Health

Could A Wearable, Drug-Free Pain-Relief Device Really Work?

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Nobody wants to hurt. But not everyone is eager to gobble painkillers to feel better. A company called NeuroMetrix Inc. hopes to solve for that with a device called Quell—a wearable that relieves pain without drugs.

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Why we're covering this: 

  • Because a device that could decrease pain without increasing pharmaceutical use could, at least for some people, be a game-changer. 

Zapping The Pain Away

The device debuted at CES in 2015, and by April of that year Quell exceeded its Indiegogo fundraising goal by 388%. Quell looks like a black band that wraps around your upper calf. Once you snap the electrode into the band, it stimulates the nerves in your calf to send messages up to your brain to trigger your body's pain relief system (hello, endogenous opioid system!). Basically, it's a form of TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)—a method doctors or physical therapists may use to deliver a low-voltage electrical current to your pain points. What's different with Quell, according to Engadget, is that it's "able to provide up to 40 hours of relief, while Bluetooth connectivity allows it to pair with an iOS device and to track your therapy as well as sleep quality." You can wear this thing 24 hours a day, and it'll adjust to your pain-killing needs, and even automatically reduces power when you're asleep. The company claims that Quell can erase the pain associated with arthritis, back pain, diabetic neuropathy, and fibromyalgia, among others conditions.

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Let's Read The Fine Print

So, there's nothing entirely revolutionary about Quell as a TENS device. And TENS devices aren't necessarily the answer to all pain relief. According to WebMD, "Although TENS may help relieve pain for some people, its effectiveness has not been proved." The company describes Quell as the "only FDA-cleared, doctor-recommended, 100% drug-free device clinically proven to relieve chronic pain." All FDA-cleared really means for a medical device, according the FDA, is that "the FDA has determined to be substantially equivalent to another legally marketed device." Another thing: Quell isn't particularly cheap. The device itself costs $250, and you'll have to replace the $30 electrodes every month. But it's promising to know that the company feels confident in the device's power: Quell will refund your money within 60 days if you try it and feel it doesn't help your pain.

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Quell: The Drug-Free Pain-Relief Device

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