accident, back pain, car accident, chronic illness, chronic pain, medical, medical device, medication, nerve pain, pain, pain management, TENS unit
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Thoughts on the Quell Pain Relief Device

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I have now been using the Quell pain relief device for 15 days. Here are my initial thoughts:

  • I definitely notice when I am not wearing it. Last week I was on the beach in Cape Cod with the in-laws for an afternoon, so I didn’t put it on for fear of ugly tan lines. I crashed as soon as I got back to the hotel. My pain quieted within 20 minutes when I started wearing the Quell again.
  • While it can be tolerated on a 24-hour basis, I have been wearing the Quell only during the daytime. My pain is better when I’m flat on my back (once I take some tizanidine, anyway). I attempted to wear it one night and found the vibration, even in nighttime mode, too distracting. On the plus side, Husband could not feel the vibration on his side of the bed, so it won’t disturb any partners.
  • For not wearing it 24-hours a day, the electrodes wear down at a rapid rate. After five days bits of the gel came off and stuck to my skin when I removed the device.
  • Five days of daily wear.

    Five days of daily wear.

  • Closer look at the gel in question.

    Closer look at the gel in question. When the gel ripped off, I would just plop it back on.

    Taken after 15 days of daily wear.

    Taken after 15 days of daily wear.

    Compared to the wear and tear of normal TENS electrodes, this result ain't terrible.

    Compared to the wear and tear of normal TENS electrodes, this result ain’t terrible.

  • Considering that replacements are $30 a pop, I hope that this will be worked out in future versions.
  • While slimmer and more non-obtrusive than most pain relief devices, it is still not small enough to be worn under form-fitting pants without looking like I have a monstrous tumor. Luckily, I can change my wardrobe. I need new pants anyway, and flares are coming back. Today I am wearing it under normal dress pants, and it’s invisible. However, a lot of my wardrobe centers around leggings and tights, which would be impossible with the Quell unless I stretch those out — which, of course, I am willing to do if the result makes me feel better.
  • Not my most flattering angle. But which leg has the device on it? Can you tell? Nope!

    Not my most flattering angle. But which leg has the Quell on it? Can you tell? Nope!

  • When wearing it with shorts or a skirt, everyone assumes I injured myself. The resounding chorus of “What did you do now?” is always fun to hear. Upon reviewing the Quick Start guide, however, I saw that if the skin is irritated around the upper calf, you can also wear the device above the knee once the Quell has been recalibrated for the new position. This makes it easier to hide. I do not know if this alternative position makes the treatment less effective.
  • I have become extremely adept at internally timing the 60-minute intervals. The device switches on for 60 minutes and off for 60 minutes in order for the patient not to develop a tolerance. Once I hit 50 minutes of the “off” phase, I start checking the iPhone app repeatedly in order to see when the next treatment will start.
  • I am taking fewer ibuprofen each day; within four days, I had cut the number of over-the-counter pills I take in half. My esophageal tract is thanking me.

All in all, I am giving the Quell a gold star. Anything that helps me get through my already difficult work day is fine by me. This is less conspicuous than other TENS units, and I feel it is far more effective (for me, anyway).

I was finally able to find a section of Quell’s website called “The Science Behind Quell,” which is a fascinating read.

From what I understand, when TENS units were introduced in the 1970s, they were originally used to determine which patients would respond best to implantable nerve stimulators. Their overwhelmingly positive reception indicated that there was a need for these intensive nerve stimulators, though not everyone was a candidate for the surgery. This led to wearable intensive nerve stimulation, or WINS.

WINS follows the “Pain Gate” theory, which states that peripheral nerve stimulation closes a gate in the spinal cord and blocks off pain.  As the report said,

[a]lthough it is activated by localized peripheral nerve stimulation, the descending pain inhibition system has analgesic effects that may extend beyond the stimulation site to provide broad pain relief.

