11 Pain-Relief Devices You Can Buy With Your FSA Money

iStock.com/andriano_cz
iStock.com/andriano_cz

Pain—from stress, from staring at computer screens, from heavy lifting and repetitive motion—is ever-present in too many lives, whether it’s in the form of knee pain, hip pain, back pain, or chronic headaches. It may feel like you’re in constant battle with it, tamping it down temporarily, only for it to seep back into your muscles, joints, and nerves. Fortunately, there are a lot of tools available to help you win the war, and your flexible spending account (FSA) can help.

The online FSA Store takes the guesswork out of what you can buy with your pre-tax FSA funds, only featuring FSA-eligible items. Among the products featured are plenty of devices and gadgets aimed specifically at relieving pain—most of them drug-free. And with the grace period for many 2018 plans coming up on March 15, 2019, now is the time to invest in some of the pain-relief devices you might not otherwise want to splurge on.

Here are 11 FSA-eligible products that can provide relief for your aches and pains.

1. Best Device for Chronic Pain: Caring Mill Wireless Tens Therapy Unit

If you've ever hit your thumb with a hammer and then immediately shoved it in your mouth, you've unwittingly tested what scientists call the Gate Control Theory of pain perception. First proposed in the 1960s by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall, the hypothesis argues that the nervous system can only carry so much information to the brain at once, and non-painful stimulus, like pressure or vibration, can block the body's pain signals. When you suck your throbbing thumb, the non-painful nerve stimulation essentially "shuts the gate" on those pain signals, preventing them from flowing through your central nervous system to your brain.

That’s the principle behind the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit—a battery-powered, pulsing electrode device that you attach to whatever part of your body that’s experiencing pain. The electric pulses from the TENS unit provide the gentle stimulation that helps close the gate, soothing tense and sore muscles. There are a number of TENS devices on the market, but the Caring Mill version is an excellent choice for all budgets. With 15 intensity levels and five pulse modes—massage, acupuncture, tapping, scraping, and combination—it can be used on the back, shoulders, waist, neck, arms, and legs. And it’s portable, so you can take it anywhere.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $35.

2. Best Device for Headaches And Sinus Pain: Intellinetix Vibrating Pain Relief Mask

Doesn’t your face deserve a massage? This wearable, rechargeable device ticks a lot of boxes for reducing pain. Designed for anyone with migraines, headaches, eye strain, or sinus pain, it blocks light to decrease sensitivity and vibrates to enhance blood circulation, while small beads inside the mask create a gentle massage effect around the eyes. And it’s freezable, giving you cooling relief. The battery lasts about 45 minutes, which should be plenty of time to soothe your pain. Since you’re reading this on a screen right now, there’s a good chance you need this mask for your inevitable computer-related eye strain.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $60.

3. Best Device for Acupuncture Enthusiasts: Kanjo Memory Acupressure Mat Sat With Pillow

Yes, it’s a pillow and mat based on the principles of acupuncture, which studies have shown can reduce chronic pain. The raised nodes press against the body in a way that’s similar to acupuncture needles (though they don’t puncture your skin), targeting specific points on the body. While reviewers suggest it takes a little bit to get used to, the pillow relieves neck tension and headaches, while lying on the mat reduces shoulder and back pain. (The FSA Store also offers a version that’s designed specifically for foot pain. ) As a bonus, the set is stylish enough that you won’t feel the need to hide it in the back of your closet.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $80.

4. Best Device for General Pain: Happineck Comfort Bundle

Happineck’s Comfort Bundle is the perfect solution for an empty medicine cabinet. This cornucopia of must-haves is aimed at total body care, with solutions for muscle aches, tired feet, joint pain, neck pain, headaches, and stress. The starter kit features 10 items—including a corn/callous trimmer, a heating pad, an eye mask, a reusable cold compress, and an orthopedic neck support—it’s a great way to make sure you already have the very thing you need when the pain strikes.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $164.

5. Best Device for Insect Bites: Therapik Mosquito Bite Pain Relief Device

Ideal for anyone who plans on stepping outside anytime this spring or summer, this clever device uses heat to neutralize the pain and itching associated with mosquito bites (as well as those of 20,000 other bugs and stinging sea creatures). All you have to do is hold the tip of the pen-like gadget to the area of the skin where you were bitten. In a 2011 study on using heat to stop the itch, most saw their pain go down within a minute, and felt no pain after 10 minutes. That makes this the kind of device you wish you didn’t need but will be glad you packed with your camping gear or beach bag.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $13.

6. Best Device for Muscle Spasms, Arthritis, and Healing: Revive Light Therapy Pain System

Light therapy isn’t just a treatment for seasonal affective disorder. A number of pain relief devices—as well as acne treatments—use phototherapy, too. Though scientists haven't worked out the exact mechanism yet, infrared light therapy appears to stimulate the release of nitric oxide, dilating the blood vessels and improving circulation. Studies have found that infrared therapy can help relieve pain, stimulate healing, and reduce inflammation. This device uses 60 infrared and red LED lights to improve circulation and relieve muscle pain with handheld convenience. Just hold it over sore spots to feel relief.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $100.

