Anyone who has chronic pain – or has gone to physical therapy – is probably familiar with a TENS device (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). It’s designed, as its full name says, to electrically stimulate the nerves for a hopeful therapeutic response. Wearable TENS devices have been around for some 40 years, starting with battery operated models with electrodes that attached to a person’s back to help control chronic back pain.
Quell is a TENS device with a difference. You don’t necessarily put it where your pain is, but where it likely isn’t – the calf of one of your legs. NeuroMetrix, which produces Quell, says it delivers Wearable Intensive Nerve Stimulation or WINS (clearly the marketing department at work here), and claims that, from your leg, it will block pain signals in the rest of your body by triggering a natural pain relief response. You can wear the device strapped to your calf both during the day and while you sleep. Its cycle of nerve stimulation is controlled by an app on your smartphone, with which it communicates by Bluetooth.
The Quell rechargeable device is a little larger than a pack of playing cards, and half as thick. You first attach to it a supplied electrode strip that contains conductive gel, and then fit both around your leg with a Velcro strap. There’s a start button right on the device. The first time you use the Quell, it has to be calibrated to make sure the stimulation you will receive is enough, but not too much, for you. The button can be pressed to increase or decrease the intensity, and also to turn the Quell off before the 60 minute session ends on its own. As I mentioned, there are Quell apps for Apple and Android and you can use them to control the device.
The Quell can be worn at night to not only send nerve stimulating signals, but the iOS app can also monitor your sleep: how much time you spent in bed; how much of that was sleeping; how long did you lie on your back or on your side; how many times did you change position; and what was your overall sleep quality. The Quell iOS app also records usage during the day. The monitoring functions are said to be coming soon for Android devices.
Now the part you’re waiting for: does it actually work to relieve chronic pain? If you look on the web, you’ll find people who say it worked almost immediately, and those who say it did not do anything noticeable for them. I do not have the kind of chronic pain that Quell might relieve – it doesn’t help headaches for instance – so I can’t say if it works or doesn’t.
But Quell’s maker offers a 60-day money back guarantee; so if you try it and get no real benefit, you get your money back.
The Quell starter kit is available on Amazon.com for $250. You have to replace the electrode pads about once a month, and a set costs $30.