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This bed is my holy grail for chronic pain.
In my last Life’s a Pain column, I recommended some inexpensive pain relief products. Now I’m going to present some not-so-cheap products to consider if you’re willing and able to invest a little money.
These are well-made products designed to last for years. Each item on this list is something I personally use — most of them daily — and recommend.
I obsessively researched each of these before buying, since, like most of us, I’m not exactly rolling in dough (the money kind or baking kind: someone tell me how to make a decent gluten-free sourdough starter!).
I know these are expensive — I don’t recommend these products lightly. I know many disabled and chronically ill people have limited incomes and that there’s a global pandemic causing widespread unemployment.
The stuff on this list is certainly not required to live a good life. These are not products to buy impulsively, but products to consider in your quest to relieve pain.
Maybe one of these pain-fighting doohickeys is the answer you’ve been searching for. Maybe one will inspire you to find something similar (or not at all!) that’s right for your body.
I endorse these products because they’ve made my daily life more manageable. With the exception of the posture shirt, I use them every single day.
Shall we talk pain relief now?
- Good for: Side sleeping.
- Goes best with: A pillowcase!
- Pros: I can sleep on my side without hurting my neck.
- Cons: It’s okay for back sleeping, but not my first choice.
In my quest to sleep soundly and with minimal pain, I’ve purchased close to a dozen different pillows in the last few years.
This is the only pillow that remains on my bed (the rest were commandeered by my corgi, returned, or reluctantly thrown out so as not to fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy). I’ve always slept best on my side, but my joint pain eventually forced me to switch to my back. That was a bummer.
But then I found this! This uniquely-shaped pillow is contoured specifically for side sleepers — and after 21 months, it’s retained its shape and shows almost no wear.
It supports my neck in just such a way that my shoulder doesn’t collapse beneath me. Because of this magical pillow, I can again sleep on my side without waking up to a stiff neck.
- Good for: Foot pain, arch support, long walks.
- Goes best with: Your feet!
- Pros: Comfortable and supportive, plus in 10 color options.
- Cons: Utilitarian (i.e. not-so-fashionable).
I bought these Teva’s 18 months ago and have rarely worn other shoes since. I wear these while hiking, running errands, doing chores… basically every occasion that doesn’t require formal wear.
Before I found these shoes, I suffered from awful ankle, heel, and foot pain. These shoes have greatly reduced that pain, enabling me to go on longer walks and hikes.
Teva’s unique, cushioned Shoc Pad in the sandal’s heel helps absorb impact. They also feature great arch support, and the heel strap prevents foot sliding and toe gripping. The nylon material dries quickly and doesn’t get smelly (I mean, I don’t think my feet smell?).
After 18 months of near-daily use and hundreds of hikes wearing these nifty shoes, they’ve held up remarkably well. I have no need to replace them anytime soon.
- Good for: Back and shoulder pain.
- Goes best with: A soft shirt underneath to prevent irritation.
- Pros: Helps you sit up straight!
- Cons: The tightness of compression takes some getting used to.
This is a step up from the $13 posture corrector I wrote about last time.
I bought this shirt after multiple effusive recommendations from friends with chronic pain. It’s a compression shirt that squeezes you oh-so-tightly from your chest to the top of your hips. It’s especially helpful at combating the hunched-over posture computers and phones tend to cause in so many of us.
The shirt is great to put on when your back or shoulders ache. The compression helps increase circulation and straighten your spine. The mesh vented panels and moisture-wicking material help prevent overheating.
As your body adjusts to your new posture, you’ll likely find your shoulder, back, and even neck pain significantly decreasing.
A testament to this shirt is that I just realized I am sitting up straight with my shoulders back, despite me typing on the computer for hours. After 30 plus years of hunched posture, my body adjusted to sitting up straight!
Invest in your posture — your back will thank you.
- Good for: Reducing joint pain while sleeping.
- Goes best with: The bed frame listed below.
- Pros: Significantly cheaper than most mattresses.
- Cons: You can’t try before you buy.
My husband and I were nervous about ordering a bed from Amazon. Our old mattress and frame were too low and too soft; it hurt my back getting in and out of it.
We weren’t in a place to drop $1,000, so we took a risk on this $300 mattress with great reviews. I’m glad we did. It’s soft enough to mold to and cushion my body, but not so soft that my joints collapse.
It’s held up impressively after 2 years of two people and a corgi sleeping on it. The gel-infused memory foam top layer claims to keep it cool — I’m happy to report that it does indeed stay cool. We flip it once or twice a year and haven’t had sagging problems.
This mattress pairs perfectly with the adjustable bed frame you’ll read about below.
- Good for: Sleeping like a baby.
- Goes best with: The mattress listed above.
- Pros: Sit up and elevate your feet without pillows or effort.
- Cons: Needs to be assembled upon arrival.
This is the priciest product here — and for good reason. This bed frame is my holy grail for chronic pain.
When you have a connective tissue disorder (or any chronic pain condition), you inevitably spend a lot of time in bed. I became obsessed with the idea of a bed frame with an adjustable head and foot, but the $1,500 or more price tag put it far out of reach.
Then I checked Amazon and found this comparably affordable model.
I have been in love with this bed since — I will never go back to a non-adjustable bed. A simple remote controls the raising and lowering of the head and foot. This godsend offers multiple angle options so you can find the one perfect for your body’s needs.
My pain is best soothed by propping up my back and placing a pillow under my knees. With this bed, I sit up and support my knees at the touch of a button. This is especially useful when I’m working from bed on bad pain days.
The 2-year-old version I have has been upgraded to the snazzy one linked below, featuring a wireless remote, USB ports, and a massage function. I am a little jealous as I write this from my wired-remote, massage-less bed. If you end up trying this, let me know how those new features are!
Return if you don’t like it
Don’t be afraid to utilize generous return policies. If something doesn’t work or isn’t as advertised, you are well within your rights to return or exchange it.
Set a reminder in your phone that alerts you a week before the return window closes.
Keep an eye on prices
On Amazon, prices can change hourly, daily, and even from browser to browser.
Aim for high quality
Sort results by highest ratings! Your body deserves high-quality, effective products. I don’t even look at products with average reviews of less than four stars anymore — the risk isn’t worth it.
Ask for help
Do you have friends with chronic pain or the same diagnoses as you? Are you in chronic pain/chronic illness Facebook groups or other online forums?
Ask your friends, both online and off, for their recommendations of effective products for pain relief.
Ash Fisher is a writer and comedian living with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. When she’s not having a wobbly-baby-deer-day, she’s hiking with her corgi, Vincent. She lives in Oakland. Learn more about her on her website.