Self-Care Hardware

Tools for Working on Your Own Body

By Rebecca Jones
[Ten for Today]

1. Align Your Hips

The Sacro Wedgy ($29.95, is a soft cradle that can be wedged beneath a person’s hips to isolate and elevate the sacrum. As the body relaxes, the hips return to a proper alignment, thereby easing sciatica, as well as leg, low-back, and even shoulder pain. “If you’ve done 10 massages in a day, you can’t tell me you won’t be hurting,” says Cindy Ballis, president of the Mobile, Alabama, company and daughter of the device’s inventor. The Sacro Wedgy replicates the osteopathic technique of supporting the sacrum. 

2. Create Cranial Comfort

Also based on osteopathic techniques, the CranioCradle ($34.95, is placed under the head, neck, and body at specific locations to relax tense, tired muscles. “It provides an extra set of hands during a therapy session,” says Barb Richmond, CEO of Kiss Life, the device’s manufacturer. But it’s also something therapists can use themselves between sessions. “It only takes 2–5 minutes for tissues to soften and release,” she says. “It’s something you can use to de-stress.” Richmond says massage therapists are constantly teaching her new ways to use the cradle. “Now we include a guide with it, showing all the ways people have found to use it for themselves and in their practice.”

3. Preempt Hand Pain

Massage therapist Susan Baer says her left thumb used to hurt all the time, so she’s now given it early retirement. Instead, she uses Thumbby ($39,, a soft, cone-shaped massage tool that feels like a thumb and works like a thumb, but is eight times stronger than a thumb. “I don’t know of anything that concentrates force the way this does,” says Baer, vice president of the Portland, Oregon, Thumbby Company. Used on a client, the device can dramatically decrease the pressure placed on a therapist’s thumbs. And when heated, it works even faster. “You can let Thumbby do the difficult work of loosening up someone’s muscles,” Baer says. But best of all, Thumbby sticks to hard surfaces. So stick it on the wall at the right height, then just turn around and massage your own back. 

4. Get the Points

Similar to Thumbby is the Tola Neuromuscular Release System, which offers three differently shaped points that can be used when lying down, seated, or standing to access difficult-to-reach places. The points vary from sharper to flatter contours and can be combined with angled wedges or a rocking base to vary the angle and height of pressure application. The complete set is $39.99 at

5. Go Golfing

Rolling around on a golf ball is great therapy for sore muscles. It’s just the right size and shape. But a golf ball can be hard on a therapist’s hands, so Heather Karr ( created a device that holds a golf ball and allows the therapist to control it more easily. She calls it the SPAball Kaddy ($14.99, golf ball included). “Even cooler,” she says, “is the KaddyBACK [$12.99].” That’s a cloth holder for the SPAball Kaddy that is slung over the shoulder and allows the wearer to perform his or her own trigger point therapy by pushing it against a wall. 

6. Save Your Thumbs

Eight years into his massage therapy career, Greg Polins developed crippling pain in his thumbs and wrists. “I needed a solution or my career would have been over,” he says. In desperation, he developed Thumbsavers ($14.95,, a flexible device worn over the thumb to help the therapist use proper hand mechanics, thus reducing the chance for fatigue, pain, and injury. 

7. Self-Massage the Back

The Pressure Pointer ($38–$50, is for self-applied trigger point therapy. It looks a little like a cane with a knob on top and is good for self-massage on the back. The device is extendable and curved, so users can actually operate it with their feet. “Since you’re able to relax the muscle you’re trying to treat, you can stretch and move it through its range of motion while you’re applying pressure,” says designer Gary Turell of Wellington, Colorado. “You can’t do that with a hand-powered device, because you’re flexing your muscles while you use it.”

8. Scent Your Sessions

Stephanie Whittier, founder of T Spheres ($20–$35,, hit on the idea of combining a massage ball with aromatherapy. As the device is rolled over the skin, it releases an aromatherapy scent, though it also comes as a nonscented device for use with aroma-sensitive clients. “You can use it in your practice,” says Whittier, a massage therapist for 20 years. “It makes it easier to hit those tough points without using so much pressure. But it’s also something you can use on yourself in between sessions.” The ball can also be heated or frozen, expanding its usefulness. 

9. Strengthen the Hand

A massage therapist’s hands flex all the time. That’s why Performance Health’s Hand Xtrainer ($14.49, is so useful. It’s a hand exerciser that strengthens the hand by stretching and extending it rather than flexing it. “Because massage therapists’ hands and forearms are in flexion most of the time, exercising and stretching with the Hand Xtrainer can help balance the muscles,” says Lynda Solien-Wolfe, director of education for Performance Health. “It can help strengthen finger, hand, and forearm extensor muscles, preventing pain and injury.”

10. Find elbow Relief

Hands aren’t the only things massage therapists need to protect; elbows also can suffer. When researchers at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City did a study on inexpensive ways to treat tennis elbow, they abandoned their experiments after two months because they knew they’d found the answer: a ribbed, pliable, 12-inch long bar that users grasp, twist, and untwist, flexing the wrist. Relief comes remarkably fast, helping some sufferers within three weeks. Researchers dubbed the exercise the “Tyler Twist,” after physical therapist Timothy Tyler, one of the authors of the study. The device Tyler used is Performance Health’s Thera-Band FlexBar ($19–$30,