7. Best Device for Hand Pain: Deep Penetrating Light Arthritis Pain Mitt

Along the same wavelength, this other light therapy product envelopes your entire hand to beat back pain from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the aches associated with repetitive stress. Despite its looks, you can’t play baseball or take cobbler out of the oven with it, but the mitt’s infrared therapy boasts the same non-invasive, drug-free pain relief method as the other reVive light therapy kit above, with a design that won’t slip off your hands.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $180.

8. Best Device for Kids in Pain: Thermal-Aid Zoo Animals

Regular heating pads and ice packs have nothing on this friendly hippo, which can be microwaved or frozen to give your kiddo some relief. That goes for sprained ankles and flu aches alike—it’s washable, so you don’t have to stress about germs. It's stuffed with corn, which retains its temperature longer than other fillings but doesn’t absorb odors. (Don’t worry, it won’t start popping when you heat it.) If hippos aren’t your little one’s fave, there are also koalas, bunnies, and more to choose from so they can get the cuddly pain relief they need.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $20.

9. Best Device for Pain While Exercising or Sleeping: Quell Wearable Pain Relief Starter Kit

Quell promises a TENS device five times stronger than the standard over-the-counter unit, using electronic pulses to get your brain to block out pain. No matter where your pain is, the device is designed to wear on the upper calf and can be worn while exercising, sleeping, or going about your day. It’s sleek enough to wear under your clothes and comes with an app for tracking your therapy, daily steps, and even how long you spend in different sleeping positions. At least one reputable publication swears by it.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $249.

10. Best Device for Foot and Leg Pain: Ultimate Foot Circulator With Remote

Do. Not. Neglect. Your. Feet. The Ultimate Foot Circulator is an electrical stimulator that targets feet with a moving platform. It sends electric pulses through the bottom of your feet and flexes your ankles for you. It also comes with extra TENS pads for your legs. With 15 presets, you can sit back and let it do its thing without lifting a toe. Keep this device by your couch and pack it in your suitcase for trips, because once you try it, you won’t want to be without it.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $220.

11. Best Device for Sore Feet: Theraband Foot Roller

If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a device for your sore feet, a massage roller is a great low-tech, low-budget alternative. Health experts don’t know exactly why rolling out muscles helps ease pain, but research suggests that it can help increase muscle flexibility, reduce fatigue, and more. At under 10 bucks, this handy foot roller (sorry) is one of the cheapest ways to get a little pain relief in an area most of us neglect.

And if you’re looking for relief from plantar fasciitis pain, the FSA Store also offers a roller just for that purpose.

With any roller, just realize that “Hurts So Good” is a song by John Mellencamp—not the sensation you’re going for. If it hurts badly, you’re probably rolling too hard.

Buy it on the FSA Store for $10.

For even more ideas for how to spend down your healthcare account this year, check out our list of creative ways to use your FSA funds.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

A Simple Skin Swab Could Soon Identify People at Risk for Parkinson's

iStock.com/stevanovicigor
iStock.com/stevanovicigor

More than 200 years have passed since physician James Parkinson first identified the degenerative neurological disorder that bears his name. Over five million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition characterized by muscle tremors and other symptoms. Diagnosis is based on those symptoms rather than blood tests, brain imaging, or any other laboratory evidence.

Now, science may be close to a simple and non-invasive method for diagnosing the disease based on a waxy substance called sebum, which people secrete through their skin. And it’s thanks to a woman with the unique ability to sniff out differences in the sebum of those with Parkinson's—years before a diagnosis can be made.

The Guardian describes how researchers at the University of Manchester partnered with a nurse named Joy Milne, a "super smeller" who can detect a unique odor emanating from Parkinson's patients that is unnoticeable to most people. Working with Tilo Kunath, a neurobiologist at Edinburgh University, Milne and the researchers pinpointed the strongest odor coming from the patients' upper backs, where sebum-emitting pores are concentrated.

For a new study in the journal ACS Central Science, the researchers analyzed skin swabs from 64 Parkinson's and non-Parkinson's subjects and found that three substances—eicosane, hippuric acid, and octadecanal—were present in higher concentrations in the Parkinson’s patients. One substance, perillic aldehyde, was lower. Milne confirmed that these swabs bore the distinct, musky odor associated with Parkinson’s patients.

Researchers also found no difference between patients who took drugs to control symptoms and those who did not, meaning that drug metabolites had no influence on the odor or compounds.

The next step will be to swab a a much larger cohort of Parkinson’s patients and healthy volunteers to see if the results are consistent and reliable. If these compounds are able to accurately identify Parkinson’s, researchers are optimistic that it could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective interventions.

[h/t The Guardian]

7 Smart Cleaning Devices to Help Keep Your Allergies at Bay

iStock
iStock

Just because you hate cleaning doesn’t mean you need to live in filth. You may not be able to buy a robot maid straight out of The Jetsons (yet), but there are plenty of automated ways to clean your house, if you’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars for the joy of watching a machine do your work for you. Here are seven pieces of technology that can help you combat dust, dirt, and allergens at home without lifting a finger.

