This is a list of various devices, tools and apps I have tried during my recovery for reducing and improving residual symptoms. Some have provided meaningful benefit while others fell short. I’m going to put the particular apps and gadgets I have found most helpful at the beginning of the list. You can check them out at their respective websites by clicking on the title of each app or device. As I try new things, I will update this post and add them here.
This is an app I just recently discovered. It is great for me because of my vision troubles. It is an app similar to audiobook but it reads anything you want. I like to read books, medical articles, and much more but have been limited and it takes me a very long time to get through anything these days. I open the app, take a picture of what I want it to read on my phone, scan it in and it’s ready to go! You can play what you scanned in at any time. It’s free with a caveat. If you want a better or more natural sounding reader, you have to upgrade to the premium version which in my opinion is worth it. Otherwise, it is very distracting having a robot-y voice reading to you.
This is a free app that I have on my home page of my site because I have used this for a long time now and have found it extremely helpful especially for light sensitivity and eye strain. Research has shown that various levels of bright light before bed at night can disrupt sleep and melatonin production, especially with blue light that is emitted by all of our screens. This app is great for screens as it adjusts the frequency of light emitted to your eyes. You can change the settings to your waking time and bedtime and it adjust the light in a natural cycle following a natural circadian rhythm. So, if you are staring at a computer screen all day, the light emitted naturally fluctuates and towards the end of the day and pre-bedtime the blue light will be reduced automatically. If you are an android user, I believe there is a similar app called Twilight, however I can’t speak to that because I haven’t used it.
This is a great device and one that exceeded all expectations because quite frankly, I had none. How could this little block actually relieve any of the terrible neck pain and headaches I’ve been experiencing for so long? I was shocked after using it for just 10 minutes that my headache and neck pain were significantly reduced. It works by providing gentle pressure to the suboccipital (just below the base of the skull) muscle trigger points, resulting in less stiffness which then leads to less head pain.
This lightbulb has been amazing. I truly love it. Similar to how f.lux changes the light frequencies emitted from your screens throughout the day, this lightbulb does the same. It comes with a remote control so you can adjust the light setting. This lightbulb is low blue light emitting at all times and has the ability to emit just red light. I put the red light on at night about 1-2 hours before bed as red light does not interfere with our circadian rhythms. It has helped me fall asleep faster and when I wake up in the middle of the night I can switch that on instead of causing further disruption with bright lights or the light of my phone. I’d highly recommend it.
This is a meditation device that I have used for about 6 months now. I’ve used many meditation apps and a couple devices and this seems to be the best one. It looks like a large pebble that you rest on your sternum (chest bone). You turn it on and sync it to the app on your phone. It vibrates on your chest and synchronizes to the music from the app. The vagus nerve which is involved in activating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, relaxation) is stimulated by sound and vibration. This device combines sound and vibration to help tone the vagus nerve, leading to a sense of calm. It is pricey compared to other products but in my opinion, it is worth a try if you are experiencing stress, anxiety or sleeping troubles.
This is a free app for meditation. It is great because there are so many meditation options to choose from based on what type and the duration. Also, there are so many different voice options. Finding a voice to meditate to can be difficult but with the hundreds and thousands of options on this app, you will definitely be able to find a voice you like that is calming. I’ve used this one a lot and highly recommend it.
These blue light blocker glasses are great for evening and before bedtime. I guess the cool kids call these “Swannies.” They are supposed to help block the blue light that could harm your natural circadian rhythm and melatonin production. They help with light sensitivity as well. I find them particularly helpful when riding in the car at night as they reduce glare and decrease the blinding headlights of cars.
This roll on is made from CBD, menthol and some other herbal extracts that aid in relieving muscle stiffness and pain. This has been helpful for temporary numbing of pain and stiffness. It is similar to the icy hot feel due to the menthol and peppermint oil in it. It isn’t a long-lasting solution but does help provide some temporary relief.
This is a white noise machine which has been amazing for helping to drown out the ringing in my ears a bit. I never travel without it now. It has helped my insomnia a little bit as the tinnitus can get very loud at night. They now make different versions that play different sounds. Mine is straight up white noise. I love my Dohm!
This is another meditation device. You attach a sensor clip to your ear which plugs into your phone and then open the app. As you breathe, it senses your pulse through the blood flow from your ear and shows you what zone you are in. You aim to be in the “green,” so it gives you real time feedback on how you are performing and you can adjust your breathing accordingly. It tracks your coherence level and heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is a measurement of beat to beat activity of the heart and how it fluctuates. The normal variability in HR is due to the synergistic effects of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The app gives you real time data on HRV, giving you a small window into how balanced these branches are. Physiological coherence means how well the heart and brain are united and the measurement given shows how well your mind and body are in harmony. Interestingly, if I am feeling very anxious and I do a session, I can tell based on the graph because of how it is jagged and all over the place. Usually by the end of the session, I can get it to be a nice fluid wave pattern and feel more relaxed. I have found it to be helpful and the graphs giving real time feedback is nice for comparison after sessions.
These noise canceling earbuds worked wonderfully. I am still very sensitive to noises and with the intense ringing in the ears it is nice to drown that out. It also really enhanced focus. I ended up returning them because while I loved the sound, my ear canals hurt with all sizes of the ear buds. They have over the ear noise canceling headphones too but I have not tried those. If you are noise sensitive or need to increase focus, I’d recommend trying these out.
