A new gadget revealed at CES 2015 promises to provide pain relief through technology. The device, dubbed Quell, attaches to the user's calf and stimulates the body's opiate production to relieve pain from various ailments.
When most people think of pain relief, they think of some sort of pill ingested internally, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or similar over the counter product. For more serious pain, there are prescription medicines available, but they can be highly addictive, have many serious side effects, and have a large potential for abuse.
Quell promises an external source of pain relief. The unit attaches to the user's calf, which the makers of the Quell consider a "virtual USB port," and electrodes stimulate the wearer's body to release pain-relieving opiates. The sensory nerves it stimulates send neural pulses to the brain that trigger the release of endogenous opioids, the pain-relief response that blocks pain signals in the spine. The process is called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation technology, also known as TENS. There are already over-the-counter TENS systems such as the one made by Icy Hot, but these are very low-powered and low-tech compared with Quell.
Quell is also much more expensive, but manufacturer NeuroMetrix, a health-care company that develops wearable medical technology and point-of-care tests, is hoping insurance companies will pick up the cost, which is why it went through the extensive process of getting FDA approval. Quell is designed for 24-hour wear and lasts over 40 hours on a single charge. It reduces its power to 80 percent during sleeping hours. It is thin and can be worn under clothes, and attaches to the calf with a breathable sports band.
The device comes with a dedicated app, and costs around $250, with an additional $30 per month cost for replacement electrode strips. Although the TENS system is proven for pain relief, it doesn't work for everyone and because of that, Quell has a 60-day money-back guarantee. As far as the opiates the system produces, they are different from the ones produced when taking pain medication and therefore cannot get the user high, making addiction a nonissue.