situps or crunches.

A good stretch of 5-15 minutes should be sufficient to melt away his cares.  Or help him forget, for a little while at least, the time you spilled blue paint all over the driveway.

NOTE ON SYMPTOMS
If you have the following symptoms, then an inversion table may help:

  • Nuclear disc protrusions
  • Chronic low-back pain
  • Posterior dysfunction syndrome
  • Nerve compressions (as long as they are mechanical)

Although inversion tables generally produce mild stretching and relaxation, it is important to consult your physician before using inversion therapy.

Hurt So Good: The SANYO Zero Gravity Foot Massager

As a new employee of Relax The Back, it’s important that I know the products. All 453 of them. This requires that I spend up to an hour a day testing a variety of state-of-the-art foot massagers, inversion tables, and full-body massage chairs.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

This week I tried the Sanyo Zero Gravity Foot Massager. The Sanyo targets your sole, foot, and calf muscles.  It offers Shiatsu, Relax, and Quick settings, with front and back adjustments, so you can massage your feet from toe to heel. I tried Shiatsu, which in hindsight might have been a mistake. For someone who has not had a foot massage since the Clinton Administration, the first five minutes were as much pain as pleasure.

But after that, smooth sailing. The Sanyo kneaded my soles, squeezed my calves, and applied gentle pressure to the tops of my feet with 11 different air bags. Although I was a little tender in the beginning, by the time it was over, I felt like I had a new pair of feet. The floor literally felt different, like someone had added a layer of cotton balls over it. My circulation also felt better. Perhaps best of all, my breathing felt deeper and I had a more relaxed state of mind.

The Sanyo uses undulating 3D shiatsu posts to knead and massage away tension. There is also a heat setting, allowing you to soften your muscles, ligaments and tendons. This massager adjusts to your foot size, too, so whether you’re closer to Sasquatch or Cinderella, you should have no problem fitting into the Sanyo Zero Gravity Foot Massager. It also offers a Hi, Mid, and Lo intensity selection and a convenient wireless remote controller to boot. To top it off, the massages are set to 20-minute intervals, which make them perfect for after-work downtime.

Tune in next week when I have to undergo a full-body massage in our Sogno Massage Chair. Please feel free to send your comments, sympathy cards, or condolence letters to brendang@relaxtheback.com.

Relax The Back Joins Haitian Relief Effort

One of the nation’s largest specialty back care retailers, Relax The Back, is joining leading U.S. mattress manufacturer Anatomic Global, Inc., on its humanitarian initiative, The WorldBed Project. The company is launching a company-wide promotion “Buy a Bed, Give a Bed” to raise money and awareness for the delivery of up to 200,000 field beds to displaced Haitians following the January 12 earthquake near Port-au-Prince.

Children in Haiti use the WorldBed

As part of the program, for every PureFit or PureRelax mattress purchased at Relax The Back, the store will donate one WorldBed to someone in need in Haiti. A portion of the proceeds from every coordinating PureCrown or Purefit Body Pillow purchased will be collected to donate to WorldBed. Additionally, clients will have an opportunity to purchase WorldBed products online and in store at a cost of $35 each to be delivered to the relief effort.

“Anatomic Global came up with a very unique concept in the way the sleep product industry can help disaster victims all over the world and we wanted to be part of this noble endeavor,” said Relax The Back Vice President of Merchandising J.D. Nespoli. “Both Relax The Back Corporate and our Franchisees wanted to help with Haitian relief and this program is a great opportunity for us to do so.”

Buy a Bed, Give a Bed” will be promoted with in-store displays and there are plans to include this program in Relax The Back’s Summer catalogue. In addition, Relax The Back’s corporate office has already donated a pallet of 50 WorldBeds and during the campaign will continue to channel additional funds to assist in this effort.

Relax The Back is an incredible retail partner that will help us make a lasting impact in Haiti,” said Anatomic Global CEO David Farley. “The WorldBed Project couldn’t exist without their compassion and the support and donations of our business community.”

Anatomic Global started supplying Relax The Back with bedding products in 2008 and based on customer response has continued to expand the relationship throughout the years.

To date Anatomic Global has also been joined in the effort by Relax The Back, FXI Foamex Innovations, Deslee Textiles USA, Royal Packaging, Brookwood Companies, World Hope International, CARE and Parakletos International. The company is re-investing its corporate profits from all operations for the first quarter of 2010 to manufacture WorldBeds for Haitian relief and sent a team to help with the initial shipments. So far 2,216 field beds have been delivered to Haiti with 1,800 en route.

Relax The Back is a dynamic participant in The WorldBed Project and we are grateful to them and to all of our business partners who share this responsibility with us,” added Farley.

