Quell Wearable Pain Relief- Product Review
I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
Many of you reading this know that I suffer with chronic pain caused by a condition called dystonia. Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder where faulty signals in the brain tell muscles to involuntarily contract. It can cause a host of symptoms, such as awkward, involuntary movements and postures. The most common symptom is pain, which I have spent years working to better manage.
I recently test drove a product called Quell made by NeuroMetrix. Quell is a 100% drug free, wearable TENS unit that uses nerve stimulation to provide pain relief. My experience has been quite good compared with other TENS units I have used in the past.
What is a TENS unit?
TENS units (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) are electrotherapy machines that send stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. This helps prevent pain signals from reaching the brain and stimulate the production of natural painkillers, such as endorphin.
I have used TENS units in the past for various pain issues and they never helped much. They were also somewhat of a nuisance with the wires going everywhere attached to sticky electrodes, with a battery/controller you held in your hand, or one that was mounted on a table if you used a commercial style. The Quell device is different, in that it is wireless and wearable, which make it much easier to use.
What is Quell and how does it work?
Quell is an FDA cleared, wearable TENS unit for day and night treatment of chronic pain, such as low back pain, arthritic and joint pain, nerve pain, leg and foot pain, and widespread pain. Quell is a small, lightweight device that snaps onto an electrode strip, and worn around the upper calf, regardless of where you are experiencing pain. According to the company, the upper calf holds a number of different nerve endings that traverse the body. Quell sends pulses through that area and up the spinal cord, triggering the brain to release endorphin, which prevents or reduces pain signals.
With most TENS units, you put the electrodes on or near the area(s) that hurt. Quell is designed to be worn on the calf like an exercise band, regardless of the location of pain. Therapy sessions last 60 minutes with 60 minute breaks in between. You can do as many sessions throughout the day or night as needed. 60 minutes may sound like a lot, but remember that you wear it, so it does not interfere with any activities. The device is slim enough to wear under clothing and they also have sports electrodes if you are active.
Quell claims their device is “5x more powerful on average than other leading over-the-counter pain relief devices,” and in testing, “81% of users reported improvement in their chronic pain, while 67% reported a reduction in their use of pain medication.”
How do you control it?
You can control the device using the Quell app or on the device itself. I do both, but the app is preferable for me. The app records therapy sessions, pain level, sleep patterns (if you decide to wear it at night), and even the number of steps you take. It monitors how much power is left in the battery packs, for how long you have been using your electrodes, and even tells you how the weather might impact your pain level that day. The app gives you the ability to choose between three different sleep settings and track your overall sleep quality, so that you can personalize your therapy. Quell also controls the amount of stimulation you receive throughout the night, in order to ensure your sleep isn’t disturbed. The only downside is that the app does not show what the minimum or maximum pulse level is, so I couldn’t tell how low or high the settings were. I could only feel it.
Setup and usage
Setting up my Quell was a snap, with easy to follow videos and clear instruction manual. I had it out of the package, calibrated, and into my first therapy session within a half hour. You can calibrate it manually or with the Quell Relief App on your smartphone. I chose to calibrate it on my iPhone so I could keep track of my progress..
My first session was nothing more than a test run to see how it worked and how to operate it. I put it on and did some work on my computer. On occasion I would adjust the settings based on how mild or strong I felt the pulse. Most of the time I didn’t feel much, so I increased it. Truth be told, I rarely thought about it being on. It is that mild and comfortable.
Not having the best experience with TENS units in the past, I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t want to set myself up for anything. That day, my back and neck were sore from dystonia, and the tendinitis in my right elbow had been bothering me worse than usual. To my surprise, the tendinitis pain was reduced and the tension in my neck and back was less.
Subsequent uses have ranged from no change to significant change. I can recall a few times where the pain was intense that I wore it all day and turned it up high. After a few sessions, there was measurable change. I soon got into the habit of wearing it pretty much every day at a low to medium setting. Overall, I noticed a consistent decrease in pain, but there were days I did not notice any change. The reason for this I cannot explain other than to say that we all have days where not much of anything helps.
Quell recommends replacing the electrodes every two weeks because they get worn out with a lot of use. Mine remained in pretty good shape and lasted a little longer than 2 weeks. It also has a very long battery life (I think I charged it maybe twice a month) and charges very quickly. You can also track pain levels daily to see how the device is helping.
Using Quell doesn’t eliminate the cause of your pain and Quell is not a cure, but it can “turn down the volume.” This is probably the best way to describe how it helps me. I can feel a decrease in the intensity of my pain. Only on a few occasions did I wear it while sleeping, and I did notice a reduction in pain upon waking. Most of the time I wore it during the day as I went about my business.
What does it cost?
TENS units run in price from anywhere roughly $25 and up. Most that are worth using start in the $100 range, but if you want a good one that lasts, you’ll have to pay more. Quell is priced at $249 which includes the TENS device, 2 sets of electrodes, wearable strap, and USB cord/plug. The electrodes are good for 2 weeks (I was able to use them for longer) and the cost to order replacements is $29.95, which is a month supply. They offer a 60-day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the results. This risk-free offer is a huge plus because, as we all know, what helps one may not help another.
Quell is safe to use with your pain medication. However, it is recommended letting your doctor know you are using Quell so he or she can develop the right pain management program for you. Quell is contraindicated if you have a cardiac pacemaker, implanted defibrillator, implanted battery (e.g. DBS), or other implanted metallic or electronic device. If any of these apply to you, please talk with your doctor before using the device.
For the rest of us, if you have pain, see if it helps. With a 60-day money back guarantee with the chance of reducing your pain, why not? Worst case scenario is you don’t like it and return it for a full refund. Not a bad deal if you ask me. Any little bit helps when you are living with pain on a daily basis that interferes with your life. I plan to keep this in my pain relief toolbox and continue to use it in conjunction with many of the other things that I’m doing to get the most relief possible.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.