Local Company Develops Device to Treat Chronic Pain

Users may experience symptom relief in as little as 15 minutes.

tk. photo provided to bostonmagazine.com.

worn on the upper calf, the device stimulates sensory nerves to alleviate pain. photo provided to bostonmagazine.com.

For the millions of Americans suffering from chronic pain—the NIH defines the condition as any pain that lasts more than 12 weeks—medications are a part of everyday life. And while surgery and alternative therapies such as acupuncture may also help, a local healthcare company created a new outlet for relief.

NeuroMetrix, a Waltham-based medical technology developer, has announced the launch of the Quell system, a wearable device that uses electrical stimulation to trigger pain relief responses in the brain. Designed to be worn on the upper calf, the lightweight device activates sensory nerves in the leg. This stimulation signals the brain to release what are known as endogenous opioids, which block pain signals in the body. Many users report symptom relief in as little as 15 minutes, according to the company’s website.

Shai Gozani, the founder of NeuroMetrix, says the device is worn on the leg because of the concentration of nerves in that part of the body. The “dose” or the effect of the Quell system increases when a greater number of nerves are stimulated, he says. Wearing the device on the upper calf also affords users a degree of privacy, as it can be hidden under clothing in an easy-to-reach place. The main draw of the FDA-approved device, however, is that it provides prescription strength pain relief without any of the side effects associated with medications. Gozani, a Harvard-trained physician who also has a doctorate in neurobiology, says it also gives users more control over their treatment.

“It’s entirely empowering for the patient,” he says. “It fills a gap between prescription medication and the residual pain control that they need.”

The Quell system is the sister product of SENSUS, NeuroMetrix’s earlier pain management device that was released in 2013. While the use of SENSUS requires a prescription, the Quell system—which utilizes the same core technology—will be available as an over-the-counter therapy. It will also have a few more bells and whistles, including Bluetooth capability and an accompanying smartphone app to track usage. Gozani says that the Quell system can be used as much or as little as needed, and is safe to use in conjunction with anti-inflammatory and opioid medications.

“It’s a technological solution verses a pharmacological solution,” he says, adding that people living with pain from diseases such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia may benefit from the device. “It’s a nice compliment [to medication] to give people a level of control over their pain.”

The Quell system has been fully-funded (times three!) as part of NeuroMetrix’s Indiegogo campaign, where the company raised more than $360,000 in less than a month. There is still time to get the device at $199 through the campaign (only four days left).