Do your joints or back ever hurt? These clever things can make you feel much better, according to experts

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

ByChristina X. Wood
Originally Published: 

A groan when standing up from the couch. Getting out of bed every morning, a master class in motivating through painful negative reinforcement. Do your joints or back ever hurt? Whether you worked out too hard on the weekend, have earned your aches and pains through a life well-lived, or are recovering from an injury or surgery, pain is no joke. For someone not in pain, unloading the dishwasher or picking up something off the floor is a trivial task. But if you have back pain, bending over to reach those dishes or lift that dropped item can be a massive challenge, the accomplishment of which involves strong language and a hefty dose of grumpiness. There’s a bevy of products out there that promise to help. We turned to experts to help us compile a concise selection of clever things that can make you feel much better.

Whether your pain is small and temporary or an ongoing challenge, you will want to try some of these non-pharmaceutical secrets to help you get through the day or — hopefully — help to eliminate those aches and pains altogether.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.


This peanut-shaped roller that helps muscles & joints recover

Those aches and pains might not be muscle pains at all. “Our fascia, the connective tissue that functions as an information highway throughout the body,” explains Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, ABIOM, CCMS, and YMTS, “needs to be nourished to prevent and relieve back pain. Unfortunately, with age and inactivity, the fascia can become stiff and cause pain. Myofascial release techniques can help manage that pain and discomfort by stretching and loosening the fascia. To create fluidity and loosen these tissues, I recommend... RAD Rollers.”

These are peanut-shaped rollers, in a variety of sizes and stiffnesses designed to treat specific parts of the body. Choose the one that matches your pain point — upper back, lower back, neck, or feet — and lie on them or roll them in your palm or under your feet. The relief is instant.


These massage balls in different sizes for your hands, face & feet

Bhanote also recommends RAD Rounds, which are a set of three massage rollers designed to release tension in the fascia and other soft tissue of small spaces like your feet, hands, and face. Just roll them in your palm, under your feet, or in small and hard-to-reach areas where you are experiencing pain. “They really get in the areas that I need for a deep tissue massage,” said one reviewer. “I roll the medium ball on the floor with my foot and I can feel it on the top of my foot and even going to the part in my ankle where I get pain. Absolutely love this product!”


The cupping massager that combines suction and heat for fast relief

This heated cupping massager is another recommendation Bhanote. The unique device creates a suction action — like the ancient, deep-tissue massage technique cupping, which uses suction to pull out pain and tension — to stimulate tissue. This helps bring fast and effective relief to sore muscles and stiff fascia. You can choose the level of suction that feels good to you as well as the heat intensity for a customized massage treatment.


This monitor stand that raises your gaze so you don’t hunch

“One of the most common causes of back pain is a sedentary lifestyle which research defines as ‘prolonged sitting both at work and during leisure,’” explains Kris Ceniza, physiotherapist, trainer, and web manager at Knee Force. “There are many factors that are associated with back pain and sedentarism, too — poor posture and muscular imbalances being two of them.”

“The ergonomics of your office and desk is improved if you use a monitor riser or laptop stand,” he says. “Ergonomic chairs, specifically those with adjustable seat heights and proper lumbar and neck support, can help prevent and correct these imbalances by aligning your eyes and spine better to your work desk.”

It’s easier on the spine and posture to elevate that computer screen in order to sit up straight and look straight ahead, instead of down. This monitor riser that adjusts to the height you need is an ideal, inexpensive solution.


A laptop stand for a mobile ergonomic solution

If you work on a laptop rather than a monitor, creating an ergonomic solution is more challenging. The screen and keyboard are too close together to allow you to sit up straight while looking at the screen and typing. But a laptop stand goes a long way to fixing your neck pain. This aluminum stand is a pick from Ceniza and is attractive, inexpensive, and works with most laptops. It also comes in 10 colors to match your home office.


These support insoles that help correct imbalances caused by flat feet & plantar fasciitis

Pain can often be caused by muscular and anatomical imbalances. Says Ceniza, “If the mechanics of your legs are suboptimal, there's a good chance it affects your hip and spinal mechanics. For example, if you're flat-footed, you might also have patellar tracking issues, knocked knees, and internally rotated hips. Your spine may sometimes compensate for these imbalances, thus putting you at a higher risk for back pain. Poor technique and overuse can also be factors.”

