Title:
Face rest with gel fill
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a face rest comprising an external containment system (“ECS”) having a fixed internal volume that is substantially filled with a gel fill. The face rest may be used alone or may be permanently or removably attached to a therapy table or other apparatus. The ECS may further include an internal containment system with structural extensions forming one or more channels and/or cells, and/or a contoured containment system in the internal portion of the face rest to better accommodate a user's face. Other fill such as foam padding may be included underneath the ECS.



Inventors:
Nikolopoulos, Taline B. (Brookfield, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/225747
Publication Date:
03/15/2007
Filing Date:
09/13/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
5/636
International Classes:
A47G9/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LIU, JONATHAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LADAS & PARRY LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A U-shaped face rest comprising an external containment system and a gel fill, wherein the external containment system comprises an inner portion connected to an outer portion, wherein said inner portion comprises a U-shaped inner top surface, a U-shaped inner bottom surface, and an inner side surface, wherein said inner side surface is continuous with the inner top surface and the inner bottom surface; and wherein said outer portion comprises a U-shaped outer top surface, a U-shaped outer bottom surface, and an outer side surface, wherein said outer side surface is continuous with the outer top surface and the outer bottom surface; and wherein said inner portion defines a fixed inner volume that is substantially filled with gel fill so that said inner bottom surface and said outer bottom surface are selected from the group consisting of substantially flat and convex, and so that the inner top surface does not directly contact the inner bottom surface.

2. A face rest of claim 1, wherein the face rest further comprises an other fill having a U-shape and a top surface, wherein said top surface of the other fill is attached to the outer bottom surface of the external containment system.

3. The face rest of claim 1, wherein the external containment system comprises at least one layer of a material selected from the group consisting of doeskin vinyl, neoprene, silicone elastomer, synthetic latex, natural latex, LYCRA®, BIOCELL®, SILTEX®, plastic and thermoplastic.

4. The face rest of claim 2, wherein the other fill is selected from the group consisting of foam padding and memory foam padding.

5. The face rest of claim 1, wherein the gel fill is at least one of the group consisting of silicone gel, saline, water, propylene glycol, carbomer, triethanolamine, food grade oil, soybean oil, elastopolymer gel, aloe vera gel, glycerin-water based gel, non-toxic flexxum gel, and cohesive gel.

6. The face rest of claim 1, further comprising an internal containment system.

7. The face rest of claim 6, wherein said internal containment system further comprises a contour containment system.

8. The face rest of claim 7, wherein said contour containment system is ergonomically contoured.

9. The face rest of claim 6, wherein said internal containment system further comprises at least one extension.

10. The face rest of claim 9, wherein said extension is vertical.

11. The face rest of claim 9, wherein said extension is horizontal.

12. The face rest of claim 6, wherein said internal containment system comprises at least one channel.

13. The face rest of claim 6, wherein said internal containment system comprises at least one cell.

14. The face rest of claim 6, wherein said internal containment system further comprises at least one vertical extension and at least one horizontal extension.

15. The face rest of claim 14, wherein said internal containment system comprises at least one channel and at least one cell.

16. The face rest of claim 1, wherein said face rest has a U-shape selected from the group consisting of horseshoe, standard “U”, crescent, hairpin, three-sided rectangular, three-sided square, oval and circular.

17. The face rest of claim 1, wherein said U-shape is crescent.

18. The face rest of claim 1, wherein the face rest further comprises a housing.

19. The face rest of claim 1, wherein the gel fill has a temperature that may be adjusted to a temperature to heat or cool a user's face.

20. The face rest of claim 1, wherein the face rest is attached to an apparatus.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a face rest comprising an external containment system that is substantially filled with a gel fill. The face rest may be used alone, or may be permanently or removably attached to a therapy table or other apparatus.

2. Description of the Related Art

Face rests, also known as face cushions, face cradles or as a type of headrest, are widely used to provide support to a user's head and neck during a session when the user is in a prone position, or is otherwise positioned so that the user's face is directed downward. Face rests are used in a variety of fields, including without limitation massage therapy, sunbathing, tattooing, chiropractic medicine, homeopathic medicine, and surgery such as cosmetic surgery.