Simply put, even though the device is placed on the calf (“My calf doesn’t hurt,” you might think), the pain gate theory means that it can still produce a calming, opioid-like effect on the rest of the body by using “endogenous opioids,” or naturally-occurring opioids in the body.  They work through a different opioid receptor in the body than prescription drugs do. That being said, if someone has developed a tolerance to Vicodin, for instance, they might respond favorably to a WINS device because it works through a different receptor in the body.

I am responding favorably to the Quell. Recently I was having a bad day and had to take half a Vicodin for the first time in a long while. As that familiar opioid sensation flowed through my body, I compared it to the Quell. The pill took effect faster, but it did not last. I felt lazy and tired, just a lump in a recliner. I was useless. Though it calmed my pain, it also made me not care about it. Or anything else, really.

The Quell lets me function without compromising my brain. I have more energy to get through the day. I can think. It doesn’t take care of all the pain, not by a long shot, but it takes care of enough of the pain that I can pretend to be a real human being. And for now, that is enough.

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10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on the Quell Pain Relief Device | sunontiepost

    • ernest quiggins. says

      . i wory about I am getting ready to get one thes Quell pain relief starter kits.but i worry
      about the pads not lasting as long as Quell saids it should. may be the price should be
      a lettle less, more like $ 20 dollars. also i read the strap that holds ihe pads doesnt
      hold up.quell says they have a better one now. how will i know if i am getting the new
      strap, not the old one. i am retired.an dont have as much monery.O by the way i seen
      an Add that said a SAID A SPRAY CALLED THERA SONIC, THAT WILL INCREASES
      THE LIFE OF YOUR PADS. THERA SONIC i hope this will help some one.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Pain News Network: The Quell Pain Relief Device | Wear, Tear, & Care

  3. JIM BOWLING says

    I HAVE BEEN USING FOR 4 WEEKS AND THIS THING WORKS.THE ELECTRODE ARE THE DOWN FALL AS I HAVN’T BEEN ABLE TO USE ONE MORE THAN 7 DAYS,TrIed the electrode gel and that didn’t work,IF ANYONE HAS ANY IDEAS PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

    Like

    • Hi Jim — have you tried also using some kind of skin lotion as well? I found that having really dry skin would dry out the electrodes, if that made any sense. That made them not last as long. I got a coconut oil lotion, and that’s been a huge help. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just some CVS off-brand whatever kind works fine. Maybe that would be a place to start? Let me know!

      Like

      • ernest quiggins. says

        jim i seen this add about a spray called THERA SONIC that increasses the life
        of your pads. its called THERA SONIC i havent checked it out yet, but i am
        going to type it in an see what comes up.it probely is on one of tenns unit co.

        Like

  4. Thomas says

    Hi Jennifer.. I just got a Quell, and have noticed the same thing. My first electrode has lasted only about 4 days, and I have been using lotion, since I had read about the issue. It’s a shame, because the device does seem to help. If the second one does not last longer, though, the thing is going back to Amazon.

    The electrodes are pretty expensive if you need to get 2 a month. At two+ a week it is entirely unaffordable.

    Looks like they are in no rush to come out with a new and improved version. The electrodes look the same as the ones you show in your article from almost two years ago.

    How has it worked for you over the long term? Are you still using it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Thomas! I actually am still using it, almost three years later. I got the new and improved version a couple weeks ago when I went to the Quell meet and greet. I wrote about it in a recent blog post: https://weartearandcare.com/2017/05/02/meeting-the-neurometrix-team-and-seeing-the-quell-up-close/ They came out with a Sport version of the electrode that helps a lot with the breakdown problem, and I found that they last longer. I usually wear them longer than the recommended length of time just because I’m cheap. 🙂 They also have a new setting on the new Quell where you can wear it an hour on, 30 minutes off, and at a higher intensity. This is great because I think I was becoming desensitized to the old setting, or my pain was just getting worse over time (the latter is more likely, as I’d needed another surgery last year). The higher setting is awesome! So I’m wearing it every day, but not at night. The vibration keeps me awake. I’d recommend trying the sport electrodes and see if you like those. Their customer service team is super, super helpful — maybe they’d let you exchange your version for the new one?

      Like

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