Quell: My Favorite Tool for Reducing Fibromyalgia Pain

Quell: My Favorite Tool for Reducing Fibromyalgia Pain

By Donna Gregory Burch

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Donna Gregory Burch

Since my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I’ve tried so many drugs, supplements and other products in an attempt to find something to dull the pain. I’ve found a few things that help, but the effects are usually minimal. Even opioids haven’t worked for me, although I admit my experience with them has been limited.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to try out the Quell wearable pain relief device. You may have seen the commercials for Quell on TV or had an ad show up in your Facebook feed. Quell is a small, rectangular device that’s worn an inch or two below the knee. It simulates a cluster of sensory nerve fibers in that area and triggers the body’s natural pain blockers. Unlike TENS units, I do not have to apply the device to the area of the body where I’m feeling pain.

Quell is used for the relief of nerve, arthritic/joint, leg/foot, lower back and widespread pain. In a recent clinical study, which included fibromyalgia patients, 81 percent reported an improvement in chronic pain and 67 percent were able to reduce their medications.

I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on doctors and products that don’t really work, so I was skeptical of Quell’s claims. How in the heck was a black box strapped on my leg going to do anything for pain? Well, I’ve been using my Quell device since April, and it is now my No. 1, go-to tool for pain relief. I love it so much that I talk it up to anyone who suffers from fibromyalgia pain, and I wanted to share it with my readers here at National Pain Report, too!

I apologize ahead of time if this article sounds like an advertisement for Quell. I swear I’m not trying to sell you anything. I just happen to love this device so much that I want to share my experience in hopes that others might find relief as well.

One of the things that’s impressed me the most about Quell is how fast it works. Unlike pharmaceuticals and supplements, Quell doesn’t have to build up in the body. The first time I used it, I felt less pain within a couple of hours. Now that I use it regularly, it gives relief within a few minutes.

Quell is not a miracle device. It doesn’t kill my pain entirely, but it does reduce my pain levels, so I’m better able to function. My day-to-day pain level (using this scale) generally hovers between 3-6. With Quell, I have more days in the 2-4 range. I’ll take that improvement any day!

One of my favorite times to use my Quell is while grocery shopping and running errands. I dread doing these tasks because they increase my pain and fatigue. I typically collapse on the sofa after I get home from buying groceries, but now that I wear my Quell, I’m usually able to stay out longer, and I’m not as exhausted or in as much pain when the shopping trip is over. The Quell extends my functionality by an extra hour or two. Even my husband has noticed my endurance is getting better.

I tend to take a more natural approach to treatment, so I like that Quell is 100 percent drug free. There are no side effects.

Another nice feature of Quell is that it can be worn while sleeping. I frequently use it at night when I wake up in pain and can’t get back to sleep. It cuts the pain enough for me to fall asleep.

Of course, like every other fibromyalgia treatment, it’s not perfect. Nothing is! My pain level increases dramatically when it rains or storms. Quell has no effect on my weather-related pain. I can’t seem to find anything to help with that.

When the Quell is giving a treatment, it causes a mild vibration against the skin. Occasionally, this vibration becomes too intense, and it feels like it’s stinging my leg. There’s a button on the device that I push to lessen the sensation.

And of course, the biggest downside is probably the cost. At $249, the Quell device is an investment, and it’s not covered by health insurance. Fortunately, NeuroMetrix, Quell’s maker, offers a 60-day return policy. That makes it easier to stomach the expense. If it doesn’t work, it’s returnable.

There are ongoing costs associated with Quell. The sticky electrodes that help hold the device on the skin have to be replaced. With everyday use, it costs around $30 a month for replacement electrodes.

Over the past few months, the band on my Quell has become stretched due to normal wear and tear. I’ll need to replace my band a couple of times a year at a cost of around $25 each time.

Still, the costs are worth the freedom Quell gives me. If my Quell dies tomorrow, I will have another one ordered by the end of the day. It’s that good!

And that’s why I want to tell everyone in the fibromyalgia community about it. We all know there are no magical cures for fibro, but this little device is the best thing I’ve found so far for managing the pain of fibromyalgia.

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Steve at 3:41 pm

    I tried MSM in a salve, no pain relief. Did you take it as a supplement?

    Everyone should try the Quell IMO.

