New Device Promises to Zap Period Pain

Livia is a new product that says it will get rid of your period pain through electronic impulses. Nastia11/Eric1513/Thinkstock/Livia

Some 50 percent of women get cramping pain when their monthly "friend" comes to call. A new product promises to zap this problem — literally. Introducing Livia, currently in preproduction, and billed as "the off switch for period pain."

A sample of a Livia kit

It's a cute little device you can hook to your jeans, with wires attached to two gel pads. You place the pads on your stomach or wherever the pain is and turn on the device. It will send electric impulses to your pain points and reduce the hurt.

At this point, you're probably either thinking, "How fast can I get one of these?" or else, "This sounds very familiar." Turns out the technology isn't so new. It's based on TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), which has been used for years to treat back and joint pain. 

With TENS treatments, you attach two electrodes to the place of pain on your body and turn on the small machine. You'll feel tiny jolts of electricity pulsing on your pain point, which should lessen the hurting. The way it works is that the electricity stimulates nerves in the pain area and sends signals to your brain. These signals block or "close the gate" to the pain signals you would normally be receiving. This is called the "gate control theory of pain."

Several studies have shown that TENS can provide some pain relief for primary dysmenorrhea, the technical term for cramps. (One small study showed it gave "good to excellent" relief to 42.4 percent of participants.)

A TENS unit costs around $30 on Amazon, while Livia will set you back $149 when it comes out in October ($85 if you preorder). Why such a price difference, apart from some more attractive packaging? Chen Nachum, the company CEO, told VOX that Livia's "frequency and wave shape are unique and optimized especially for relieving menstrual pain," but there aren't any publicly available studies comparing Livia to a TENS unit.

The device has clearly struck a nerve as the project raised more than 700 percent of its target goal on Indiegogo and is still being funded. It's also gotten a lot of buzz in women's magazines like Cosmopolitan. As to whether it's worth the price, only time will tell. In the meantime, if you can't wait for Livia to become available, you could try a regular TENS machine and see if it provides any relief.