Disclosure: I was given a Quell device as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this Quell wearable pain relief review are my own, and I was in no way influenced by the company.
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When my friend Julie over at Chronic Illness Bloggers asked me about trialing the Quell wearable pain relief device, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much. In recent months, I’ve read about several gadgets that propose to relieve fibromyalgia pain, and they all seemed pretty far-fetched to me. From what I’d read, Quell was no different. I mean, how was a device velcroed on my leg supposed to reduce pain?
Boy, was I wrong! I started using Quell on a Saturday afternoon, and by Monday, I told my husband it had already made my “favorite things that I own” list. (Only a few things make that list, like my Roomba and my Tek Gear hoodies.)
I’ll give you a full review further down in this post, but first, I thought you’d like to learn more about the device and how it works, so I asked Emily Adekore, Quell’s marketing manager, if she’d be willing to answer a few questions, and she agreed.
Our interview …
Could you tell us how and why Quell was developed?
Although Quell is a new device, NeuroMetrix is a well-established medical technology company, having been founded as a spinoff from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in 1996. Prior to introducing our first wearable pain relief device in 2013, our primary focus was on point-of-care nerve conduction diagnostic devices. Our core expertise in biomedical engineering has been refined over nearly two decades of designing, building and marketing these devices that stimulate nerves and analyze nerve response for diagnostic[s] and was key to being able to design a therapeutic device to meet the needs of the 100 million Americans with chronic pain.
Who is Quell designed for?
Quell is broadly indicated for the relief of chronic pain. We’re hearing from patients with a wide variety of chronic pain conditions who have reported experiencing relief with Quell.
In simple terms, how does Quell work?
Quell is designed to be worn 1-2 inches below the knee so that it can stimulate the cluster of sensory nerve fibers located there that is close to the surface of the skin. Because the stimulation triggers your body’s natural pain blockers to provide widespread pain relief, you do not have to have the device on the area of the body where you are experiencing pain in order to experience pain relief.
[Editor’s note: For those who would like a longer explanation, here is a short video (scroll down the page a bit) that illustrates how Quell works and a 12-page white paper on the “Science Behind Quell.”]
Can you share any research findings related to Quell, especially those for fibromyalgia?
In a recent clinical study that included fibromyalgia, 81 percent reported improvement in their chronic pain and 67 percent were able to reduce their pain medication.
How long does it take before most patients feel relief, and how long does the reduction in pain last?
Some people experience relief in as little as 15 minutes, but it can take several weeks for people who have suffered from chronic pain for a long time to experience relief.
How is Quell different than a TENS unit?
Quell is a new technology [known as] wearable intensive nerve stimulation (WINS) that is five times more powerful than popular over-the-counter TENS devices. Quell is also the only over-the-counter electrical nerve stimulation device that is FDA cleared for use while sleeping, so it is wearable 24/7.
There are implantable devices on the market that control different bodily functions. For instance, there’s the Interstim that’s inserted into the back to relieve symptoms of overactive bladder, and there’s a device called NeuroPace that’s inserted into the brain to help control seizures. It seems to me that Quell’s technology could be used in a transplantable device for continuous pain relief. Is that option being considered?
There are quite a few implantable nerve stimulators in the marketplace today. Quell employs the same therapeutic approach as implanted devices, but the nerves are stimulated transcutaneously, so it is non-invasive. As is the case with any treatment modality, implanted devices won’t work for everyone and do carry risks. Quell is a wearable option, with minor skin irritation as the only known side effect.
My Quell wearable pain relief review – the pros …
I asked that last question because Quell has been working so well for me that I wished there was a way to permanently implant it in my brain. I know that’s going to sound extreme to some people, but when you live with chronic pain every single day, the idea of having an implant that permanently reduce pain can actually start to sound like a pretty good idea. (I’m pretty sure I’d show up at the hospital tomorrow if such an implant existed.)
As promised, I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of my experience with Quell. First, the pros:
- Like any fibromyalgia treatment, it doesn’t relieve all pain, but it helps to knock it down a few levels. When I started my trial, I was averaging between 4-6 on this pain scale each day. Wearing the Quell device brought my daily pain scores down to about 2-4 during the first weeks of use. My pain has increased to a range of 3-5 over the past couple of weeks, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the Quell; I think I’ve been eating too much sugar, which is a known pain trigger for me. (Those gluten-free popcicles in the freezer keep calling to me!)
- Most of us with fibromyalgia experience different kinds of pain. For me, the Quell has worked best on relieving the all-over body soreness that most people associate with fibro.
- It also helps to reduce the tingling and numbness in my feet caused by neuropathy. If you suffer from neuropathy, Quell is definitely worth a try because it is extremely difficult to find anything to help with that.
- The device itself is easy to use. It comes with a Quick Start Guide with easy steps for setup and operation. Instructional videos, troubleshooting advice and other helpful information are on Quell’s website, and if you happen to get stuck, there’s a customer care number you can call for one-to-one help.
- The instructions recommend wearing Quell at least 4-6 hours a day for the first month. I far exceeded this. Typically, I put my Quell on every morning when I wake up and wear it all day until I go to bed. You can wear Quell while sleeping. Somehow the device can sense when you’re sleeping and will alter its pulsing action so it doesn’t disturb your sleep. I wore it several times while sleeping, and it never woke me. On a few occasions, I couldn’t fall asleep due to increased pain, so I strapped the device on my leg to see if it would reduce my pain and got back into bed. After about 30 minutes of a Quell session, the pain began easing up. It’s enough to help me finally get to sleep.
- Quell has an app that you can download on your smartphone or tablet, which tracks how many sessions you complete each day and how well you slept (if you wore it while sleeping). The settings tab allows you to control your Quell from your phone or tablet instead of doing it manually from the device.
And now the cons…
- At $249 for the starter kit, it’s not cheap. But the company does offer a good return policy, so if it doesn’t work for you, there’s a way to get your money back.
- Quell’s electrodes have to be replaced every two weeks, so there’s an ongoing investment for use.
- When using Quell, you’ll feel a tingling or buzzing sensation on your leg throughout each treatment session. There were times when this sensation became too strong for me, and it felt like the device was stinging me. I was able to tap the button on the device to reduce the intensity of the sensation, but at times, it was still too much. I called the company’s customer service number to ask about the stinging sensation, and the rep advised me to recalibrate my device. I did that a couple of times, but still have the occasional stinging sensation once or twice a week. I’m chalking it up to being some weird fibro thing. When it happens, I turn off the Quell and remove it from my leg for a few minutes, or I move it to my other leg. That always fixes the issue.
- One time I made the mistake of removing the Quell without turning it off first. Don’t ever do that! If you touch the electrodes with your fingers when the device is on, it feels like a doggie shock collar! Ouch!
- I’ve been wearing my Quell for over a month now, and my band is starting to show a bit of wear and tear. Part of the band is velcro, so of course it picks up every little tuft of lint or cat hair (of which I have a lot of in my house). Fortunately, the Quell site sells replacement bands.
Final thoughts …
Overall, I love this thing! If my Quell dies tomorrow, I will have another ordered and on the way to my home by the end of the day. It has been that good for me.
I would have never purchased Quell on my own because I’m skeptical of these sorts of devices. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it because it’s become a great tool in my fibro-fighting arsenal.
Click here for more information on the Quell wearable pain relief device.
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