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Help take the edge off
Whether it's back pain, achy knees, a throbbing hip, muscle pain, or migraines that won't quit, most of the year you can only sympathize with people who are in pain.
But on holidays and special occasions, you have a chance to give gifts and gadgets that take the edge off—whether it's for people who need occasional pain relief or for those who need help year-round.
And there are a lot of them. Nearly one-third of Americans have experienced chronic pain or have a chronic pain condition. Here are a few gifts that can help them out.
Serta Supreme Memory Foam standard pillow
Nearly all people who have fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by fatigue and muscle pain, say they have problems sleeping, according to a 2007 study.
This could be for a variety of reasons, but the support from this pillow ($35-45, amazon.com) will at least help eliminate neck and back pain that may be keeping them awake.
Shiatsu massaging seat cushion
A gift certificate for a massage may be a special treat, but a personal massager is a gift that keeps on giving. For full body relief, pain patients can spend some time with one of these seat covers ($20 and up; amazon.com) in their favorite chair.
For smaller aches and pains (and a less pricey gift), check out handheld massagers like the iNeed Neck and Shoulder Pro Massager with Heat ($100; brookstone.com).
Yoga to the rescue
Studies show that yoga can relieve chronic pain, especially in the lower back. However, classes at the gym may not be the most comfortable place for someone in pain to practice.
So, turn their living room into a studio with this at-home workout DVD that specifically targets back pain ($9; amazon.com).
Both acupuncture and massage can be useful therapies in alleviating pain, and both are much more mainstream and accessible than they once were.
Book a session for someone at his or her local spa, or find a nearby acupuncturist at Acufinder.com.
Canes with character
Sometimes pain is bad enough to warrant the use of some less-than-exciting orthopedic aids. But who wants to clomp around in a boring cast or old-fashioned cane?
Broken Beauties makes hundreds of products like cute crutches covers, including one with stuffed animals ($27; brokenbeauties.com), fashionable slings, and cool canes. There's a skull-headed cane ($60; brokenbeauties.com) and a "secret agent" one with a built-in flashlight and pill holder ($70; brokenbeauties.com).
Or check out this exact replica of Dr. Gregory House's flame-patterned walking cane from the TV show House ($30; fashionablecanes.com).
There are no definitive links between eating certain foods and eliminating chronic pain; however, some foods pack natural anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that can't hurt.
The Better-Than-Aspirin pain relief basket ($60, wellbaskets.com) is stocked with pain patients in mind. It has healthy snacks and treats made with cherries and ginger, which have natural anti-inflammatory properties. (Read more on how food can affect pain.)
For the chronic pain patient stuck at a desk all day, the type of chair he or she sits in can make a big difference.
The ergonomic design of the BalanceBall chair ($80, gaiam.com) provides ample back support while encouraging users to strengthen core musclesanother key in eliminating back pain.
What could be better for someone who gets the occasionalor even frequentcrushing headache?
Try an eye mask that can be either heated or cooled, such as the Comfort Pak Eye Mask** or a gel-filled version, such as this mask ($2; massagewarehouse.com).
**This product is no longer available. Try this Thera Pearl Eye-ssential Mask ($9; amazon.com)
A "hot" hot water bottle
There's nothing better for achy muscle relief than a hot water bottle. But the ordinary drugstore variety is, well, a little ordinary.
**The item pictured is no longer available at Pottery Barn.