Self-care products such as massagers, Chi machines, LED units, aromatherapy essential oils, and facial creams can add great value in establishing a daily self-care routine. Beyond their immediate benefits (e.g. pain reduction, anti-aging), these feel good products can activate the relaxation response of the body when used mindfully and with gratitude and self-compassion.
In addition, such products can be easily combined with self-care mind-body practices, breathing exercises, and even meditation for synergistic results.
We review only products that fit the self-care paradigm and are established by clinical research or substantial anecdotal evidence (long history and great customer reviews).
The Chi Machine is a passive aerobic exercise device, developed and first manufactured in Japan by Skylite Industry company president and engineer, Keiichi Ohashi, in 1988.
In 1927, Katsuzo Nishi created 'The Nishi Health System', a series of six exercises, one of which was the basis for the motion of the modern day Chi Machine. This specific exercise of the body was adopted in the martial art of Aikido and known as "goldfish exercise".
The concept for the original Sun Ancon Chi Machine device came from Japanese scientist Shizuo Inoue, Chairman of Japan's Oxygen Health Association, who studied the effects of oxygenation of the body for 38 years and believed that lack of oxygen in the body is a primary cause of disease.
The Sun Ancon Chi Machine holds US FDA approval as a Class 1 Therapeutic Massager, and is registered as a medical device in Canada, Australia, and Japan
In 2000, the company contracted with Flinders University in Adelaide,
South Australia to conduct clinical trials focusing on secondary lymphedema
and venous oedema of the legs. Results showed a reduction in test subjects'
weight an average of 1.45 kg (approx.. 3 lbs) in 3 weeks.
The results showed that "After a three-week treatment period there were
statistically significant reductions in total leg volume and fluids,
whole body extracellular fluid, weight and subjective leg symptoms."
Muscle pain relief
Increase in local blood circulation and oxygen via gentle motion of the entire body
Stable back support alignment (used lying flat)
Promotes lymph drainage
Relieves fatigue and stress as well as physical and mental tension
Promotes deeper, improved breathing, balance of the autonomic nervous system and relaxation
Here is an informative video from The Doctors Show that explains how the machine works and how to use it
I’ve been using my Chi Machine for thirteen years and find it very relaxing and in the same time rejuvenating. I use it daily, usually after waking up or before sleep, preferably both. There is definitely a blood circulation effect and tension release.
Although chi machines are not extensively researched,
they are worth giving a try considering that Sun Ancon
gives you a two-week free trial. Here is the company’s website.
There are cheaper options that may be worth giving a try
but make sure you get a machine that provides 140 oscillations
per minute (+/- 5) and that the company has good reputation
HOW TO USE
Start with 3-5 minutes per day and gradually increase to 15-20
minutes. Be sure not to jump right up when you finish
but rather stay on the floor for two minutes and feel every part
of your body. The Chi machine sessions are great for combining
with affirmations, mantras, visualizations, and breathing exercises.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
EMS stands for electrical muscle stimulation. Although similar,
the two technologies utilize different electrical frequencies with TENS
being used for pain management and EMS for muscle relaxation/
stimulation. Most units nowadays combine the two.
A TENS/EMS unit is a portable battery-operated device that that can be used conveniently on the go, especially while driving/flying, in the office, and even while walking around. It is great for people suffering from chronic pain (sciatica, arthritis, tendinitis, joint pain, headaches/migraines, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, herniated disc) or those who get stiff on a regular basis due to the nature of their work (desk jobs, driving, nursing patients, job-related stress).
TENS/EMS units work by delivering small electrical impulses through electrodes that have adhesive pads to attach them to the skin. These electrical impulses flood the nervous system, reducing its ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain. The same electrical impulses also stimulate the body to produce natural pain relievers called endorphins. In addition, the impulses contract the muscles to break down muscle knots, alleviate cramps and muscle spasms, and relieve muscle tension cause by stress or sitting/standing too long.
A TENS/EMS unit has controls that allow people to administer an appropriate level of pain/muscle relief. People can achieve this by altering the intensity, frequency, and duration of the electrical current or by selecting among pre-set modes (quality models have between 12 and 24 modes).
TENS/EMS units have been used since the early 70s and are usually prescribes after surgery (for recovery) and car accidents (for pain management). Chiropractors and physical therapists use them extensively and osteopaths recommend them as a natural alternative to painkillers.