While this gadget doesn’t necessarily provide pain relief or healing, it is a useful tool to monitor and track heart rate during recovery as there can be a threshold where you become symptomatic. It is a chest strap that has the heart rate sensor attached to the front of it. This specific device has been studied extensively in research which I like. The app for the sensor is great because you can set it to notify you when you reach a certain heart rate and can back down your activity level if you need to. I love this device for PT and training. The app allows you to track your heart rate data by providing you with graphs and statistics.
This comes as a kit with a tracking target that sort of resembles a tapestry and a headband with a laser on the front. You put the headband laser on and slowly outline the design on the target (mine is shaped like a butterfly) by gently moving your head. It also has a circle with numbers on it that I can track with the laser. This has been helpful to re-train and re-educate the smaller, stabilizing muscles of the neck as well as tone my fine motor skills. It also helps train proprioceptive awareness or where your brain thinks you are at in space. Lack of proprioceptive awareness following TBI and whiplash is quite common. With practice, some of these exercises have become easier and I have improved proprioceptive awareness.
This is an eye mask that produces moist heat after you warm it up in the microwave. It is actually marketed for dry eyes but it is soothing to put it on when there is a bad headache or migraine.
This device is a red light therapy device using red and near-infrared light. Red light has been shown in studies to promote healing by reducing inflammation and providing energy to your cells. This specific light has been shown in studies to promote improved mental well-being, healthy skin, inflammation, improved blood flow and sleep. It is soothing to use while meditating. I haven’t noticed any huge improvements in pain but while using, it does feel soothing and relaxing on the affected areas. I like to believe there is healing going on at the cellular level. This is a very expensive device. Shout out to my friend who gifted this to me!
This is a muscle scraping device used to stretch and ease muscle tension and aid in recovery. It is a stainless steel tool that you scrape along your muscles to stretch the muscle fibers and increase blood flow to the area to promote healing. While it does work great for many areas of the body, I haven’t found it to be helpful where I need it the most, my neck.
This is a TENS unit which sends electrical pulses through the skin. The theory behind TENS units is to stop pain signals from being sent to the brain and to naturally produce endorphins. I haven’t been entirely convinced in my whole athletic career that TENS units have really done anything for my muscle recovery and related pain but I wanted to give this a shot as there was a lot of rage over this device. Compared to the cheap TENS unit I bought on Amazon a few years ago, I think it does the exact same thing. To me, it just looks fancy and has an app to go with it but if it works for you that’s great! Personally, it wasn’t worth the expense for me.
This is a massage gun. I was really hoping for relief from tension and pain in my neck and traps which would then hopefully help the headaches. Unfortunately, I think the power of this device is more in tune with the size of an NFL linebacker’s neck because it destroyed my bony neck. It worked great on the quads and hamstrings though! Unfortunately, that’s not what I need.
This is another pair of glasses used to block certain wavelengths of light. These have dark red lenses that signal your body that it’s bedtime. They are supposed to be used 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed to prevent melanopsin from detecting wavelengths of light that could disrupt sleep if sensed before bed. Melanopsin is a protein in the eye that sends signals directly to the brain as it absorbs light, regulating circadian rhythm and sleep through the production of melatonin. These do not only block blue light but also block green and violet. I could not get used to these as everything is dark red. The concept is great but they didn’t work out for me. It has nothing to do with how absurd they look either. They sort of make you look like one of the animated characters in The Incredibles, which could be kind of cool for a superhero costume.
This is an acupressure device that you put around your thumb and it applies pressure to a specific pressure point on the hand which has been used to treat headaches for thousands of years. Unfortunately, it did not help with my headaches. The good thing is it is cheap and can be worn anytime and anywhere. I think it is worth a shot. Shout out to my brother and sister-in-law for gifting this to me!
This is a mat that has many plastic points that press into your back and neck to serve as acupressure points along meridian lines of the body. The goal is similar to acupuncture – improve the energy of the body, reduce pain and tension. The pillow worsened my head pain but the mat itself did provide some mild relaxation. It wasn’t a meaningful change in symptoms for me. Shout out to my Mom for the gift!
This one sort of looks like a flotation device that goes around your neck. You blow it up similar to the same way you would blow up a blood pressure cuff. As it blows up, it provides traction to your neck to stretch out the space between the vertebrae. I tried this and it didn’t work for me. In fact, it did make my headache a bit worse. I also tried it out on 4 different family members who all thought it worked great and alleviated some sort of pain in the neck and head. I am the anomaly. In this small group, it helped 4 out of 5 people. I’d say it is worth a try for the price.
This is a muscle balm made from CBD and essential oils to aid in pain, tension and stiffness. Unfortunately, it did not relieve pain or stiffness. Truly, my favorite part was the smell.
This is another neck traction device that you hook to a door knob. It is supposed to apply gentle traction to the neck to stretch out the space between the vertebrae which may be pinching nerves. It hangs from the door knob and you lay on your back with your neck in the cradle or hammock and float for a little bit. I found no relief but it also didn’t worsen anything either. For the price, I think it could be worth a try.
I can’t give a fair review of this one as I have only used it a couple times. In the two times I have used it, it was relaxing to lay on but I didn’t notice any significant reduction in neck pain or headache. It is a similar concept to the Bonsai Occipital Release Tool above but seems milder and doesn’t have the various bumps for pressure points. As I use it more, I will update this.
I haven’t received this yet but I am excited to try it once it arrives. This is a hat that provides cold compression to the head, reducing pain signals to the brain and ultimately reducing headache and migraine pain. Hope it makes it to the top of the list. Shout out to my brother for this gift!