Insoles can help with the pain caused by flat feet. In particular, Ceniza recommends this pair of insoles with arch support, which, he says, “help correct foot and ankle imbalances.” They are easy to try. Just trim them to size and insert them into your shoes for instant added comfort.


This stabilizing knee brace that supports a host of knee issues & can prevent back pain

“Knee braces can help keep your kneecap in place while also adding more support,” says Ceniza. This lateral patellar stabilizer brace, he says, can improve patellar tracking, which can help not only with knee pain but also with the back pain that’s caused by an imbalanced gait. It comes in sizes from small to 4X-Large, fits either leg, and is adjustable.


A multi-density foam roller that helps ease pain in just 2 minutes

“A study on foam rollers says they are great for warm-up and recovery because they can help reduce stiffness,” says Ceniza. “I suggest combining foam-rolling with stretching to maximize its benefits on soreness and flexibility. Just 90-120 seconds on your buttocks, quads, hamstrings, calves, and back can make a great deal of difference.” He recommends this TriggerPoint foam roller with a grid pattern that makes it feel like you are getting a massage. Just choose the shape — high points that feel like fingertips, tubes that feel like fingers, or flat areas that feel like a palm — for the best effect.


This big compress that covers your back for hot or cold therapy

“Cold and warm compresses both help with pain relief but in different ways,” says Ceniza. “Cold is numbing while warmth is relaxing.” This large gel compress will do either. Put it in the microwave for heat and in the freezer for cold. It is large enough to cover your back or wrap around a knee, arm, or thigh. “Cold is generally better for fresh injuries while warmth is better for older injuries,” he says. “However, people do respond differently so it's really all up to preference.”


A buckwheat pillow that encourages better spine support while you sleep

“It might surprise you,” says David Culpepper, MD and internist with LifeMD, “but a useful tool for preventing back pain for some patients is something you usually don't see — because your eyes are closed. I'm talking about your pillow. And a buckwheat pillow can do wonders to prevent back pain.”

This organic buckwheat pillow from Pine Tales, for example, comes in two different sizes and styles of cotton casing and is filled with buckwheat shells. You can adjust the shape to suit you and it stays like that, all night.

“Sleep is often an unknown culprit in causing back pain,” says Culpepper. “Buckwheat pillows can significantly improve spine support by providing a solid, stable positioning of the head and neck. With conventional pillows, even if you start out in a good position, your head can gradually sink during the night, causing misalignment of the spine. Furthermore, many buckwheat pillows allow the sleeper to adjust the quantity of buckwheat hulls, so you can make sure that your head and neck are in the best position for cervical support.”


This breathable mesh lumbar support for use while sitting or driving

Consider using “a mesh lumbar support while driving,” suggests Dr. Marla Lerner-Powers, doctor of chiropractic at NeuroBlossom Chiropractic. “This supports the natural curve of the low back, which helps avoid the back pain caused by spending extended time in an abnormal posture. The nice thing about mesh lumbar supports is that they are often less rigid than lumbar supports made from other materials. Some people find this makes them more comfortable.”

This mesh lumbar support is lightweight and easy to install into any chair or car seat — just place it there or secure it with the adjustable buckle. You can use it in your desk chair, car, or wheelchair.

“When you add lumbar support to your car seat, you also need to assess your headrest to make sure it is in an optimal position,” says Lerner-Powers. “You should be able to sit with your head over your shoulders so you avoid strain on your neck. The headrest should not push your head forward and should not be too far behind your head, which puts you at risk for a whiplash injury.”


A nonslip, long-handled sponge so you can reach without straining in the shower

If you are in pain, you don’t want to make it worse by doing everyday tasks that require you to put your injured back or joints into compromising positions. “A long-handled sponge can help you reach necessary places in the shower, limiting bending, twisting, and joint pain,” offers Heidi Huynh, occupational therapist, author of Tools for Independence, and the owner of Ascend Therapy Services. This long-handled body brush has an exfoliating pouf on one side and a skin brush on the other so it’s perfect for reaching your back, feet, and other awkward places without aggravating an injury.


The weird tool that makes putting shoes on easier on the back

“The Foot Funnel is my favorite helpful tool for daily activity,” says Huynh. “Slide the foot funnel over the back of your shoe, and then slide your foot into your shoe without the struggle of bending and manipulating your footwear.” It’s a simple tool that doesn’t require you to bend at all to get your feet into your shoes and it works for people with all sorts of shoe-related challenges. “Where has this thing been all my life?” asked one reviewer. “From a very young age, putting on shoes has been difficult. I finally found a solution to my flat, wide feet!”


