TENS and heating belt review: My first period without ibuprofen

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I, like so many others, have always very much relied on painkillers when I’m menstruating.

My cramps manifest in my lower back, and they take my breath away when they’re at their strongest.

They’ve also been known to wake me up and even infiltrate my dreams if they hit late at night, which feels particularly unfair. So when I was offered the chance to try an Apollo My Obi belt, I was immediately interested.

It works with a combination of heat and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that’s basically supposed to feel like a compact portable massage.

I challenged myself to get through the days testing the belt without taking any painkillers – no, not even ibuprofen. That way I could have a crystal clear idea of how it worked for me.

It meant the going was tough before I figured out the settings I preferred – and there’s lots to cycle through – but once I had the basics nailed down it worked like a charm.

The Apollo belt, which costs £115, has an impressive 19 ‘intensity levels’ and six massage modes, which are meant to mimic kneading, cupping, acupuncture, knocking and tapping – plus a combo mode that cycles through all five.

The ones I like the most are the ‘finger pressing’ massage and the combo mode – because it goes on for ages – at medium heat.

There’s also a less expensive belt, the Artemis, which is going for £59 that has three heat levels and three vibration intensities.

One admittedly unavoidable issue I have is that the belt automatically switches the TENS pulses off after 15 minutes, and the heat after 30.

I asked a My Obi rep why, and they told me it’s for ‘safety reasons, to avoid people sleeping with it’, which is a shame, given the fact that cramps can strike any hour.

It makes sense, since prolonged use isn’t recommended, and you can of course turn it back on – but if you’re out and about wearing the belt, it also makes for a fiddly reset every time you want to get some relief back.

A quarter of an hour is definitely nowhere near enough time for me on crampy days, and I can’t be bothered lifting my shirt/jumper/coat etc everywhere I go every time I want it to start up again.

That being said, the right pluses make my pain go away pretty much instantly, and the heat pads were very soothing – especially in this winter weather.

The belt is nice and light, and slim enough to tuck under a jumper or the waistband of some high-waisted trackies – which was my conveniently, stereotypical period outfit this month.

In future, I’ll definitely combine the belt with my beloved ibuprofen, because each method’s weaknesses are the other’s strengths.

The belt will be great for instant relief while I wait for the pills to kick in, and hopefully the tablets start working their magic right around the time I get sick of switching the TENS on again every 15 minutes.

And for those whose cramps are particularly brutal, combining the pulses, heat and painkillers should be a big help.

My verdict:

4/5 stars – Speedy, portable pain relief that I only wish could last longer.

Apollo My OBI

The Apollo sends low-frequency electric pulses (massage modes) and heating therapy to your target area through the electrodes.

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