  2. Donna Rubinetti at 10:29 am

    May I ask what is “MSM?” Also, I may try Quell but for CRPS. Even if it is just a Placebo effect, who cares as long as it works! Also, thanks for the Aspercreme trip. It’s worth a try.

  3. MiMi at 3:24 am

    I have found that MSM supplement found in vitamin stores has probably been the *best* thing that has helped me. I took it in the beginning every day and now I only take it as needed. I also take Vitamin D supplements as well. It seems that most people who suffer from FM have low Vitamin D which can also cause FMers to have more pain. I do think there is NO magic thing that helps everyone…..that you just have to be willing to try different things to find what works for you.

  4. Eliska Adema at 7:14 pm

    Why does no one ever ask if ‘placebo effect’ is responsible for people thinking that drugs help them. I’ve had Quell for over a year and it helped me immediately. I was completely skeptical, but took the risk because I knew I could get a refund if it didn’t work. So I doubt any placebo effect is at play. If I ever think the device isn’t helping, all it take is forgetting to put it back on after showering (fibro fog – LOL) Within an hour, I’m the returning pain reminds me how well it works.

    The biggest disappointment is the sports band, because both of them I have pop off . They’re supposed to be working on a better design, but they could start right away with a better grade of velcro.

  5. Valerie Horn at 6:36 pm

    I concur with every word that Donna said in her article. I have had my Quell since July and I actually have virtually pain free days and am almost the person I was before fibro! If my Quell quit working, it would be replaced before the end of the day. I often don’t have a spare $250, but I would find the funds…..and pay to have it overnighted!!!

  6. Steve at 10:02 am

    Quell is designed to be a band placed on your calf but has body wide effects, unlike TENS, by blocking pain messages at the spinal cord level. As I noted, the free two month trial did not work for my FM but has helped others. I think you need to outlay the $250. or so but they send it back promptly if you fail it. Good customer service, I was very disappointed it didn’t work for me.

  7. HJ at 7:40 am

    I’d like to know how Quell is different from a TENS unit. Why do you wear it on your leg? Does it help with localized pain in your leg or is it proposed to have some body-wide effect?

    I will not invest in a device that seems so similar to my TENS unit without understanding how they differ. I have to remain skeptical of all new medical devices, as I’ve spent a good deal of money on hope, only to find my new “tools” collecting dust.

    One thing that does help me – an acupressure mat. It was a great surprise to me. I use it in bed rather than on the floor as it’s far, far too “prickly” to tolerate against a solid surface. I expect many folks with fibromyalgia would crawl out of their skin, as was my initial reaction. I can’t say that it would help everyone and my problems are not primarily fibromyalgia. I have a torn disc in my back and I have cervical spondylosis.

    The little plastic spikes seem to have a real benefit — for me, evidenced by two things: the warmth felt on the skin after treatment and the redness. Why those two things? Why do I think that’s evidence that “something” is happening? Because it seems to suggest to me that there is increased blood flow to the area. Somehow, that seems to reduce my pain. I think there is a mechanical action as well for the spikes of helping to pressure muscle spasms, sort of in the way that trigger point injections do.

    It wouldn’t benefit all, but it may benefit some. Some folks surely wouldn’t tolerate it at all. Some folks would adjust to tolerate it and even appreciate it as I have.

    Epsom salts are another effective over-the-counter remedy that I’ve tried. They’re inexpensive and widely available. The benefit seems to be relief to my aching muscles that extends beyond the benefit of just a long soak in hot water.

    I also appreciate Aspercreme for my cervical spondylosis. I had a prescription for voltaren gel and I found the Aspercreme more effective, personally. I’m not sensitive to salicytes or whatever that ingredient is — some people CAN be allergic. I buy the generic muscle cream or pick up a large tube from Costco (behind the pharmacy counter – you have to ask for it). I also had a compounded cream with baclofen and a few other ingredients — but I didn’t find it effective. I had a lidocaine cream and even then, I just generally prefer aspercreme.

    I do have prescription lidocaine patches. These help my lower back but I prefer creams for areas that are visible. I ride public transit and I have a concern that someone may see patches and assume I have fentanyl or an opiod in my purse (I do have opiods) and might try to rob me for my medication. I used to use Salonpas and on my bad days, sometimes I do let a lidocaine patch slip out my neckline on my upper back (by virtue of not really being able to reach to apply them elsewhere) so it’s a passing concern that may not be warranted but a concern that crosses my mind nonetheless.

