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General HealthImportant Concepts

A Few of My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things…

Over the years I have collected a list of items I often recommend that my patients purchase. I’m going to go through a few of those items as we go into the holiday season, because they would make great gifts and stocking stuffers. And there’s nothing that says you can’t get one of these things for yourself! I own every one of them.

I’ve already mentioned Bucky Eye Shades in my blog on Sleep Deprivation. Blocking out extraneous light is a prerequisite to getting good sleep. I have found that I sometimes go through phases of sleep deprivation and that if I can just get back into the habit of sleeping I then go through long phases of…sleeping well! Covering the eyes and blocking out all the little lights (outside lights, car lights, phones and clocks and fire alarms) which invade the bedroom is a start in the right direction and these little eye masks are just what the doctor ordered. They have a fabric bolster around the bottom edge that puts your eyes in a little cocoon of dark without putting pressure on your eyes.

And speaking of cocoon; my second favorite thing, besides whiskers on kittens… a Sound Machine. Block out extraneous noises by using a fan, but if your fan is too quiet, then try this sound machine. I have a home version and of even greater importance, a travelling version. Hotels come with a lot of noise. The AC unit is always going off and on and the wedding party is up until all hours of the night.

It’s hard to get to your back to rub it. Buy a box of cheap tennis balls, put one in a long sock (which you most likely have laying around in a drawer, trying to see if its partner ever reappears) and voila…you have a handy little back massager. You bought a can of three balls and you don’t play tennis since you tore your rotator cuff? Make 3 massagers; keep one at home, one at the office and one in the car!

Next best, next cheapest back massager; The Backnobber.

What they do
They smile in your face
All the time they want to take your place.
The back knobbers.

Well, it’s not quite like that, but every time I say the word “back knobbers.” I want to sing that song. And I’ll bet you’re singing it now, aren’t you? And it got you to quit singing “raindrops on roses…”

So these little handy gadgets can deliver a powerful punch to that burning spot just to the inside of your shoulder blade. It’s impossible to reach without tearing your rotator cuff, so now you don’t have to. The tennis balls can accomplish the same thing, but I like to have a little armamentarium of things to relieve the pain…other than narcotics, that is.

I send patients to the store to buy Tulis Heel Cups  all the time. It’s nice to cushion your little heels. They take a beating. As we age, the fat pad on the bottom of our heels gets squished. Ever notice a baby’s heel compared to your mom’s. The baby’s heel is round. After forty, our heels begin to flatten. Hello gravity. Tulis heel cups are useful for plantar fasciitis, heel pain in kids (Sever’s disease) and Achilles tendonitis (they lift the heel a little bit, so they take a little tension of the tendon). But once you use them, you might not want to give them up.

I know a lot of people who either can’t, or find it difficult to put on their own socks. Why bother? Get a Sock Donner. And this one is without comparison.  It looks bulky, but you can tuck it in the corner of a suitcase and stuff your stuff around it and that way you can even travel with it. This is a must have for anyone who has had a total hip replacement and for anyone who either grimaces or gets short of breath when they reach down to put on their socks. It also saves your hands from that hard task as well. This is a great gift for anyone over 60.

Save your hands. Use Jar Openers even if you don’t need to. These are cheap, easy and they work. Get a half dozen of these and use them for stocking gifts. And don’t forget to knock the sides of the jar against the counter top first.

Make any bed into a sleep haven by adding a 2”-3” memory foam Mattress Topper. You spend more time in your bed than any other single place. I always recommend buying the most expensive mattress you can afford, but this is the next best thing and at a fraction of the cost. Don’t forget to buy deeper sheets to accommodate it.

If you can, for a moment and for the benefit of your foot, give up on style and high heels, then come over to the Dansko side. As in Dansko Clogs. If you fit this shoe correctly, I think they’re actually one of the best buys around. They’re not cheap (around a hundsky) but they last forever. Because of the wide toe box, it doesn’t put pressure on your toes. For the purpose of foot comfort and health,  I recommend only buying the style with the back, as shown in this picture. The back is not made to cup your heel like a traditional shoe. I know it looks like a stiff piece of leather and that’s because it simply serves as a bolster to keep the shoe from sliding off in mid-stance. Fit the shoe with a small fingerbreadth of space between your heel and the back of the shoe and another fingerbreadth of space between your arch and the top of the shoe. That way your foot just floats within the shoe; putting no pressure on your toes or the top of your foot and allowing air to circulate…so they never stink! Try a pair. I personally prefer the red patent leather which I begin wearing after Labor Day. After Easter I start wearing the pink patent.

