This wearable device helps me survive my crippling period cramps
As a proud owner of a uterus, I have to say that getting your period is the worst. As if bleeding excessively once a month isn’t enough, our menstruation cycle is also often accompanied by mood swings, bloating, muscle aches, and worst of all, crippling cramps.
Period pain is a struggle that people who don’t get period cramps will simply never comprehend (and something that unites people who do in a collective bond of commiseration). My period pain used to be so bad that I wouldn’t be able to function in my everyday life, let alone get out of bed in the morning. My doctor eventually placed me on birth control pills to alleviate the monthly curse, and although my cramps are significantly improved now, it’s still madly inconvenient and requires me to take a handful of Ibuprofen pills every day.
It’s not the ideal solution—taking large doses of painkillers each month can cause a whole array of side effects, from rashes and nausea to heartburn and drowsiness. So when I saw this tiny device that relieves period pain without the need for any drugs floating around on social media, I was instantly intrigued (and skeptical). I was even more intrigued by what the mysterious device looked like. I was expecting a complex, futuristic contraption with cords, buttons, and plugs galore, but the actual product more closely resembled an old-school MP3 player.
So how’s this tiny square gadget supposed to fix your cramps?
Here’s how it works: Livia is a wearable device you affix to your stomach. It’s very small, about 55 by 55 millimeters, and enclosed in a removable case. On the device, there’s a power button, plus button, minus button, and clip. You use the plus and minus buttons to adjust the intensity. There’s also one port to plug in the electrodes and another to plug in the micro USB charging cable. Because the whole system is so small and discreet, they claim you can hide the device under your clothes and wear it out in public without anyone being the wiser.
The technology behind the device is termed TENS, which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It works by sending continuous, mild electrical pulses through electrodes and into your skin along your nerve pathways. These electrical pulses are supposed to help block out the pain signals that travel between your lady parts and your brain. The idea is that since your brain is so busy focusing on the vibration, it can’t process anything else.
Sounds crazy, but it’s backed by science: According to a scientific report published in 2014, both HF (high frequency) and LF (low frequency) TENS have been shown to increase the release of endorphins and cause an analgesic effect when applied at a non-painful intensity.
A hefty promise, but couldn’t hurt right? With that mindset, I decided to give Livia a whirl. In order to make the trial more accurate, I opted out of all other pain relief methods (including Ibuprofen) for the duration of the experiment.
Livia—The Off Switch for Menstrual Pain
Shop it! $169, amazon.com
My first impression of the system was how easy it was to apply. The electrode flower pads come pre-applied with gel, so all you have to do is charge the device, plug the two electrodes into the port, and place the electrodes on your abdomen (or near the site of pain). I was unsure of what intensity setting to use at first (it comes with a whopping 16 settings), so I started at 10.
The only sensation I noticed at first was a bit of tingling. I was a bit weirded out by the vibrations and the feeling of something latching onto my stomach. But within 10 minutes, I began to notice a difference in pain level.
The cramping was much more manageable without taking my usual dose of pills, and I was able to go about my day with the Livia clipped securely underneath my shirt.
It wasn’t entirely undetectable, but even when I showed it to other people, they thought it looked more like a fitness device than something used to control period pain.
When my period pain was at its worst (which is day two for me), I raised the intensity setting to a 15. Even on the highest setting, I was left with some pain. It wasn’t debilitating to the point where I couldn’t function, but definitely enough to make me tempted to reach for the Advil.
As for staying power, two thumbs up: The device didn’t budge all day and was light enough that I forgot I even had it on. When I went to remove the pads at the end of the day, my skin was a bit red at the site of application. However, there was no pain or itchiness, and the redness went away after a few minutes.
Overall, Livia works. Anything that cuts down on my Ibuprofen use earns major brownie points in my book. However, you should take that statement with a grain of salt. As with any other treatment, results may vary from woman to woman. Personally, I didn’t experience a 100 percent pain reduction, so I wouldn’t say that Livia is a complete replacement for painkillers. Regardless, I’d still say it’s worth the purchase for any woman who has to rely on painkillers (unless you have a pacemaker, are in the first three months of pregnancy, or undergoing fertility treatment, in which case you’re not allowed to use Livia). It works much quicker than your average pain pill and without any side effects.
Color me (and my fickle uterus) impressed.
This story originally appeared on RealSimple.com by Hana Hong.