The WorldBed Project is a turnkey sleep system designed for emergency care and relief efforts. Built from high performing 3-inch cushioning foam, the cot-sized field beds can be compression packaged and quickly dispatched, in volume, to areas of need, anywhere, worldwide. It was created to provide needed comfort, increased levels of health and safety, and a more sanitary place to sleep in an effort to speed recovery, aid in healing.

The WorldBed Project was initiated during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in which Anatomic Global mobilized a team to make and distribute 3,000 field beds that ended up benefiting 11,000 persons in need.  In response to the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit near Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12, 2010, Anatomic Global, Inc. CEO David Farley, revisited the WorldBed concept and began operating it as an adjunct business unit of his company on January 14, 2010. Its mission is to deliver 200,000 WorldBed products to displaced Haitians over the next year and will continue to aid other global disaster relief programs on an as needed basis. For more information, visit www.WorldBed.org.

Based in La Palma, California, Relax The Back currently operates over 110 locations nationwide with plans to open several more locations in 2010 and beyond.  Relax The Back offers a comprehensive line of products to prevent and relieve the back pain through proper spinal support alignment including ergonomic office chairs, mattresses, and pillows, back and neck supports, massage chairs, fitness and therapy products, and Zero Gravity recliners. For more information, visit Relax The Back.

Founded in 1989, Anatomic Global is a fully integrated, EDI capable globally positioned distribution, logistics and fulfillment-company that today incorporates the brand development and marketing insight of bedding industry leaders to meet the needs of its customers.  Deeply rooted in the medical mattress industry, in 2008 the company applied its medical manufacturing expertise and launched the Ecomfort Mattress brand featuring its signature, exclusive EcoMemoryFoam™ extreme open-cell plant-based memory foam.  For more information, visit www.ecomfortmattress.com

The Self Inflating Back Rest (SIBR)

Over 70% of the United States population experiences back pain during their lifetime and most have experienced back pain within the last 3 weeks, this is why the Self Inflating Back Rest or SIBR is a great product to use. The majority of people think sitting is a restful position, but research has shown that sitting actually creates increased pressure in the discs of the lower spine. The problem is made worse by slouching in our chairs, which people tend to do. The majority of chairs produced lack adequate lumbar support which can contribute to slouching. Prolonged and repetitious slouching can increase strain in the lower back causing damage or injury to spinal discs.

Relax The Back Self Inflating Back Rest

The Self Inflating Back Rest prevents slouching by supporting the natural curve of the lower back when sitting. Lower back support when sitting also encourages forward tilting of the pelvis area. When supported correctly by the Self Inflating Back Rest the discs and joints of the lower spine are aligned in a position which mechanically is less stressful, and can help prevent future injury and pain.

When should I use the SIBR?

Sooner than Later… is the best advice that can be given regarding taking the steps necessary to reduce back pain. Common sense tells us taking care of health problems before they get severe is in the best interest of our bodies and a smart decision. Unfortunately, most people do not practice this theory when it comes to their backs. People brush their teeth; watch their diet or limit activities in the sun, to prevent a problem regarding their health, but when it comes to our backs, we generally react to pain verses being proactive in preventing the problem.

Using the Self Inflating Back Rest is a step in the right direction and a proactive one. By using the SIBR, you will immediately see improvement and you will head off any future back problems associated with poor posture.

At home, at work, while driving, traveling, working on a computer, or any activity associated with sitting, the Self Inflating Back Rest provides relief and comfort in every situation.

Visit a Relax The Back Location near you.

The Foam Roller

The best way to eliminate and prevent muscle knots is the foam roller. The foam roller is a firm foam log comes in several sizes. Use the roller against the muscle knots with your own body weight to generate the direct pressure. Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough. A foam roller is a good alternative to repetitive trips to the massage therapist.  The foam roller is an inexpensive, yet highly effective way to treat and prevent the most common injuries. Foam rollers can be purchased at Relax The Back stores or ordered online.  A few minutes a day can help keep you on the road for years to come.

Key Points for Specific Foam Roller Exercises

1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60 seconds.
2. Spend extra time directly over the knot or trigger point itself.
3. Roll the injured area two to three time a day. For prevention of injuries, two to three times a week is recommended.
4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
5. Always stretch the area following foam rolling.

Lie sideways with the foam roller under the side of your thigh. Roll between your knee and your hip bone. Spend extra time on the more tender areas you encounter. Use your top leg and foot against the ground to decrease the force if you cannot tolerate the pressure initially. After a few days of rolling, your IT Band will loosen up and you should be able to tolerate full pressure (feet together off the ground).

Start with both of your thighs on the roller at the same time. Roll back and forth from your knees to hips. To increase the pressure, lift one thigh off the roller. This doubles the force.

Lie on your back on the foam roller. Cross your arms across the front of your chest and exhale deeply as you roll the middle of your back against the roller. This is a great stretch for your chest early in the morning.