Gift of Health & Wellness Part 1

Sometimes at the holidays you have to come up with a gift to give. More often (hopefully!), it’s a situation where you want to give a gift. Sometimes we get to drop hints or blatantly tell someone a gift we would like to receive. In any case, most of us would rather give or receive something that is going to be genuinely appreciated, useful, and enjoyable. A lot of things can fit that bill, but I’d like to suggest something of lasting value: a gift that will promote health.

We are bombarded with ads for health related gadgets, gizmos, supplements, fitness memberships, exercise classes, self-help books, and so on, especially as the New Year approaches. How do we decide what has real value? Well, I can only speak from my 38+ years of experience working with a wide variety of different health strategies, programs, tools and such. My favorites and most successful are what I would like to share with you in the next few posts, beginning with two treatment instruments I would be lost without: percussion/vibration devices and cupping.

Percussion / Vibration Devices & Cupping Kits

What I recommend most often to my patients for participating in their care as well as getting/keeping themselves healthy is a percussion device. My second most often recommended tool is a cupping kit. (You can read more about these in my past posts on percussion and cupping). Both of these instruments reflect my bias toward the soft/connective tissues, such as the fascia, being a HUGE factor in many of the problems ailing people today – be they musculoskeletal (knee, neck, back) or internal (bowels, bladder, ovaries). Certainly percussion and cupping don’t heal everything and are not always the answer to every problem. But they are remarkable tools that with a little bit of guidance can go a long way to help with pain and other problems.

Examples of products on the market. On the left is a percussion device with changeable heads. On the top right is a vibrating roller, while the bottom right picture is of a vibrating sphere or ball. Images accessed at

Percussion devices have grown like crazy in terms of popularity and options on the market. While that’s great, it can also be a bit overwhelming to sift through all the options available. That’s why I’ve compiled this section on choosing devices, including a list of my favorite percussion /vibration devices. All are good, but have different features (price, size, power, warranty) that may appeal to different priorities.

Cupping kits are not quite so popular, but still rank high with me. A lot of people are in love with their foam rollers, and that’s great if that’s what works for you. But when the hypodermis (the tissue between the skin and the deep fascia) is dysfunctional, I find that it responds much better to being decompressed (as with cupping) than to being compressed (as with foam rolling). My experience has been that when performed properly, cupping is relatively pain free and can make a very quick and drastic change in tissue tenderness and pain. On the other hand, foam rolling typically seems accompanied by a lot of wincing and toughing it out. I’m just saying…..

Teaching cupping
Here I am working with a patient on instruction in self-treatment using cupping. Photo by Colleen Whiteford.

Remember that there’s absolutely no shame in dropping hints that you would like to receive these gifts for yourself. I’ve never had anyone tell me they regretted owning them. Most of the time the person for whom the percussion device and/or cupping kit was intended can’t get their hands on it because everyone else in the household keeps absconding their tools. If that’s your situation then maybe it’s time for a second device or kit!

Wishing you health and joy,


Published by Colleen Murphy Whiteford

I am a physiotherapist, graduate of Saint Louis University Class of 1984. I married my best friend and business partner, Bill, who is also a physiotherapist, in 1988. We have worked together all these years - an example of God's grace! Together we started Appalachian Physical Therapy which continues to thrive. I am a big believer in the power of touch, the manual therapies, and treating holistically. There are many alternatives to medications, surgeries, and testing, but people are often uninformed. My perspective emphasizes the role of the connective tissues including the fascia. Lack of attention to this structure is the source of many physical ailments - our bodies are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139)! I am passionate about helping people of all ages and diagnoses maximize their health, and empowering them to understand their role in management and prevention of problems.

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