1. iRobot Roomba

A robot vacuum skirts the wall of a room with wooden floors.
iRobot

The Roomba has long been the gold standard in robotic vacuuming. While it may not be as effective as the human hand at getting into tight corners and over thick rugs, there’s no better way to clean the entire house while you sit on the couch watching television. You can preschedule cleanings so that your handy helper tidies up while you’re at work, and acoustic sensors help the robot flag particularly dirty patches of floor for extra attention. Newer versions are compatible with the Amazon Echo, meaning you can vacuum your home without even pressing a button. The higher-end models offer even more features: Roomba 900 series maps out its route through your home in the iRobot app to give you precise data on where it cleaned and what areas it spent the most time on, while the Roomba i7+ can empty its own dust bin.

Buy it on on Amazon starting at $270. In addition to Amazon, you can get the budget Roomba 675 from Best Buy, Walmart, or the retailers below:

2. Hoover REACT Vacuum

A Hoover React vacuum
Hoover

Hoover's REACT series of vacuums takes the upright to new heights. Outfitted with FloorSense technology, these smart vacuums know when you move from carpet to hard wood to tile, and can adjust the brush speed accordingly: On carpet, it'll use a faster brush speed to lift out stubborn dirt; when you move from the bedroom to the kitchen, the brush will slow down to prevent dirt debris from spreading. The REACT line is also Bluetooth compatible, so you can connect to the Hoover app in order to customize your FloorSense settings and monitor your machine's filter. The icing on the cake (for the pet-loving Mental Floss staff) is its superior suction and sealed allergen system that banishes pet hair from your upholstery and floor (at least temporarily).

Buy it on Amazon ($174), Walmart ($174), or from one of the retailers below:

3. Braava Jet

A Braava jet mops a hardwood floor while a dog looks on.
The Braava Jet 240

While iRobot’s foray into automated mopping isn’t as advanced as its vacuuming products, the Braava jet mopping ‘bot, first released in 2016, makes a decent pass at cleaning kitchens, bathrooms, and wood floors. Designed for any hard surface, the Braava 240 comes with three different settings—wet mopping, damp sweeping, and dry sweeping—and can be controlled using the iRobot app. The petite cube vibrates stains and dirt away using disposable pads ($8 for a 10-pack or $14 for two reusable pads) specific to the cleaning setting. The pricier, newer model, the Braava 380t, has just two settings—dry or a wet—but it can mop for up to 150 minutes on a single charge and is compatible with Swiffer and other cleaning cloths.

Buy it on Amazon ($170), Walmart ($185), or at one of the retailers below:

4. Everybot

A robot mop navigates around a planter in a living room.
Everybot

Funded on Indiegogo in 2017, the Korean-made Everybot packs more power than the Braava. It’s a little bigger and can’t be controlled by an app, but its dual-spinning mops are designed to tackle spills and tough stains across the house with one touch of a button. It comes equipped with six different cleaning patterns as well as the ability to control its direction manually with a remote control. The mopping pads can be thrown in the washing machine or scrubbed by hand. It can also function as a duster: The robot has a handle on top, and you can grab it and run it over any surface, including windows.

Buy it on Amazon for $304 or from one of the retailers below:

5. Litter-Robot

A cat sits inside the mouth of the Litter-Robot.
Litter-Robot

No one likes a full litter box—not even your cat. So unless you’ve trained your cat to go in the toilet, you could probably use a litter box robot to keep your scooping duties to a minimum. The Litter-Robot looks a little like a kitty rocket ship and can save you some major smells. When the cat steps on the sensor upon entering the box, it triggers a countdown clock to the next cleaning cycle. Seven minutes later, when your cat is long gone, the orb-like litter box rotates, sifting the waste down into a filtered storage bin below. You only need to empty out the waste bin every few days as it fills up, and there’s never a smell—perfect for a house with multiple cats. Some reviewers note that it cuts down on their litter-and-dust triggered allergies, too.

Buy it from Litter-Robot for $449.

6. Awair Air Quality Monitor

Awair air quality monitor
Awair

Get to the root of your airborne allergy problem by cleaning up the air you breathe. Awair tracks the five main factors contributing to the air quality in your home—temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels, chemicals, and dust—and provides recommendations for changes you can make in order to improve your air quality. Awair is also compatible with Amazon Echo, Next, and IFTTT, which means it can direct your smart switch to turn on your humidifier if the humidity level drops, turn on the AC if your home gets too hot, or notify you if carbon dioxide levels rise. (The company also makes a smaller version called the Awair Glow that doubles as a smart plug.)

Buy it on Amazon for $163 or from one of the retailers below:

7. GermGuardian 4-In-1 Air Cleaning System

GermGuardian smart air filtration system
GermGuardian

Outfitted with a True HEPA filter, this air cleaning system from GermGuardian captures 99.97 percent of allergens and asthma triggers, including pet dander and pollen, as well as reduces airborne bacteria. Use the corresponding app to monitor and control your home’s air quality from anywhere.

Buy it on Amazon ($148), Walmart ($144), or one of the retailers below:

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