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Tom's Guide 03/18/2017

Pain Relief Tech Sounds Great, Does It Work?

As anyone who suffers from chronic pain knows, finding a “cure” or even just a bit of relief can feel like an endless challenge. Sometimes, medications, physical therapy and even surgery aren’t a cure, but some tech companies have developed consumer-friendly devices that they say can help.

So how well do these devices really work? I have been dealing with chronic pain on the left side of my upper back for several months, so I tried several pain-relief devices to see if they would help.

The Quell: More Powerful

I also tried the Quell, another TENS device. At $249, plus $29.99 per month for additional electrodes, this device is significantly more expensive than the Icy Hot SmartRelief device. NeuroMetrix, the company that makes Quell, says this device is five times as powerful as cheaper TENS devices out there.

The device, which you can recharge using a regular micro USB charger, slips into a cuff, and it’s snapped onto the electrodes that stick to your skin. Instead of placing it right over the painful area, you strap the device around your leg, just below your knee, and the electricity should reach wherever it is you feel pain.

It was much easier to put the Quell around my leg than it was to apply the Icy Hot electrodes to my back. Once the Quell is in place, you’ll use the Quell app for Android or iOS to calibrate the device, which basically means that you tap on your screen until you feel a change in sensation under and around the Quell.

When I turned the Quell on, I immediately felt tingling radiating from where the device was wrapped around my leg, down to my toes and up to my back, shoulder and arm. While this felt a bit strange and made me a little anxious at first, within minutes, the Quell noticeably alleviated my pain without causing discomfort, unlike the Icy Hot SmartRelief device. I felt better within minutes of putting the Quell on, and I kept it on for about half an hour with no problem.

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