Do Devices Aimed At Relieving Period Cramps Really Work?

If you've ever bought something on impulse that you don't need due to incessant yet disturbingly accurate Instagram advertisements, then know that you're not alone. It is wise to be wary of the thousands of items advertised between Instagram Reels and TikTok reposts. Sometimes, however, Instagram gets it right.

Instagram often advertises products such as Ovira or Livia, which are small devices that claim to erase pelvic pain caused by menstrual cramping or endometriosis. For those who experience mild to severe menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), a device designed to zap away your monthly pain seems too good to be true. With wires and electrodes, these so-called period devices appear intimidating and alien. But if you've had no luck with heating pads, oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), or muscle relaxers, then a device specifically targeted towards menstrual cramps can sound like a modern miracle. So, what exactly do these modern devices do, and can they actually relieve period cramps? It's time to dig a little deeper and find out.

How do these devices work?

The devices that target dysmenorrhea are actually called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units, per the Cleveland Clinic. The TENS unit works by sending low-voltage electrical currents to the electrodes placed on the skin, which stimulates nerve cells and blocks the transmission of pain signals, per Cleveland Clinic. Until recently, these compact and inexpensive machines were mainly designed to treat pain caused by arthritis, sports injuries, migraines, and chronic back pain, according to a 2014 study published in Pain Management.

However, the usage of these small battery-operated devices has expanded over the years to treat other conditions of chronic pain, including pelvic pain and even labor pain (via the Cleveland Clinic). According to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Women's Health, the TENS unit is effective for relieving pain caused by menstrual cramps or pelvic pain conditions.

Though, it should be noted that some researchers believe that repeated use of a TENS machine can decrease positive effects over time, per a 2020 study in the International Journal of Women's Health. As your body adapts to regular usage, your tolerance to a specific pulse intensity or pulse duration may increase, thereby affecting the pain-relieving benefit of the TENS unit. To combat this phenomenon, researchers recommend increasing or decreasing the pulse intensity and duration depending on the level of pain. On that note, it's important to choose a TENS unit that is designed for cramps so it uses an intensity range that is safe for the pelvic region.

What are the best devices for menstrual cramps?

It's important to remember that not every device on the market is designed to relieve period pain and may not be safe to use in the pelvic region. The top pain-relieving devices that are specifically designed for cramps and pelvic pain include Ovira, Vush, and Livia.

Ovira is an Australian-created device that features 12 hours of battery life and 40 intensity levels. This FDA-approved device prevents the body from transmitting pain signals by overwhelming the nervous system and releasing endorphins, per Ovira. This egg-shaped device also includes a five-month supply of gel pads with your first purchase, and you can even attach the device to your clothing for hands-free usage. Another best-selling device is the Vush Aura, which works similarly to Ovira but features a single-piece design. Vush Aura is a great option if you don't like wires and are looking for a more affordable option. This device features 20 intensity levels and six pulse types.

Finally, Livia works differently than Ovira and Vush as it uses a patented SmartWave technology that blocks pain signals by transmitting micro-pulses that "distract" the nerves. As a result, the Livia device may relieve period pain faster than a standard TENS unit. Ultimately, the final verdict is that, despite the higher price, Ovira is the most effective pain-relieving device on the market as it boasts an impressive battery life, 40 intensity levels, and reliable TENS technology. Plus, it includes a five-month supply of gel pads with your first purchase, which the others don't.