  8. Tami at 11:26 am

    I have fibro. I tried Quell for the two month trial period and it did nothing for pain relief. I question whether some people may have a placebo effect.

  9. Kurt WG Matthies at 12:28 am

    Hi Donna,

    I’m glad this device works to help manage the pain of your FM. After reading your article, and doing a little research, I understand that Quell works similarly to a TENS device by interfering with peripheral nerve transmission.

    In my email box, I received the following header summary of your article from NPR…

    “Quell: My Favorite Tool for Reducing Fibromyalgia Pain
    By Donna Gregory Burch Since my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I’ve tried so many drugs, supplements and other products in an attempt to find something to dull the pain. I’ve found a few things that help, but the effects are usually minimal. Even opioids haven’t worked for me, although I admit my experience with them has been […]”

    ,,,which caused in me a profound but brief confusion, due to the name of the device.

    It started with a traumatic experience, where one Thanksgiving weekend in the early 1970s, I visited a college girlfriend’s uncle in Detroit, and slept on a dirty old couch. Less than a week later, I developed an itchy rash that spread to over 50% of my body, and plagued me for weeks until I saw a proper dermatologist.

    I had contracted scabies, a form of pediculosis caused by the Sarcoptes scabie mite who buries her eggs in the base of a human hair follicle. Scabies, also know as the “seven year itch” has plagued humankind since we first began to wear dirty clothing, where the mite waits for its next victim.

    The dermatologist treated me with a medication called Kwell lotion, which is a pharmaceutical made from an insecticide called Lindane.

    Lindane is a class of organic molecule known as a pyrethroid and is neurotoxic to the GABA-a sodium channel in both insects and humans. While useful in killing aphids in the garden (and Sarcoptes scabie mites hiding at the base of hair follicles), pyrethroids can also poison people depending on concentration and length of exposure.

    For a good five minutes, I was confused by the difference between Quell and Kwell.

    GABA channels inhibit nerve conduction and pain scientists have studied connections between GABA agonists and the treatment of specific neuropathic pain symptoms, for example, the pain of diabetic neuropathy. The pain medications gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) are both based on this research.

    In my confusion, I couldn’t imagine how treating FM with a neurotoxin could possibly be beneficial. Only fact and reason brought me around to the sensible conclusion that Kwell ain’t Quell.

    I’m glad that the Quell device is an effective mediator of your FM symptoms and I appreciate your sharing this story with our readers.

    As for treating CRPS with Quell, the research is non-existent, but Medtronic offers anecdotal indications that TENS can help with some cases of CRPS. Just search for Quell and CRPS.

    When my doctor first suggested a TENS device (30 years ago,) it was a new technology and Medtronix offered a free TENS trial (which incidentally, demonstrated no efficacy against my pain problem.)

    Perhaps the manufacturer of the Quell device have such a program?

    If there’s a moral to my confusion story, perhaps the lesson here is that one should always investigate any source of confusion about all possible treatments for pain, or whatever ails ya.

    Or perhaps my lesson was much simpler: never sleep on a dirty couch in Detroit.

  10. BarbaraDH at 6:40 am

    I’ve been using my Quell unit since this past January. I have fibromyalgia secondary to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder that causes chronic pain, among many other problems, and has no treatment and no cure. It is known for causing frequent joint dislocations and partial dislocations. I don’t wear my Quell thru the night, just thru the day. I’m off of pain medications now, and just use the Quell unit along with taking hemp oil. I would be nonfunctional without these. I highly recommend the Quell pain relief unit! They had a money back guarantee when I purchased mine, so if it didn’t work I could have gotten my money back! Risk free! And SO much safer than most of the crap the doctors prescribe.

  11. Steve at 3:25 pm

    Quell is a good product, unfortunately did not work for my fibro despite an extensive trial.

    You are quite lucky and it is worth a trial by everyone with FM.

  12. Chris at 10:23 am

    Has the Quell been tried with CRPS pain?

  13. Donna Rubinetti at 10:02 am

    Can this be used for widespread CRPS?