Gifts for People With Back Problems

What better way to say "I care" to a friend or family member with neck or back pain than with a gift of pain relief? This quickie buying guide is not like most of the others you'll likely read this holiday season.  

For one, it's focused only on gifts to help your recipient reduce their spine pain. Secondly, it's limited to the bigger ticket items; in other words—no stocking stuffers here! 

And finally, this guide is great because there are few, if any, actual product recommendations. Instead, you'll get some practical advice in several gift categories you can use as you compare brands and models. 


Mattress Shopping and Back Pain Relief or Prevention

mattress with a women's legs hanging off
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Getting the right mattress is key for that special someone with back pain, and also for preventing back pain. One big reason for this is that when the mattress is too soft, your muscles may tighten up in a well-meaning, but at least partially misguided attempt to make up for the lack of body support provided by your bed.

When your mattress is too firm, you may find yourself dealing with pressure points—not a very comfortable way to try to get a nights sleep!

The question of firm vs soft rages on the topic of mattresses, especially for those people who are concerned about the well being of their spines. If you're really serious about giving a mattress as a give, you likely need a buying guide dedicated solely to the topic.


Massage Chairs for Home or Office

Colourful massage chairs

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The purchase of a massage chair is a major buy. As such, "kicking the tires," (so to speak) during your shopping period is not a bad idea. Along with trying it out (always the fun part,) you might take the time to learn about typical chair massage features and hardware. Below is a quick summary to help you on your journey.

Ergonomics and Comfort

Some, but not all, massage chairs come with the claim that they are "zero-gravity." This basically is a position where the chair is tilted back, allowing your back to fully contact the back of the chair (where the massage is delivered) while your hip and knee joints are resting at an easy-to-maintain angle.

Basically, the zero gravity position is meant for comfort and support, and to enhance the effects of the chair's massage services. Other than that, despite the reference to weightless astronauts by some manufacturers, there's no magic to it.

Whether or not your targeted massage chair can put you in the zero gravity position, be sure you feel comfortable in it. Does it feel sturdy enough for your weight? Does it come with good lumbar support? Do you like the feel of the upholstery?

Types of Massages Your Chair Can Give

Massage chairs offer a variety of massage types, from full body to full back to neck and shoulders only. Check your options and compare these between the models you're considering.

Most chairs deliver a variety of massage techniques, as well. Some are designed specifically as "Shiatsu" chairs, although to be perfectly honest, these mechanical massage moves don't resemble the ancient art of pressure points in my book. Chairs also offer stretching, compression, Swedish massage techniques, and others.

Other Considerations

Consider the number of motors your intended chair will have. The "Massage Chair Buying Guide" from the ABT store's website says this is the most important factor of all because those chairs that have independently working motors will deliver stronger massages. 

Some chairs have a heat setting which may further the chair's relaxing effects, while others have the capacity to auto-scan your back to find "points" to target.


Ergonomic Office Chairs

Empty office with chair and computer

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Office chairs designed with ergonomics in mind can help prevent muscle fatigue, which often leads to sore necks and backs at work. The most important consideration that can lead to a successful purchase is fit. The chair should be comfortable for the person who sits in it.

A quick second is to have a decent understanding of the chair's adjustments and how they affect posture. Some of the features to be aware of include: Seat depth, office chair height, and armrest adjustments.

And finally, if the person you're buying for is over 250 pounds (or getting there quickly) she or he would likely need a "big and tall" version.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.