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Pain Relief Gadgets, Machines, Devices and How To Stop, Reduce or Alleviate Aches and Discomfort

Updated on November 10, 2013

Gadgets and Devices for Pain Relief

There is an increasing arsenal of gadgets on the market that claim to alleviate or reduce pain. These pain relieving devices have a number of advantages over the use of drugs:

  • They have less side effects
  • They save money on prescriptions
  • They can be administered directly to the point of need

So what are these gadgets? At the simple end of the market we have devices that apply either hot or cold surfaces or a magnetic field to alleviate pain. At the more complex end of the spectrum are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) machines and Sonic pain relief devices.

Before we look at these devices in more detail, the key question is which ones really work? Do these devices stop pain? Real clinical evidence than they banish pain is hard to come by. However, it can be shown that all of these remedies contribute to pain relief in a significant number of individuals.

It must be remembered that some people will experience real relief from pain even when a remedy with no clinical basis is applied just as some people will experience relief from a real illness when given a sugar pill. This is known as the placebo effect.

Pain Relief Gadgets
Pain Relief Gadgets

Placebo Effect

The impact of the placebo effect can be tested by using a double blind experiment where 50% of patients are given the real treatment and the other 50% a treatment that seems real but isn’t.

For example if the treatment involves say wearing a copper bracelet the other 50% will wear a bracelet that looks like copper but isn’t. The key to this type of study is that no one involved in the trial knows who has the real treatment and who has the placebo.

Hard Clinical Data or Testimonials?

Back and Neck Pain are Very Common
Back and Neck Pain are Very Common

If the cure has no clinical basis then the results will show that both groups have a similar percentage of those who report an improvement. In other words the improvement is because of the placebo effect.

This doesn't mean that no pain relief has taken place but that the reduction in pain is due to the belief in the treatment rather than the treatment itself. In other words, the sufferer’s belief alone may be sufficient to trigger the body to reduce the level of pain.

Producing hard clinical data that can be verified is much harder than a testimonial from a satisfied user and any misrepresentation of the truth leaves the supplier open to law suits and prosecution under consumer protection law.

So lets look at some of these therapies beginning with one of the simplest, magnetic therapy.

Magnetic Therapy

There are a huge number of magnetic-based products that claim to reduce pain. It is important to understand there is no strong medical understanding of how these products actually work. Research has shown that a product with just an ordinary magnet embedded in it is unlikely to relieve pain.

There is limited clinical evidence (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine) to suggest that more powerful, active magnets (electromagnets) can impact on pain and reduce it.

Products specifications vary widely with some producing a static magnetic field and some producing an oscillating field. It is obviously important if you want to try magnetic therapy to research products carefully and buy from a reputable supplier. Make sure the product is appropriate for the type of pain you suffer from. For more on magnetic therapy.

Heat Therapy Via Heated Stones
Heat Therapy Via Heated Stones

Heat and Cold Treatments

Pain can often be eased by applying either a hot or cold object to the appropriate area. As a simple rule, cold treatments, for example an ice pack, is good for pain relief while heat treatments are good for stiffness and aches.

The decision whether to use either heat or cold treatment for a pain caused by, for example, arthritis depends on the type of arthritis and should be discussed with a medical practitioner such as a doctor or physiotherapist (physical therapist).

Moist heat, provided by a hot bath or shower, or dry heat, such as a heating pad, placed on the painful area of the joint for a few minutes may provide pain relieve. An ice pack (or even a pack of frozen food) wrapped in a towel and placed on the painful area may help to stop the swelling and relieve the pain.

Products are available to generate either heat or cold via a chemical reaction within a treatment pad. These can be applied when out and about when you don't have access to a fridge or source of heat.

TENS Machine for Pain Relief
TENS Machine for Pain Relief

TENS Machine Therapy

TENS machines work by delivering small pulses of electricity to the surface of the body via electrodes attached to the skin. This means the user can target pain in particular parts of the body.

Research has so far produced conflicting results about how effective TENS is and exactly how it works. It certainly reduces pain for some people but the amount of pain reduction varies for each individual. It appears that the TENS machine interrupts the transmission of nerve messages to the brain relating to pain.

The machines have two modes of operation. The higher frequency mode appears to stimulate non-pain transmitting nerves so blocking pain signals to the brain.  The second mode, where lower frequency pulses are used, appears to stimulate the production of endorphins. These act rather like painkiller drugs in that they block pain signals.

TENS machines are most effective for pain in joints, nerves and muscles and are not normally effective for chest, abdomen or head pain. There are hardly any side effects and TENS machines are highly portable so you can move around while treating yourself.

