Image Courtesy: Wear, Tear, & Care
Recently, Jennifer Kain Kilgore, an attorney, and creator of Wear, Tear, & Care, a blog about chronic pain and related health conditions posted several articles highlighting a drug-free pain-blocking device called the Quell. BackerNation was immediately intrigued and reached out to Kilgore for comment. She was more than happy to provide our community a detailed account of her experiences with this device.
Kilgore is a fellow Backer. She's had two spinal fusions as a result of two car accidents. She also deals with chronic migraines and bulging discs on top of everything else. Read more about her in our two-part series.
“When I was 17, I was driving with my mother and aunt to visit Georgetown University. Our car (stopped on the highway because of traffic) was hit at 65 miles per hour by an attractive man from Florida. My spine was fractured at T-11, T-12 and L-1, a facet joint in the thoracic level was broken as well. We didn’t find that last fracture for more than a year, so it healed wrong and calcified on a cluster of nerves,” Jennifer recalled.
“Fast-forward almost ten years to the summer of 2013. My back was by no means great, but I’d learned to live with the constant pain. Driving home one night after work, my car was rear-ended again. It was a lesser accident that resulted in a lot of damage.
“My body, which had been working so hard to maintain some sort of equilibrium, was pushed over the edge. My neck and low back were alive with pain; they’d been mostly unaffected the first time around, so this was new and terrifying.”
After a lot of back and forth in Kilgore's head, weighing the pros and cons, this attorney finally made the leap and now calls home her office.
“[My] blog is for me to come to terms with what’s happened. I want to enjoy this life as much as I can, despite the pain.”
Let's get to it.
Q: During the post-accident time frame, what treatment options and medications were you taking for pain relief?
My treatment options at that point were to strength train and cope the best I could. I was given a bunch of meds. This was 12 years ago, so everyone was much more casual about handing out medications. On top of that, I tried every treatment known to man shy of surgery and nothing took the pain away.
Q: Today, what are your go to treatment methods?
A: Goodness. Where do I begin? I get a lot of treatment from my dad. He created an entire body of work called “Bio-Integrative Therapy” (BIT). I also wear a TENS unit (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), which is a back pain treatment that uses low voltage electric current to relieve pain in a small battery-operated device. I wear the Quell (more on that in a bit) on my leg as well. I've tried injections and all forms of medication paired with massage therapy and strength training.
Q: Do you still need prescription medication?
A: I take a veritable cocktail of medications. I use Tramadol daily, which is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. Nucynta is the highest, most powerful drug they’ll prescribe me these days. It's a synthetic opioid that I use as my rescue med because it’s the most potent. I also take nerve meds and anti-depressants for off-label pain control.
Q: On your blog, you mention the Quell device used to replace or supplement opioids. Please share what the Quell device is and how it's helped you manage your back pain.
A: The Quell is a wearable intensive nerve stimulation device designed to help manage chronic pain. It’s actually 100 percent drug-free. It helps me significantly and if I don’t wear it, I absolutely notice so I use it every day.
You place the device on your calf or above your knee where there’s a big cluster of nerves. The nerves meet the electrodes that are on the device and you stick onto your skin. The theory is that electricity hooks into that big cluster of nerves and activates your endogenous opioid system. We all have this natural opioid system already in our bodies. By activating this, you are creating your own system of pain killers. Within 15 minutes, you begin creating your own pain blockers.
Q: Does the Quell device work for everyone?
A: It works for 75-80 percent of people. Luckily, it works well for me. It hits hard and it lets me do more. Hell, I’m able to weed the garden on good days. That’s an activity that requires me to kneel down and bend over for an extended period of time, which activates all the muscles and bones that usually protest.
Coupled with the sports band — highly necessary in this Massachusetts summer where it’s been 80-plus-degrees and humid — I’ve been able to make it through my pain flare ups. And while I’ve been flaring, which is expected in humid weather, I know it’d be worse without the Quell. How do I know that? Because I’ve had flares without the Quell, and jeez, they are terrible.
For example, the weeds in my garden are up to waist height. My vegetable plot hasn’t been planted this year because I’m behind on a lot of things. So, the other day, I said, “I can’t stand it.”
I ended up pulling out all of the weeds in what I call a horrible weed genocide. It took about an hour of straight work, but I was able to do it. Yes, I hurt a lot afterward, but that was sustained physical activity that I was able to achieve because of the Quell, which is AWESOME.
Q: Is there a specific time of day one should wear the Quell?
A: While it can be tolerated on a 24-hour basis, I have been wearing the Quell only during the daytime. My pain is better when I’m flat on my back (once I take some tizanidine, anyway). I attempted to wear it one night and found the vibration, even in nighttime mode, too distracting. On the plus side, [my] husband could not feel the vibration on his side of the bed, so it won’t disturb any partners.
For not wearing it 24-hours a day, the electrodes wear down at a rapid rate. After five days bits of the gel came off and stuck to my skin when I removed the device
Q: Can the Quell be seen underneath clothing?
A: While slimmer and more non-obtrusive than most pain relief devices, it is still not small enough to be worn under form-fitting pants without looking like I have a monstrous tumor. Luckily, I can change my wardrobe. I need new pants anyway, and flares are coming back. Today I am wearing it under normal dress pants, and it’s invisible. However, a lot of my wardrobe centers around leggings and tights, which would be impossible with the Quell unless I stretch those out — which, of course, I am willing to do if the result makes me feel better.
When wearing it with shorts or a skirt, everyone assumes I injured myself. The resounding chorus of “What did you do now?” is always fun to hear. Upon reviewing the Quick Start guide, however, I saw that if the skin is irritated around the upper calf, you can also wear the device above the knee once the Quell has been recalibrated for the new position. This makes it easier to hide. I do not know if this alternative position makes the treatment less effective.
Q: Would you recommend the Quell device to others?
A: Oh God, yes. Absolutely. I’ve been using the Quell for more than two years.
Q: Any last words of wisdom you would like to share?
A: The Quell lets me function without compromising my brain. I have more energy to get through the day. I can think. It doesn’t take care of all the pain, not by a long shot, but it takes care of enough of the pain that I can pretend to be a real human being. And for now, that is enough.
Be sure to check out, The Quell Pain Relief Device: Living Up to Its Label?, if you want to learn more about this wearable pain management device.