LAS VEGAS -- Some chronic pain is so bad, the best way to treat it is with electrical nerve stimulation. Quell is delivering that technology as an over-the-counter device that promises to relieve nerve-related pain in as little as 15 minutes.
Quell uses Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation technology, known as TENS. (Many women looking for relief during labor have joyfully used the same tech.) Once the passport-size device is strapped to the back of your calf and enabled, it sends electrical pulses to your nerves that signal your brain to release pain-relieving opioids.
In as little as 15 minutes, Quell claims it can soothe pain caused by things like sciatica, fibromyalsia, rhematoid arthritis, knee injuries, sprains, and labor pain (at the time of labor). We haven't yet tested the product to see this in action, though, and Quell insists that the exact amount of pain relief and duration will vary depending on the person and his or her condition.
Opioids released during a Quell session (and with other TENS products) don't come with the addictive euphoric feeling pharmaceuticals often induce, the company asserts, so addiction is unlikely.
Like most other things at CES, there's an accompanying app. It tracks therapy sessions, battery life, and your sleep. It's pretty bare-bones right now, but more insightful features will likely be added in the future. As a bonus, Quell can also track sleep using a built-in accelerometer.
Similar over-the-counter products are already available, but Quell asserts its product is double the strength of comparable devices. It's also the only TENS product that includes an accompanying smartphone app.
This isn't Quell's first product. The company previously sold a similar device that could only be prescribed by physicians. Quell will available this spring for $250 and features a more consumer-friendly design and can be picked up without your healthcare provider's help. After the initial investment, electrode strips will need to be purchased monthly at $30.