If you’re like many people, you reach for the bottle of Tylenol — or whatever over-the-counter pain pill you have handy — as soon as you feel a headache or any other sort of bodily pain coming on.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing: OTC pain medications do have their place, and they’re proven to be effective, although I’m sure you don’t need clinical evidence if you’ve experienced the effects of these medications first-hand.
But contrary to popular belief, OTC pain medications aren’t always the best way to relieve pain. Their effects are rather temporary, after all, and they might cause side effects in some people. If you’re interested in alleviating pain without medicine — even the mild OTC kind — consider trying one of these devices for drug-free pain relief.
Oska Pulse uses pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) technology, which emits energy at different wavelengths to stimulate your body’s natural recovery process. This type of technology is commonly used in medical settings, including post-surgical healing and cancer treatment. PEMF has helped to reduce pain in the feet, lower back, knees and more.
Instead of taking a body-wide approach to pain relief (like OTC or other drugs), the Oska Pulse works locally. You can place it virtually anywhere on your body, under or over your clothes. It essentially reduces inflammation and increases blood flow at the pain site, encouraging cellular repair.
The Omron Avail is a TENS unit, one of the more popular forms of drug-free pain relief available to consumers. TENS stands for “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation,” which is the science-y way of saying it “blocks pain signals.”
Unlike TENS units that tether your body to them, Omron’s device is tiny, offers wireless pain relief by transmitting electrical impulses to your nervous system through your skin at the pain site. These impulses flood your nervous system with new information, reducing your body’s ability to send pain signals to your brain. TENS units can effectively reduce back pain, neck pain, labor pain, and more.
The Quell 2.0 is another TENS unit, but this one claims to be 10 times more effective than other TENS units you can buy over the counter. Rather than a small patchlike wearable (like the Omron Avail), the Quell 2.0 is a small cuff that you can wear on your arms and legs. This product could be particularly convenient for people who experience knee or elbow pain and want some relief while on the go.
Additionally, according to the Quell website, the Quell 2.0 is the only OTC pain-relief device that is FDA-approved for use while sleeping. So if you experience pain that wakes you up during the night, this might be the device for you.
Sana describes itself as a company committed to ending the opioid crisis — the company’s founder designed this pain-relief mask after a nearly fatal car accident. Using a technology called FlowState, the Sana mask utilizes “light and sound impulses to restore a balance in brain-wave patterns.”
The company is currently in the process of receiving FDA approval for the mask, as well as conducting ongoing clinical trials to determine the efficacy of the mask in different conditions, like fibromyalgia. You can sign up for early access to the mask here.
A prescription-only device for migraine treatment, Cefaly uses external trigeminal nerve stimulation (e-TNS) to either relieve migraine pain or prevent a migraine from occurring.
Your trigeminal nerve is the largest of the 12 cranial nerves, and it transmits sensory information — like pain — to your brain. Cefaly, a self-adhesive device you wear between your eyes, aims to intercept pain signals along that nerve. If you think Cefaly might be right for you, talk to your doctor about a prescription.
This is the same sort of therapy used in the newly FDA-approved NeuroSigma, the first at-home medical device approved for treating ADHD in children.
Like all of the aforementioned products, the BiowaveGo uses a form of electrical stimulation to relieve pain. However, it utilizes a unique signal-mixing technology that apparently blocks pain right at the source and causes acute hypoesthesia (a fancy word for minor numbness). Biowave also says the device increases blood flow to the pain site.
Compex markets its muscle stimulation devices more as a workout recovery gadget than a pain-relief device, but the products incorporate TENS technology, and Compex lists pain relief as one of the products’ benefits. The main technology powering Compex devices is neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), which acts directly on the muscles.
NMES targets the motor nerves, a stimulus designed to imitate the stimulus your brain receives when exercising. And the stimulus shows: Intriguing videos show athletes’ muscles twitching under Compex electrodes, responding to the NMES.
This is by far the simplest device on this list, but it might be the one you need the most. UprightGo helps you correct your posture and then maintain good posture by notifying you when you slouch. Place the small wearable between your shoulder blades and wait for the inevitable vibration.
There’s a good chance this gadget can reduce or even completely eliminate your pain: If you slouch, sit in odd positions, or crane your neck a lot, bad posture might be the source of your daily aches. UprightGo’s connected app allows you to see your posture progress, so you’ll know if those slouch reminders are working.
If you like UprightGo, learn about other wearables that track more than just your fitness.