Can This Wearable Device Zap Away Chronic Pain?
Quell Pain Relief Technology
Pain relief without medication. The Quell is an FDA-approved wearable device that Velcros around the upper calf and uses electrical stimulation to purportedly offer pain relief without the innate dangers or risks of addiction that come with drugs.
The science of the device is fairly complex, but the basic theory is that stimulating specific nerves can activate a natural pain-relief process. “At a molecular level, the pain centers within the brain release endogenous opioids, called enkephalins, that bind to receptors in the spinal cord leading to a reduction of pain signal transmission and therefore pain relief,” says Shai Gozani, CEO of NeuroMetrix.
The device uses Bluetooth to sync with a companion mobile app that allows users to dial its intensity up and down, depending on their current pain relief needs. A Quell starter kit costs $250, and includes a one-month supply of electrodes. Replacement electrodes are $90 for a three-month supply.
As somebody who lives a blessedly pain-free life, I realized I was the wrong person to test this product. Instead, I sought out a friend, we’ll call her Pearl, who has suffered from chronic muscular pain since 2006. “I’ve tried a lot of things,” Pearl told me. “Physical therapy, acupuncture, dental appliances, heat, cold, massage, Pilates, yoga, weeks of mindfulness meditation therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, Feldenkrais and similar techniques, changing to a backpack, foam rolling and self massage, regular cardio, stretching, rolfing, a standing desk, switching to a different mouse, hot baths, memory foam pillows, and Advil.” She says she’s seen 10 specialists over the past 10 years, who told her the problem was likely caused by repetitive strain from excessive computer use and sitting at work (in other words: something a lot of us can relate to).
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