Face rests may be used separately from an apparatus, or may be permanently or removably attached to or incorporated into an apparatus in which, when in use, a user is in a prone or otherwise face-down position. One such apparatus is a massage therapy table, which often includes a face rest to support a user's head while the user lies prone on the table during a massage therapy session. Face rests are also frequently attached to an apparatus called a massage therapy chair that allows a user to sit and lean forward, with special cushions supporting the user's arms and a face rest for contacting the user's face and supporting the user's head. Such chairs allow for example a massage therapist or tattooist easy access to a user's shoulders and upper back.

When in use, part of a user's face comes into contact with and presses directly into a face rest. A user's face may press into a face rest for several minutes to several hours during a therapeutic massage session or other use of the face rest. The face rest should conform to a user's face, and should support the user's face, head and/or neck so that the pressure on the user's face arising from direct contact with the face rest is comfortable and safe.

A face rest typically includes foam padding pre-formed into a desired face rest shape. Face rests are typically shaped into an overall U-shape (with two opposing arms connected at one end by a connecting portion to form a U-shape), and oriented when in use so that the connecting portion supports the user's forehead and each arm supports at least part of a side of the user's face. An open space preferably in a shape similar to the face rest's U-shape accommodates a protruding or otherwise sensitive facial area such as a user's eyes, nose, mouth, chin. Such open space helps avoid or minimize pressure on these areas so that users may comfortably breathe and otherwise remain prone and preferably relaxed throughout a therapy session. Popular U-shaped face rest shapes include a standard “U” shape, as well as, without limitation, horse-shoe, crescent, hairpin, three-sided rectangular, three-sided square, open oval or open circular shapes (where “open” in this sense means having one break or opening in the oval or circle).

Face rests are usually encased in a fitted vinyl or cloth housing to protect the preformed foam padding. The bottom surface of a face rest or face rest housing (U-shaped surface that does not contact the user's face) may be permanently or removably attached to a flat, rigid base to support the face rest and to allow the face rest to be removably or permanently attached to or incorporated into a desired apparatus such as a massage therapy table. Typically, such base has a shape that is the same as or similar to the shape of the face rest it will attach to. Removable, washable or disposable covers may further be placed over the top surface of the face rest or face rest housing, where a user's face contacts the face rest or housing, so that a user's face comes into contact with a clean cover surface when the face rest is used.

A variety of face rests or similar devices are known to date. U.S. Pat. No. 4,333,638, issued Jun. 8, 1982, discloses a padded, three-sided head support as an attachment to a massage therapy table. U.S. Pat. No. 6,023,801, issued Feb. 15, 2000, discloses a horse-shoe shaped face rest with foam padding and adjustable length legs for adapting the face rest to accommodate a patient's face while medical treatment is performed on a prone patient. The face rest may include a fan to direct air across the patient's face, and/or speakers to conduct musical sounds through the patient's facial bones. U.S. Pat. No. 6,230,349, issued May 15, 2001, discloses a U-shaped travel pillow having a fabric casing stuffed with a solid material, wherein the casing has a closeable opening so the stuffing may be removed or replaced, entirely or in part, to adjust pillow firmness or replace old padding.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,148,460, issued Nov. 21, 2000, discloses a bed extension device including a horse-shoe shaped face rest. U.S. Pat. No. 6,049,926, issued Apr. 18, 2000, discloses a device for adjusting a face rest having a stiff internal support made of padded material such as upholstered sponge or foam rubber. U.S. Pat. No. 6,412,127, issued Jul. 2, 2002, discloses a ring-shaped face rest with bead-filled “arms” for supporting other parts of a user's body. The face rest portion of the device includes a rigid foam padding or an inflatable ring-shaped base with flexible plastic tubes and beads on top of the base. U.S. Pat. No. 5,771,514, issued Jun. 30, 1998, discloses a neck and head support pillow for a supine user having laterally dispersed elongate fluid chambers that may be adjusted with inflatable air chambers.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,783,866 and 4,858,259, issued Nov. 15, 1998 and Aug. 22, 1989, respectively, disclose a therapy pillow for treating headaches with extensions to fit around the back and a portion of the sides of a user's neck and a pocket for a removable U-shaped bag filled with a temperature retaining material. U.S. Pat. No. 5,613,501 discloses a surgical face support device having concave upper and lower surfaces and several built-in central indentations or openings to relieve pressure on the eyes, ears, nose and mouth of a prone patient. When in use, the lower portion of the face support deforms, causing pressure against the side of the face of a patient.

