HNPP · Physical Health

Can new technology help HNPP sufferers?

A discussion about how technology needs to advance to fulfil the needs of HNPP sufferers led to me searching about smart new neurotechnology devices available out there. There are some already on the market linking up with apps, morphing into wearables and becoming fully customisable. But do they work?

Quell Wearable Pain Relief

quell pain relief neuropathy HNPP

The first device I came across was Quell Wearable Pain Relief from NeuroMetrix. The US based company claims to be the only FDA approved device that can be worn while sleeping, and says that it can reduce pain at the flick of a switch. It sounds like a dream to those who suffer from chronic pain, who usually end up sounding like a maraca with the amount of drugs having to be taken on a daily basis.

The way it works is that you  strap it to your calf muscle and when the device is activated, and it is said to stimulate nerves in the leg that send signals through to your brain which induce your body to release its own pain blocking chemicals, known as endogenous opioids, which should reduce or eliminate chronic or even temporary pain.

That is a big statement to declare, especially as the creator claims that the device is “FDA cleared, doctor recommended and 100% drug free.” Neuromix also say that 81 per cent of users said they reported an improvement in their chronic pain.

Much like other wearables, the Quell can connect up to a companion smartphone application in order to give the wearer a way to customise their experience and it can potentially even work while they’re asleep, based on customisable preferences.

The difference between a TENS unit and Quell’s device is said to be the fact that it is a wearable intensive nerve stimulation (WINS) unit, which is five times more powerful.

While it is relatively new, meaning there are still not that many consumers reviewing it, it seems that it has begun helping some tweeters:

Pros

  • It can be worn 24/7, even while sleeping
  • It can help relieve some symptoms of pain
  • There’s a customer care number for one-to-one help
  • Easy to set up
  • 60 day money-back guarantee
  • Can be paid in instalments.

Cons

  • You will need a smartphone or tablet, which gives access to an optional app that allows for further individualisation and tracking
  • According to Fed Up With Fatigue, it can take several weeks for chronic pain sufferers to see a difference
  • It won’t relieve all pain, but it should help relieve some of it
  • It is likely to help people differently according to the severity of the symptoms
  • It isn’t cheap at $249 for a starter kit.
  • Quell’s electrodes have to be changed every two weeks
  • Some people may experience a stinging sensation which may need recalibration, as well as headaches
  • Quell’s impact on pain relief seemed to be very treatment-dependent.
TENS Units

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-pharmacological treatment for pain relief. TENS has been used to treat a variety of painful conditions. Clinical trials suggest that adequate dosing, particularly intensity, is critical to obtaining pain relief with TENS. Hence it seems clinical trials continue to support the use of TENS for the treatment of a variety of painful conditions while identifying strategies to increase TENS effectiveness.

Tens

TENS is the application of electrical current through electrodes placed on the skin for pain control. On the normal setting (90-130 Hz), the electrical impulses generated by the unit are believed to block the pain messages being sent to the brain. This belief is based on the “gate theory.”

This theory suggests that the central nervous system has a gate mechanism built into it. When the gate is open, pain signals are able to pass through to the brain and we feel pain as a result. If the gate is closed, the pain messages are effectively blocked and we do not feel any pain.

And while it has shown a difference in terms of pain relief, the effectiveness of TENS on individual pain conditions, such as low back pain, is still controversial. There are lots of over-the-counter units, with many muscle massagers claiming to be one, but the following have been approved by some HNPP’ers.

TENS 7000

When it comes to value for money, TENS 7000 is priced in the lower end of TENS units.

The ever-popular pocket-size device has been around for years, and is most certainly here to stay. The downside is that it isn’t rechargeable.

AccuRelief

The AccuRelief Wireless TENS Electrotherapy Pain Relief has no electrode wires and requires only pushing buttons. It offers 20 levels of intensity adjustment, which may not be enough for some, but it is lightweight.

Cons

  • 30 minute shut off – you’ll need to re-start again if you’d like to continue treatment
  • You’ll have to change the batteries every 2-3 weeks, depending on usage

Most people use TENS machines without experiencing any side effects. The most common side effect is not related to the machine itself, but the self-adhesive pads.

If the pulse is too high or you use the TENS machine too often, the stimulation can cause pain or muscle twitching.

Footbeat

More than $7 million was raised to produce this new kind of footwear. Footbeat is reported to change the method of circulatory enhancement in the lower extremities. The company’s co-founder, Dr. David Mayer, a practising orthopaedic surgeon, says “Footbeat applies precise, cyclic pressure on the bottom of the foot to increase the body’s circulation, improving health and athletic performance.”

The way this rechargeable shoe is supposed to work is that a smart engine in the centre of the insole applies precise, cyclic pressure to the arch of the foot, increasing circulation.

This pump helps apparently plays a role in the venous system, is a transportation network that supplies oxygen and nutrients to your body while also removing metabolic waste.

With Footbeat applying pressure at regular intervals into the arch of the foot, it is reported to create physical benefits. These benefits mimic the benefits people get naturally from increased circulation due to physical activity including increased removal of metabolic waste and increased delivery of important nutrients that help accelerate healing and recovery. The micro-mechanical device can be activated using mobile technology in the form of a remote control. 

It’s still being rolled out so watch this space.

Pros

  • 30 day full replacement guarantee
  • The remote uses Bluetooth low energy (LE) technology that provides a range of six feet while using less power for longer battery life
  • Supposed to massage the feet
  • It claims to speeds active recovery after athletic exertion, helping to prevent soreness and injury.

Cons

  • At $450 for the starter kit, it seems ridiculously expensive
  • Cannot drive with these shoes
  • It isn’t waterproof
  • Takes an hour to charge
  • Keeps charge for only four hours
  • Can’t be worn while walking in water, mud, rain, snow or any outside moisture.

There are plenty more technologies in the developmental stage being produced, which seems exciting for many who struggle daily. But real testing needs to be done on those who have actual symptoms to understand the benefit.

Have you tried any new gadgets?

2 thoughts on “Can new technology help HNPP sufferers?

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