I developed carpal tunnel when I was in my third trimester: a time when the condition, to literally add insult to injury, goes by the unfortunate name of mommy thumb. Poor computer posture and too-frequent texting coupled with pregnancy’s hormonal fluctuations and water weight created a perfect storm for nerve tension. I experienced it as a dull, nearly constant pain radiating from the tips of my thumbs up the length of my forearms.
I tried many remedies: ice packs, heat pads, physical therapy, wrist braces, acupuncture. They all helped — a bit — but if there was one thing I found to be indispensable for tempering the pain, it was this oddly shaped massager. The strange tool is made by an under-the-radar ecofriendly Taiwanese ceramic brand called Acera Liven, and it came recommended to me by my acupuncturist, Sandra Chiu (her Williamsburg studio Lanshin is its only North American distributor). Chiu had been turned onto the massager by our mutual friend Aya, who had received one as a gift from her baby nurse. When she began suggesting it to patients with chronic headaches and migraines to help soften tension, she says, “They reported that regular use really helped reduce the frequency and intensity of their headaches.” And so, it also seemed like a natural fit for the tensions associated with pregnancy.
How it works: You simply fill the vessel with hot water, plop the silicon cover back on, then rub the octagonal humps (which are, admittedly, faintly breast-like) of the glazed ceramic base, now a soothingly warm temperature, across any areas of discomfort. The philosophy, Chiu explains, is this: The porcelain is glazed with crushed tourmaline crystal, which emits infrared heat energy, and that penetrates into the body’s tissue to aid circulation. Infrared heat also just feels really good (see infrared saunas). I used it regularly, methodically rubbing it from wrist to elbow in five minute stretches a few times a day for relief.
My carpal tunnel would eventually pass six months postpartum. But then, convinced of the massager’s powers, I started to use it elsewhere. Turns out, it works wonders on tight, post-workout calves; loosens shoulders that have spent too much time hunched over computers; and, while this may only be applicable to some, it also helps clear up clogged milk ducts. Oh, and the silicon top does double duty as a teething toy.
According to Chiu, she’s also found it effective in massaging out congestion in the skin of her patients with acne–”especially those hard, stubborn cysts.” And she believes it can help stave off a cold: “If your neck feels extra stiff and your nose starts to get congested or runny,” she says, “try using it to massage your neck from back to front.” The final bonus for me is the massager’s oddball design; like something Delia Deetz (after whom, as a rule, I would model many sartorial choices) would have perched on her bedside table. I find it appealing simply as an object.
Other Strategist-Approved Massage Tools
If you, like Fiorella, are experiencing hand pain, this manual massage ball provides expert-recommended muscle relief, and it can be used on your hands, feet, and back.
This shiatsu foot massager is such a perennial favorite among Strategist readers and editors that it’s featured on our greatest-hits list of the most giftable items. Plus, we specifically recommend it as a great gift for moms who are always asking for foot rubs.
Another one of the best massage devices on the Strategist is this Black & Decker power tool, which Maggie Coughlan says soothes body-wide tension. If you don’t believe her just read what the folks on Reddit have to say, or trust your fellow Strategist readers.
Many Amazon customers report that this heated back and neck massager has replaced their massage therapists for the mere price of $50.
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