A variety of face rests are commercially available, most of which are made of foam padding. Bare Paws Massage Co. and Massage Warehouse.com advertise the sale of face rests made of foam padding for use on a standard massage therapy table. Some face rests include Tempur-Pedic® foam padding, highlighted as useful because the foam padding has “memory” cells that make the padding more resilient than other foam padding. Also, thin gel face rest cover sets that may be heated or cooled and then placed on top of a face rest are commercially available. Pisces Productions advertises the sale of inflatable face rests for use with a standard therapy apparatus.

One disadvantage of existing face rests is that, with repeated use, face rests filled with foam padding lose elasticity and shape quickly. Over time, foam or other solid face rest padding will compress and become matted down and hard, so that it does not offer safe and comfortable contact with the user's face during a massage therapy or other session. If a hard, rigid base structure is present, the hardened, compressed padding of a face rest may allow a user's face to press against the face rest's hard base structure, potentially causing pain or injury to the user. Use of a hardened or compressed face rest is uncomfortable for the user, and may result in facial injury.

The use of gel covers on a face rest may also be problematic. Gel covers are thin and may puncture easily and leak on a user. Gel covers offer little support to a user's face, so that when placed on top of a compressed foam-padding face rest, the user may still experience discomfort and even injury. A gel cover may move or even slide around on the face rest, or may fit only on top of one type of face rest, instead of working with face rests of different shapes and sizes and having different contours. Inflatable face rests may develop slow air leaks, requiring constant monitoring even during a single session. Also, the interior pressure of inflatable face rests may be difficult to adjust or difficult to maintain; too high or too low a pressure inside the face rest may result in discomfort or injury for a user.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a U-shaped face rest comprising an external containment system having a fixed internal volume that is substantially filled with a gel fill. In one embodiment of the present invention, the face rest is made entirely of an external containment system and gel fill. In a further embodiment, an internal containment system is present, with one or more extensions placed within the fixed internal volume of the external containment system that may form one or more channels or cells, for instance to help hold the gel in place and to reduce gel fill displacement within the face rest. In yet another embodiment, the external containment system with gel fill is positioned in the upper portion of the face rest for the most proximate contact with a user's face (with or without an internal containment system) and “other fill” is positioned underneath the external containment system with gel fill, including but not limited to conventional padding such as foam padding used in commercially available face rests.

The present invention may be used in the same manner, and with the same therapy or other apparatus, as a face rest presently known in the art. Using gel fill in a face rest allows the face rest to retake its original dimensions after a session with a user. The gel fill does not harden and compress over time like a foam padding-filled face rest, and conforms comfortably to a user's face when in use. The temperature of the gel fill may be adjusted by heating or cooling the face rest to provide further benefit to a user. Without being bound by theory, the surface tension of a gel fill may provide superior support to a user than conventional padding, by providing specific point-of-contact support. In another embodiment, the face rest may be contoured to provide ergonomic or other beneficial point-of-contact support for a user's face, and/or may otherwise provide for support that accommodates the individual face type of each user. The outer surface of the external containment system of the face rests of the invention may be made of a material that may be wiped clean and/or sterilized, improving on surfaces such as cloth housing and foam padding that may serve as a breeding ground for infectious bacteria and the like, or as a depository for massage oils or lotions, or the combined sweat and oils of a user's face.

The face rest and materials relevant to this invention and described herein may be made by conventional methods. For instance, the external containment system and internal containment system may be made by conventional plastic or other molding techniques. Similarly, a housing and other materials of the face rest may be made with conventional materials.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings described below and included herein are meant to illustrate several preferred embodiments of the present invention. The drawings are not meant to limit the invention to only these embodiments. Other objects and aspects of the invention will become apparent from the following description of embodiments set forth in the drawings:

FIG. 1 is (A) a top view of a hairpin-shaped face rest, (B) a top view of a standard “U” shaped face rest, (C) a perspective top view of a contoured horse-shoe shaped face rest, and (D) a perspective side view of a contoured crescent-shaped face rest.

FIG. 2 is a perspective side view of a crescent-shaped face rest including an external containment system and a gel fill.

FIG. 3 is a perspective side view of a crescent-shaped face rest including an external containment system, a gel fill and an other fill.

FIG. 4 is a perspective side view of a crescent-shaped face rest including an external containment system, an internal containment system comprising channels, and a gel fill.

FIG. 5 is a perspective side view of portion of a crescent-shaped face rest including an external containment system, an internal containment system comprising cells, a gel fill and an other fill.

FIG. 6 is a perspective top view of a crescent-shaped contoured face rest including an external containment system, a contour containment system, and gel fill.