A 1997 study of EMS specifically for treating muscle knots found positive results. Several studies found TENS to significantly reduce acute chronic pain. However, research findings are mixed due to the multiple frequencies and modes of use, with several studies revealing no significant effects. Anecdotally, many healthcare professionals have reported that it seems to help some people, although how well it works depends on the individual and the condition being treated. It seems that the technology works well for most but not for everyone, depending on individual differences such as tolerance for electricity, body type, and duration/intensity of use. The positioning of electrodes is another important determinant of effects.
You can find a detailed explanation of the benefits and a systematic review of the existing research here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186747/
I've been using several models for more than 15 years and the technology works really well for me. I always keep my unit in my pocket or backpack and put it on during long drives/flights which is quite often. As someone who works out with heavy weights, I've had multiple injuries such as pulled muscles, pinched nerves, disjointed discs, soreness and muscle pain. My experience is that the TENS/EMS unit reduces pain and improves recovery. In addition, it relaxes my muscles during stressful periods when my neck and shoulders get extremely stiff. Finally, it helps me relax my feet before bedtime and get rid of the restless legs twitching that frequently wakes me up.
I first started my business selling only TENS/EMS units. With thousands of units sold, I've had many customers reaching back to thank me because the technology helped them get rid of severe chronic pain, most commonly sciatica and knee issues.
BENEFITS AND EASE OF USE
TENS/EMS is a noninvasive method for relieving pain and muscle tension. People who experience pain relief from TENS may be able to reduce their intake of pain medications, some of which can be addictive or cause adverse side effects.
The most well-documented effects are for endometriosis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, spinal cord injury, sports injuries.
TENS/EMS units are also convenient because they are small, portable, and relatively discrete. People can carry a TENS unit in their pocket or clip it onto a belt to ensure that they have immediate access to pain relief throughout the day.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS
TENS units have been extensively researched and are generally safe. However, some people may dislike the sensation and find it uncomfortable. Those with very sensitive skin or allergy to the adhesive pads may experience redness.
One medical report states: "Although there is a tiny risk of mild shock from faulty devices, consumer TENS/EMS units are just too weak to be dangerous."
AVOID TENS/EMS IF: You are pregnant, have cancer, have a pacemaker, have epilepsy or a heart condition.
POSITIONING OF PADS
Make sure the machine is switched off before you attach the pads to your skin. Position the pads either side of the painful area, at least 2.5cm (1 inch) apart.
Never place the pads over:
the front or sides of your neck
your chest and upper back at the same time
irritated, infected or broken skin
TENS may be more effective if people place the electrodes on
acupuncture points (see pic on the right).
Acupuncture is a practice that uses needles to stimulate the nerves beneath the skin at specific locations known as acupuncture points. Experts believe that this assists the body in producing endorphins.
One study found some evidence that people who receive TENS through acupuncture points may experience a reduction in pain.
DURATION OF EFFECTS
The duration of pain relief after using a TENS/EMS unit can vary. Some people report that their pain returns as soon as they switch off the device. Others continue to experience an adequate level of pain relief for up to 24 hours.
A 2012 review suggests that the duration of pain relief increases after repeated TENS treatments. However, this repetition can also increase the likelihood of a person building up a tolerance to the treatment.
CHOICE OF BRAND
You can purchase a low-cost TENS/EMS unit ($40-50) from CVS or Amazon but the quality varies dramatically. The battery makes a huge difference with 9-volt batteries being too weak to deliver the desired effect. Additionally, they have to be replaced frequently. Lithium battery units are the best. Consider the quality of the lithium battery as well. The charge should be 20+ hours and the life expectancy 5+ years.
After extensive research of the brands on the market, I chose to work with Hidow International, an American company based in Saint Louis that provides excellent quality and customer service. The difference between their units and most other brands is like the one between a dial phone and a smart phone.
Generally, cheap TENS/EMS units (under $100) either break a lot or do not provide
the required quality of electrical current to achieve the desired effects. Many of them
are not FDA cleared and do not provide the proper electrical frequency that has been
tested to produce positive effects. Basically, you get what you pay for.
Hidow International has been on the market close to 20 years and sponsor the LA Kings
hockey team. Their units are FDA cleared class 2 medical devices covered by HSA/FSA.
I can still get their products at a reduced price and offer the AcuXPD-S model (to me the best
bang for your buck) to clients for $150 instead of $400, including a lifetime warranty.
You can compare with Amazon here.