A large number of the people I see in my office have fallen down! It’s an inglorious way to end up with a broken bone and sometimes the results can be quite devastating. Hip fractures are one of the fastest ways to disability as the result of a fall. But just falling on your knee cap can result in a lifetime of pain. You know I wouldn’t be telling you this if it wasn’t true. Many people resist the need to use a cane, but it would be prudent to use a cane when you are older and have poor balance. But canes are just…well, they’re just…canes. Awkward, ugly, aluminum canes are the ubiquitous sign of getting old. So let’s put a little kick in that concept. Get a walking stick. And better yet…a Collapsible Walking Stick. They’re sporty. They are based on ski pole technology so they just look cool. They’re actually easier to use than a cane. You hold them a little more in front of you than at the side so they give you a better third point contact with the ground. If you’re a hiker, a walking stick is a must-have. I would love for everyone to get a cane or walking stick before they fall. Alas, that is not usually the case, but when you decide you need one, consider the walking stick. Get two. They’re cheap.

Don’t reach for high things in the closet…over and over again. First of all, bring things you use on a frequent basis to a lower shelf. But if you must leave things up high then get a step stool and keep it handy. Frankly I keep one in every closet because I’m too lazy to go to the garage to get one when I want to get something up high or to change a light bulb. But always be safe on a step stool. If you have poor balance then make sure you use one you can hold on to. This particular Collapsible Foot Stool is very handy. It’s lightweight (but strong), and collapsible, so I carry one with me to horse shows and use it to get up on my horses. Saves my bad left knee.  If you have problems with strength and balance, then try a Foot Stool with a Handrail.

People often associate carpal tunnel syndrome with work related, repetitive use, but frankly I see carpal tunnel syndrome in the general population just as much as I see it in computer programmers and secretaries. Let’s face it. We use our hands…a lot. And we use them repetitively. And we live a long time so they take a beating. Anything you can do to lessen the work your hands have to do on a daily basis might make a difference. It might slow down the progression of the arthritis in your hands, especially if you’re genetically scheduled to get it. It might lessen the potential for you to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s something you might consider.

If you read a lot, then you have to hold books open. This can put a strain on your hands. Consider using a Kindle or a Nook. They’re light. You don’t have to hold them open for hours at a time. They’re also easy on the eyes.

If you read in bed, consider plopping that Kindle on a Book Rest and keeping your arms free to rest. Even the pressure of the bed against your bent elbow can also irritate nerves in the arm.

Book RestI started using this little combination of bookrest pillow and Kindle and within a week my carpal tunnel syndrome had improved. I am no longer waking up in the middle of the night with numb hands. I’m not saying this is a “cure” for carpal tunnel syndrome. It just helps if you’re reading a lot in bed.  And as I’ve said before, anything you can do to lessen some of the unnecessary stresses on your joints is all good in my book.

It’s always good to have ice packs and heating pads around. Just for the record, I think ice is best for acute injuries and acute onset of pain. Heat works well for more chronic conditions, like arthritis. But also for the record; you can’t argue with using whatever temperature feels best. You can always pack a bunch of ice in a baggy and you can always heat up a moistened towel in the microwave. It’s easy to slap those things on an ankle or a knee. But it’s a bugger bear to try to keep anything sitting on top of your shoulder. A patient recommended this Shoulder Wrap.  It’s got options for heat and cold.

If you have a hard time working at a bench or in your kitchen because the surface is too high (maybe you’re short or maybe you have a problem with your rotator cuff), by simply elevating your walking surface, you can diminish the stresses on your shoulders. This concept is the opposite of lowering your computer keypad. Lift yourself instead. But it’s probably not best to use a simple step stool. It’s not a large surface and you’ll find yourself stepping on and off it too much. Try one of these Step Bench aerobics platforms. You can adjust them for the best height and it gives you a little more room to move about. I picked this one because I used to own a set (remember…no more bench step aerobics for me). I know it to be of good quality and it has a nice rubber surface. There are other cheaper brands and they would all serve the same purpose. Start with the shortest step and work your way up to the most comfortable height, depending on how short or sore you are.