FIG. 7 is a perspective top view of a crescent-shaped contoured face rest including an external containment system, a contour containment system, and gel fill.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As used herein, a “face rest” of the present invention comprises an external containment system having a fixed inner volume that is substantially filled with gel fill, so that when in use a user's face may press into the external containment system, and the underlying gel will conform to and support the user's face and head. Various embodiments of the face rest are illustrated below, but are not in any way meant to limit the present invention.

The face rest is preferably about 10 to about 14 inches wide at its widest part, more preferably about 11 to 13 inches wide, and most preferably about 12 inches wide. For the purposes of this invention, the width of the face rest is the distance between the farthest outer part of one arm of the “U” shape to the farthest outer point of the other arm of the “U” shape. The face rest is preferably about 10 to 14 inches long at its longest part, more preferably about 11 to 13 inches long, and most preferably about 11.5 inches long. The face rest is preferably about 1.5 to about 4.5 inches deep (at farthest point, from the outer bottom surface to the outer top surface), more preferably about 2 to 4 inches deep, and most preferably about 3.5 inches deep. The addition of a housing or cover or other accessory is not meant to be included in measuring any of these preferences.

As herein defined, “external containment system” or “ECS” is the U-shaped structure of the face rest having a fixed inner volume that contains the gel fill. The external containment system is a thin, skin-like structure comprising an outer portion connected to an inner portion. The outer portion includes in part a U-shaped outer top surface where a user's face will press into the face rest (or into an appropriate housing or other covering on the face rest), as well as a U-shaped outer bottom surface and an outer side surface that is continuous with the outer top and bottom surfaces. “Continuous with” means unbroken, without gaps or holes large enough to allow the gel fill to escape from the ECS, and may include the existence of a seam or change in material or other structural embodiments of the ECS. The inner portion comprises a U-shaped inner top surface, a U-shaped inner bottom surface, and an inner side surface that is continuous with the inner top surface and the inner bottom surface. The inner portion defines a fixed inner volume within these continuous inner surfaces, wherein this fixed inner volume is substantially filled with gel fill so that the inner bottom surface and outer bottom surface are overall substantially flat or convex, preferably convex. “Substantially filled” means that the top of the containment system does not touch the bottom, either at rest or when in use. Preferably, at least 70% of the inner fixed volume of the ECS is filled with gel fill, more preferably at least 75%, even more preferably at least 80%, even more preferably at least 86%, even more preferably at least 90%, even more preferably at least 93%, even more preferably at least 97%. The inner fixed volume of the ECS may be filled with about 99% to about 100% gel fill. The fixed inner volume only relates to the space inside the ECS that may be filled by gel fill, and does not include space taken by structures such as those provided by an internal containment system. Overall, the inner and outer top surfaces of the ECS are also substantially flat or convex. “Substantially flat” means flat or only very slightly convex or concave, with the exception of the bottom surfaces of the ECS, which are not concave overall in view of pressure such as gravitational pressure of the gel above the bottom surfaces pressing the bottom surfaces flat or convex. The inner surfaces of the ECS are in direct contact with gel fill and/or, where present, may be in direct contact with the internal containment system.

The ECS is preferably about 0.7 mm to about 8 mm thick, more preferably about 1 to 5 mm thick, and most preferably about 2 to 3 mm thick. The thickness of the ECS is in part determined by the toughness and flexibility of the material used to form the ECS. Thickness in this context refers to the straight-line distance between a given outer surface and given inner surface of the ECS “skin”, without including any of the fixed inner volume or internal containment system of the ECS. In its most basic form, the ECS is similar to a flexible skin providing an overall U-shape and containment for the gel fill, and allowing the gel fill to provide much or all of the support for a user's face when in use. Preferably, the ECS has a substantially uniform thickness throughout the face rest, so that the outer and inner surfaces of the ECS have a similar shape. The term “substantially uniform thickness” is meant to include natural manufacturing and other thickness variations that may occur when making the face rest, so that for instance a desired ECS thickness of 5 mm is substantially uniform if some areas are for instance 4 mm thick and other areas are for instance 6 mm thick.

