By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – Living with pain isn’t a lot of fun, and taking medication isn’t always a good alternative.

The Food and Drug Administration has given Waltham based Neurometrix the green light to market new wearable technology that can help with all kinds of conditions.

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“Quell” is a washable sports band with a slim lithium battery operated therapy pod which gets inserted in a pocket. It is attached to the calf area and then relieves pain all over.

“It basically stimulates sensory nerves in your leg which triggers the release of endogenous opioids, and those are the body’s natural pain relievers. They block pain throughout the body,” explained Frank McGillin, a senior vice president at Neurometrix.

Basically, the device manipulates the body’s central nervous system to send natural pain relief where it is needed.

“People are using it for all kinds of conditions: arthritis, nerve pain, painful diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, sciatica, lower back pain,” added McGillin. “Chronic pain is really an epidemic. One hundred million Americans are suffering from some sort of chronic pain.”

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Dave Anderson was one of those people. He found himself taking up to 12 ibuprofen a day just so he could continue to play squash.
When Anderson’s doctor told him he had to stop taking ibuprofen, he decided to give Quell a try. “I am not taking any more ibuprofen. It’s completely controlled the daily pain that I was having and it has allowed me a much faster recovery after physical exercise.”

Drugs like ibuprofen, known as NSAIDS, can have side effects. The over prescription of stronger drugs, narcotics like oxycodone, is causing a new set of problems, like addiction and depression.

Dr. Anthony Lee, a pain specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said researchers believe strong narcotics become less effective with long term use.
Researchers are also finding these narcotics have other serious lesser known drawbacks, according to Dr. Lee. “They are finding that there are other organ systems affected. The heart, the bones, and these are long term consequences.”

Quell costs about $250. Company officials hope it can provide safe non medication based relief.

So far, the only side effect has been some possible skin irritation.

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Anderson said he often doesn’t even remember he has it on. He once wore it in the pool by accident. “It’s there, but you just sort of forget about it over time.”

Dr. Mallika Marshall