It is obviously wise to consult a medical professional before using and following the directions very carefully. TENS machines shouldn't be used by people with certain conditions including pregnancy or those with pacemakers.

Novasonic Pain Relief Device in Use
Novasonic Pain Relief Device in Use

Sonic Pain Therapy

Sonic Therapy relies on the use of sound rather than electricity as used in the TENS machine.

Sound waves are directed into the skin towards the source of pain. While the TENS machine helps reduce pain by blocking the pain signals, sonic therapy actually reduces the cause of the pain. You can think of it a bit like an internal massage.

The frequency of sound waves is measured in Hertz (Hz) so one oscillation a second is 1Hz. Sound waves of less than 16 Hz are known as Infrasonic (can't be heard by humans), 16Hz to 20,000Hz as Intrasonic (maximum range of human hearing) and over 20,000Hz, Ultrasonics.

Ultrasonics are used for diagnostic purposes, for example to produce an image of a fetus while therapeutic sonic therapy devices use either Ultrasonic or Intrasonic waves. These waves travel into the skin and cause the cells making up human tissue to resonate.

This creates a highly effective massage effect underneath the surface of the skin. This tends to expel toxins and excess fluid from cells and promotes healing and improves blood flow. These devices can also be used alongside a TENS machine so the two therapies can compliment each other.

Sonic pain relief devices are portable and suitable models for home use are readily available online.

Pain Relief Gadgets

If you want to find out more about Pain Relief Gadgets then have a look at what is available online.

These pain relieving gadgets devices necessarily replace drugs for pain relief. However, even if they don't totally kill the pain they can be a useful way of achieving additional secondary relief.

They can also contribute to removing the source of pain by reducing swelling.

"That pain relief gadget from the internet sorted out my dicky knee in a tick!"
"That pain relief gadget from the internet sorted out my dicky knee in a tick!"


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    • profile image

      Dan 12 months ago

      You will not find anything better than "Mind Body Soul Oil" for this issue.

    • profile image

      Rita 5 years ago

      I tried a new device - ultrasound patch - Painshield , and it really works

    • profile image

      Guest 6 years ago

      Arnica Gel is an alternative

    • profile image

      Tens Pain Relief 7 years ago

      I've being using a tens machine for a couple of years now as I suffer on and off from back pain due to my work. They really are a great piece of kit and you can pick one up pretty cheap these days. I much prefer to use a natural drug free pain relieving device than taking strong pain killers all the time. The other great thing about a tens machine is that as soon as you switch it on the pain relief is almost instant.

    • CuringChronicPain profile image

      CuringChronicPain 7 years ago

      Many of these products can be helpful in managing muscle and joint pain, but it's important to remember that while pain is being managed, the focus must be on identifying the actual source of the pain. Only when the actual source of pain is identified, can it be cured. Pain management should be a strategy for surviving as you work towards discovering the underlying source of the pain, and then curing it.

    • Rik Ravado profile image

      Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England

      Thanks for this helpful advice JT. Also, Thanks for stopping by!

    • JTrempe profile image

      JTrempe 7 years ago from CA, USA


      I am a PT. As to whether to use heat vs. ice, here is the simple rule: if you have having pain use ice. If you only have stiffness use heat. If you have limited sensation or circulation talk to your doctor before using either.

      For additional treatment recommendations for various joint conditions, visit:

    • profile image

      Sam  8 years ago


    • Rik Ravado profile image

      Rik Ravado 8 years ago from England

      Thanks for this Sam - perhaps you can link to my article in return!

    • profile image

      Sam 8 years ago

      Hi Rik,

      You forgot to mention the Acupressure Mat sometimes called the Shakti Mat which is alos very good for pain relief.


    • Rik Ravado profile image

      Rik Ravado 8 years ago from England

      2Patricias - glad you found it interesting - I was curious about the 'food massager' but I suddenly realised it must be a foot massager! The frozen peas cold compress you mentioned is great because it is effectively free!

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      An interesting read, as we both have painful feet (and sometimes knees). Tricia has a food massage machine that she bought on-line. It provides more of a distraction than true relief. We have also found that bags of frozen peas can be useful, (We usually put another bag and then a thin towel around them first.)

    • Rik Ravado profile image

      Rik Ravado 8 years ago from England

      Dohn - glad it was a pain-free experience - thanks for stopping by!

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I liked the variety of the many ways in which to relieve pain outside of drugs Rik. It was not at all a pain to read:)