The external containment system may be made from one or more layers of one or more flexible materials such as doeskin vinyl, neoprene, vinyl, silicone elastomer, synthetic or natural latex, Lycra®, Biocell®, Siltex®, plastic, thermoplastic, ultraleather, or other materials that will contain the gel fill, even under prolonged pressure from a user's face when a user is using a face rest of the invention, and that are flexible enough to allow the underlying gel to conform to and support a user's face. Preferably, the external containment system is a double layer of vinyl or ultraleather. More preferably, the external containment system is a double layer of ultraleather. The external containment system may be transparent or opaque, clear or colored. Preferably, the external containment system is non-toxic and otherwise not harmful to human skin. The outer and inner portions of the ECS are inherently connected to each other, where the ECS comprises only one layer of flexible material. Where the ECS comprises a double layer, the layers (and inner and outer portions of the ECS) may be connected by direct contact, with or without a substance between the layers such as but not limited to gel, an other fill, a gas such as air.

Similar to the foregoing discussion of the face rest, the ECS filled with gel fill provides the overall dimensions of the face rest, and is preferably about 10 to about 14 inches wide at its widest part, more preferably about 11 to 13 inches wide, and most preferably about 12 inches wide. The ECS is preferably about 10 to 14 inches long at its longest part, more preferably about 11 to 13 inches long, and most preferably about 11.5 inches long. The ECS is preferably about 1.5 to 4.5 inches deep, more preferably about 2 to 4 inches deep, and most preferably about 3.5 inches deep. In the event that the outer bottom surface of the ECS is attached to other fill, as discussed below and throughout the application, the ECS is preferably about 1.5 to 2.5 inches deep and the other fill is preferably about 2 to 2.5 inches deep.

As herein defined, “U-shaped” means a shape having two opposing arms connected by a connecting portion at one end of each arm to generally form a U-shape with an open space to accommodate for instance a user's eyes, nose, mouth, chin. The opposing ends may taper and/or curve toward each other or even touch, but are not continuous with each other and may part for instance when in use to accommodate a user's chin. The open space is defined by the U-shaped outer top surface, the U-shaped outer bottom surface and the outer side surface which is continuous with the outer top and outer bottom surfaces, of the ECS. A U-shaped object of the present invention includes but is not limited to a standard “U”, horse-shoe, crescent, or hairpin shape, rectangular or square shape or other polygonal shape having an open space as described above. Preferably, the U-shape of the present invention is symmetrical, however, so long as the proper support is provided to a user's face with an appropriately sized open space, as discussed throughout this application, the shape need not be symmetrical. Several examples of U-shaped face rests of the present invention are set forth in FIG. 1 and several of the other Figures herein.

The open space defined by the inner arc of the ECS is wide and long enough to accommodate a user's eyes, nose, mouth, chin, preferably like a conventional face rest, and not so wide or long that the face rest cannot support a user's face and head. Preferably, the support is provided primarily by contact with the frontal area of the skull (forehead) and with the zygomatic bones (cheekbones). Due to the natural contour of most human faces, contact is preferably not made with the lower part of the frontal part of the face, or below the cheekbones.

The shape of the open space is preferably similar to or the same as the outer shape of the entire face rest, however, the shape of the open space may vary from the outer shape of the face rest. The open space may have a uniform width, or may have a width that varies throughout the face rest. Preferably, the width of the open space broadens and then tapers toward the open ends of the arms of the face rest. Preferably, the open space has a width of from about 3 to about 6 inches. Even more preferably, the open space has a width of from about 4 to about 6 inches wide at a width near the connecting portion (where in use a user's forehead would be placed), and of from about 3 to about 4 inches wide at the open ends (where in use a user's chin would be placed). Even more preferably, the width of the open space near the connecting portion is about 6 inches, the width of the open space at the open ends of the arms of the ECS is about 3.5 inches, and the width of the open space tapers between the connecting portion and the open ends of the arms, after broadening very near the connecting portion to about 6.5 inches. The open space may have a uniform length, or may have a variety of lengths. Preferably, the length of the open space from the outermost edge of the connecting portion to the open ends is about 7 to about 10 inches, preferably about 8 to about 9 inches, and most preferably about 8.5 inches. The depth of the open space varies with the depth of the overall head rest and ECS, and may vary if a contour containment system is present. The dimensions of the open space are preferably the same or similar to those of a commercially available face rest, so that a face rest of the present invention may be used with a commercially available housing, apparatus and other similar items.