This cold compress that vibrates to help relieve pain

“The number one cause of joint pain is overuse or misuse, a frequent problem as the days get nicer,” says Amy Baxter MD, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Augusta University and CEO of Pain Care Labs. “Stretching out before exercise is a prevention measure that busy people often miss. But new research shows that using high-frequency vibration for five minutes on a problem muscle is equal to 15 minutes of massage or 30 minutes of stretching.”

She recommends the VibraCool cold pack with high-frequency vibration to treat everything from tendonitis to carpal tunnel to knee or other joint injuries. It chills the area that hurts while also treating it with vibrations to help muscles relax.


A strap that makes stretching easier & more effective

Thorough stretching is another recommended way to prevent injury. It can also help relieve the pain of tight muscles and fascia. Some stretches, though, may feel challenging when you are starting out. This stretching strap can offer an assist so you can reach your feet to stretch your hamstrings or do overhead stretches that are not yet available to you. It doesn’t have any give and has 10 loops that you can use to hook over your hand or foot to extend your reach.


The magnesium spray that’s a powerful anti-inflammatory

“For back pain and many chronic pains, magnesium is a potent anti-inflammatory,” says Baxter, adding that there are reams of data to support this. “Starting at 250 mg and going up to 500 mg a day helps multiple types of chronic pain,” she says. The reviews of this magnesium oil spray on Amazon support this recommendation with almost 5,000 reviews that said things like, “Years of pain, solved” and “miracle in a bottle for arthritis.”


A weighted heating pad to help soothe neck & shoulders

Applying heat to pain does not have to be expensive. This heating pad delivers soothing coolness or warmth directly to tense neck and shoulder muscles — for under $30. Pop it in the freezer for cold therapy or the microwave for hot. The wrap is filled with clay micro-beads that retain their temperature for a long time, and has a soft, fleece cover that can be machine-washed when needed.


These Epsom salts with tea tree oil & mint for a soothing foot bath

If the pain is in your feet, soak them in a bath of these Epsom salts that are blended with mint, sea salt, and tea tree oil for a foot treatment that alleviates pain — while also remedying fungus, smelling fresh, and making your heels and entire foot soft and relaxed. Over 6,000 people rate this 4.6 stars and rave over how well it works.


This arnica gel that helps relieve pain & decrease inflammation

“Arnica is a plant that has several health-promoting properties,” says Julia Walker, a registered nurse with Paloma Health. “For example, it is considered to have antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.” She recommends this quick-absorbing, water-based arnica gel as an ideal option.

“Many massage therapists and chiropractors use arnica oil to massage muscles as it can decrease inflammation,” Walker continues. “Some studies show that it may even be beneficial for relieving pain associated with osteoarthritis, and offers more relief compared to common over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.”


A TENS device that uses electrotherapy to relax muscles with precision

“Many physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists recommend using a TENS device to relieve muscle pain,” says Walker. “This device delivers electrotherapy to massage and relax the muscles.”

This digital muscle stimulator, for example, can be used to relax muscles, as a treatment for carpal tunnel, for back-pain therapy, and more. You simply stick the pads on the area that hurts and choose from the five levels of stimulation until you find relief.


This soft mat that’s engineered to make you move while you stand

“Products that aim to improve your workspace are important,” says Walker. “For example, if you sit at the computer all day, it can help to have an optional standing desk or laptop stand. Even ergonomic chairs are beneficial, as they may be able to support your posture better and alleviate back strain.”

This comfort mat is designed specifically for standing desks to build micromovements into your workday by being squishy, and macro movements by offering a variety of surfaces to move around on. It can help make it easier to stand longer and to engage your muscles and circulation while you do.


This anti-fatigue mat that provides a place to stand that’s easier on your body

“If you are a person who stands in a small space for a significant length of time — even in the kitchen while washing dishes — you may benefit from a cushioned mat that can offer relief from your feet up to your shoulders,” says Walker. This thick and lush anti-fatigue mat is a favorite at Bustle, and a great option. It is a full inch thick and super durable because the soft foam is full of air cells that make it firm but also soft. It’s nonslip and has beveled edges to prevent trip hazards. Simply wipe down or use hot water and soap to clean.