As herein defined, “a fixed inner volume” refers to the volume enclosed and defined by the continuous inner portion of the ECS (having a U-shaped top surface, a U-shaped bottom surface, and an inner side surface continuous with the inner top and inner bottom surfaces) and is available for filling by a gel fill. The inner volume is fixed because the ECS inner portion is a continuous structure that does not include openings large enough to allow the gel fill to exit the face rest. The inner fixed volume does not include space taken up in embodiments having structures such as those provided by an internal containment system, however, the space within for instance channels or cells or contours inside an internal containment system may be filled with gel fill and is therefore part of the fixed internal volume of the ECS. The amount of gel fill needed to fill the ECS may depend upon the physical characteristics of the gel fill used, for instance how dense the respective gel fill is, and the exact inner fixed volume of a given ECS. In any event the inner fixed volume is “substantially” filled when there is enough gel fill present to support a user's face as described throughout this application. Preferably, at least 70% of the inner fixed volume of the ECS is filled with gel fill, more preferably at least 75%, even more preferably at least 80%, even more preferably at least 86%, even more preferably at least 90%, even more preferably at least 93%, even more preferably at least 97%. The inner fixed volume of the ECS may be filled with about 99% to about 100% gel fill. As the ECS preferably has a substantially uniform thickness throughout the face rest, the inner top surface and inner bottom surfaces preferably have substantially the same or similar U-shape as the outer top and bottom surfaces of the ECS. Similarly, the inner side surface preferably has the same or similar shape as the outer side surface, so that a face rest of the present invention outwardly resembles a conventional face rest. Each surface of the inner portion is continuous with another inner portion surface, so that the gel fill is entirely contained within the fixed inner volume of the ECS.

As herein defined, “gel fill” means a gel, gel-like, semi-liquid, liquid or similar substance contained within the ECS. When the face rest is in use, the gel fill cushions and supports a user's face, as discussed throughout this application. The gel fill includes but is not limited to silicone gel, saline, gels found in conventional face masks including water, propylene glycol, carbomer and triethanolamine, food grade oil such as soybean oil, elastopolymer gel, aloe vera gel, glycerin-water based gel, non-toxic flexxum gel (available from Seymour Manufacturing International), cohesive gel, and compatible combinations thereof. Cohesive gel is a form of silicone that, due to tighter molecular bonds in the silicone, is semi-solid. When it is cut it is similar to cutting into a gummy bear. If the ECS or cells of the internal containment system or other face rest structures rupture, the cohesive gel, also referred to as ‘high-strength gel’, will not leak but rather will maintain its shape and integrity. Preferably, the gel fill is non-toxic and otherwise not harmful to human skin, and will not leak in the event of puncture of the face rest.

Different gel fills may be used with different external containment systems. For instance, in one preferred embodiment of the invention the ECS comprises neoprene substantially filled with a saline gel fill, wherein the neoprene has one or more layers that are not more than 4 mm thick, more preferably not more than 2 mm thick, and even more preferably about 1 mm thick. In another preferred embodiment, the ECS comprises silicone elastomer substantially filled with a silicone gel fill, wherein the ECS is about 5 mm thick, preferably about 3 mm thick, and more preferably about 1 mm thick throughout the ECS.

As herein defined, “other fill” means non-gel fills, preferably those that are conventionally used in face rests, including without limitation solid padding such as foam padding, beads, styrofoam padding or memory foam padding such as TempurPedic® padding, and gaseous padding such as air. The face rest may include other fill attached to the outer bottom surface of ECS. In such an instance, the external containment system having the gel fill may be attached to the other fill by a housing or by some attachment system such as a loop and hook system such as Velcro®, adhesive, snaps, buttons, chemical bonding, or other attachment systems suitable to the external containment system and the other fill. The ECS may also include an additional structure, under the surfaces containing the gel fill, for removably or permanently holding the other fill.

As herein defined, “internal containment system” means an internal structure within the fixed inner volume of the ECS that provides channels, cells, or other compartments for instance to control gel displacement when the face rest is in use. An “extension” is a structure of the internal containment system, as discussed in FIGS. 4 and 5 below; a “vertical” extension is a structure extending at least in part between the inner bottom surface and the inner top surface, or otherwise generally extending in a direction that is more parallel to the side surface than the top or bottom surfaces of the ECS; a “horizontal” extension is a structure extending at least in part from an inner side surface toward another inner side surface, or otherwise generally extending in a direction that is more parallel to the top and bottom surfaces of the ECS than the side surface. Extensions may be curved or straight. Preferably, extensions extend from one inner surface of the ECS to another inner surface of the ECS. Without being bound by theory, generally straight extensions will provide more rigid control of gel displacement within the fixed inner volume of the ECS than curved extensions, which allow for more gel displacement. A channel is made where the extensions do not intersect one another. A cell is made when vertical and horizontal extensions intersect and enclose a portion of the fixed inner volume of the ECS.

An internal containment system is in direct contact with gel fill, and may be included in any gel filled portion of the face rest. An internal containment system may be made from one or more layers of one or more flexible materials suitable for use with the external containment system, as discussed throughout this application, as well as from one or more layers of one or more flexible materials permeable to a gel fill, including but not limited to a flexible mesh such as a nylon mesh. The internal containment system may be transparent or opaque, clear or colored. Preferably, the internal containment system is non-toxic and otherwise not harmful to human skin.

As herein defined, “contour containment system” is an internal containment system near the inner arc and open space of the face rest and the outer top surface of the ECS, as discussed for instance in FIG. 1(C) herein, contoured in part to comfortably accommodate a user's face. Such contour may have a slope that is steep or shallow, or intermediately angled, and/or that is multi-bevelled or smooth or ergonomically contoured. Preferably, the contoured internal portion of the contour containment system has an intermediate slope and an ergonomic contour. Any material useful in the internal containment system may also be useful in the contour containment system. In one preferred embodiment, an internal containment system is present only as a contour containment system, so that the inner fixed volume of the ECS is free of internal containment system structures except near the contoured internal portion of the face rest. A contour containment system may be transparent or opaque, clear or colored. Preferably, the contour containment system is non-toxic and otherwise not harmful to human skin.

Preferably, the contour containment system is about 0 to 3 inches wide, more preferably about 1 to 2.5 inches wide, and most preferably about 1.5 to 2 inches wide. Preferably, the contour containment system when present is about 0 to 14 inches long on both sides of the inner arc forming the open space of the face rest, more preferably from about 2 to 8 inches long, and even more preferably from about 4 to 6 inches long. The contour containment system may be about 0 to 4.5 inches deep, preferably about 1 to 4 inches deep, even more preferably about 2 to 3 inches deep. The dimensions of a contour containment system may vary throughout a face rest of the present invention, as desired, and for instance as shown in FIGS. 1(D), 6 and 7. The dimensions of a contour containment system may also be more uniform throughout a face rest of the present invention, for instance as shown in FIG. 1(C). The steepness of a slope of a contour containment system may be from 0 to 90 degrees from the surface of the external containment system, preferably 10 to 80 degrees, more preferably 20 to 60 degrees, more preferably 30 to 50 degrees, and still more preferably about 35 degrees on average.

A “housing” may be made of cloth or vinyl, or another material suitable for encasing the external containment system and, if present, the other fill and contoured portions of the face rest. Materials suitable for the housing include Sierra doeskin fabric, UltraTouch® (a polyurethane fabric), and Tufflex® fabric, all available from Oakworks, Inc.

One preferred embodiment of the present invention is a crescent-shaped face rest having a contoured inner arc as in FIG. 1(C), with gel fill and an internal containment system comprising cells. The top surface of the face rest, including the contoured inner arc, is about 12 inches wide from side to side at its widest point, and about 11 inches from the top of the top surface to bottom. The face rest is about 3 inches high, and has a contoured inner arc that slants for 2 inches at a 45 degree angle toward the bottom surface of the face rest.

The Figures illustrate several preferred embodiments of the present invention, but are not meant to limit the invention in any way from the disclosure of the application as a whole. Similar parts are referred to by the same numbers throughout the enclosed drawings.

FIG. 1 shows (A) hairpin-shaped, (B) standard “U” shaped, (C) contoured horse-shoe shaped and (D) contoured crescent-shaped face rests 10. Each face rest 10 shows an external containment system 20, a gel fill 40, and an inner arc 60 of a face rest 10. FIGS. 1(C) and 1(D) show an angled contoured inner arc 70 made by a contour containment system 72 inside the ECS 20 of the face rest 10. The contoured inner arc 70 seen in FIGS. 1 (C) and 1(D), and other Figures herein, may be used on other face rest shapes of the present invention, and are meant to illustrate some of the ways in which the inner arc may be contoured, and a contour containment system may be shaped, in the face rests of the present invention. The contoured inner arc 70 of FIG. 1(C) is a particularly preferred contour of the invention.

FIGS. 2 to 5 show preferred embodiments of a face rest 10 of the present invention with a housing 80 and a transparent ECS 20, so that structures under the ECS and inside the face rest are visible. However, as discussed throughout this application, the ECS may be transparent, opaque, colored, or as otherwise desired in this regard. FIG. 2 shows a crescent-shaped face rest 10 with a portion of a housing 80 cut away to reveal the external containment system 20 and gel fill 40 of the face rest 10. In this Figure, the gel fill 40 is represented as a shaded area to distinguish the gel fill 40 from the housing 80. However, in all Figures, the gel fill 40 is always contained by an external containment system 20. In this and any other Figure, a cut away portion of a housing, external containment system or other structure is represented by two jagged lines. FIG. 3 shows a crescent-shaped face rest 10 with a portion of a housing 80 cut away to reveal the external containment system 20, a gel fill 40, and an other fill 50 that is all foam padding. The inner arc 60 of the face rest 10 is not contoured in this drawing, but may be contoured, as may any inner arc of a face rest of the present invention.

A preferred embodiment of the present invention is a crescent-shaped face rest as shown in FIG. 2, wherein the external containment system is made of one layer of doeskin vinyl and the gel fill is a cohesive gel (a form of silicone gel that is a high strength gel). The face rest is about 12 inches wide at its widest part, about 11.5 inches long, and about 3.5 inches deep.

FIG. 4 shows a crescent-shaped face rest 10 with a portion of a housing 80 cut away to reveal the external containment system 20 and gel fill 40 of the face rest 10, as well as an internal containment system 30 made of straight, vertical extensions 32 of the external containment system 20, creating “channels” in the gel fill. An extension is part of the internal containment system and, as discussed throughout this application, may be impermeable to the gel, for instance like the external containment system 20, or may allow for gel fill movement between the channels. Preferably, an extension does not allow gel fill to move as freely as gel fill without the internal containment system. In another embodiment of the invention, not shown here, straight horizontal extensions of the external containment system form the internal containment system, rather than straight vertical extensions. In yet other embodiments of the invention, the horizontal or vertical extensions are curved instead of straight, and/or do not extend completely across the fixed inner volume of the ECS but instead extend only across part of the inner fixed volume of the ECS. In another embodiment, the extensions need not be attached to the ECS.

FIG. 5 shows a portion of a crescent-shaped face rest with a portion of a housing 80 cut away to reveal the external containment system 20 and gel fill 40 of the face rest, as well as an internal containment system 30 made of straight vertical extensions 32 and horizontal extensions 34 that extend between and are attached to one or more straight vertical extension(s) 32, so that the internal containment system 30 is a grid with “cells” having gel fill. Preferably, the sides of the cells are at least 1 cm long, preferably at least 2 cm long. As discussed above, an extension may be impermeable to a gel fill, for instance like an external containment system, or may allow for gel fill movement between the cells. Preferably, an extension does not allow gel fill to move as freely as gel fill without an internal containment system. In other embodiments of this invention, a vertical extension and/or horizontal extension is curved, and/or does not extend completely acrossed the fixed inner volume of the ECS but instead extend only across part of the inner volume of the ECS. In another embodiment, the extensions need not be attached to the ECS. Also, the extensions may be attached to only other internal containment system structures. The housing contains both the external contanment system 20 and the other fill 50.

A preferred embodiment of the present invention is a crescent-shaped face rest as shown in FIG. 5, wherein the external containment system is made of one layer of doeskin vinyl and the gel fill is a cohesive gel (a form of silicone gel that is a high strength gel). The face rest is about 12 inches wide at its widest part and about 11.5 inches long. The external containment system substantially filled with gel fill is about 2¼ inches deep, and the other fill, made of standard foam padding, is about 1¼ inches deep. A vinyl housing is also present. The internal containment system is made of silicone shell, and completely contains the gel fill with cells about ½ inch square throughout the entire inner fixed volume of the external containment system.

FIGS. 6 and 7 show a crescent-shaped contoured face rest with an external containment system 20, a contour containment system 72 including a contoured inner arc 70, and a gel fill 40. The contoured inner arc 70 of FIG. 6 reaches, in part, away from the inner arc 60 of the face rest 10, without contacting the outer arc 62 of the face rest 10. The contoured inner arc 70 of FIG. 7 comprises gel fill 40 and reaches, in part, away from the inner arc 60 of the face rest 10, making contact with the outer arc 62 of the face rest 10.

Having described preferred embodiments of the invention it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to those precise embodiments, and that various changes and modifications may be effected therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention as defined in the application including the claims.