Imagine a small, sharp-clawed animal trying to tear its way out of your uterus. That’s how I’d describe the intensity of my period cramps—pretty damn bad. So when I was offered to test the Livia, a device that claims to be the “off switch for menstrual pain,” I was skeptical…but curious.
First things first: What’s the Livia anyway?
Livia is a wearable electronic device that uses electronic pulses to keep the nerves “busy,” blocking pain signals to your brain. Sounds futuristic, right? It’s actually just a glammed-up TENS unit (short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). TENS units have been clinically proven as an effective form of pain management, and they’re nothing new in the medical world. Knowing this, I was curious to see if the Livia was anything special.
OK, but how do you use it?
The instructions told me to charge the two-inch, silicone-covered device before the first use and that the charge would last 15 hours (good to know). Once charged, it was pretty easy to figure out, but there was some minor assembly required. The device came with two electrodes to stick to my skin with gel-like pads (kind of like tentacles)—but you have to place the gel pads on the electrodes yourself and plug the electrodes into the Livia. Not too bad.
Then, I had to stick the Livia’s, ahem, tentacles wherever I felt the most crampy—for me, it was my lower abdomen, but it can also be placed on your back, as long as the electrodes are spaced evenly apart. I attached the Livia to my waistband like my dad’s pager from 1994, and then I clicked the power button until I could feel the electrical pulses.
What does it feel like?
In a word, weird. On the lower settings (there are 16 intensity levels), I couldn’t feel anything. When I upped the intensity, I felt a noticeable tingling. But if I increased the intensity too much, it was downright painful—like an electrical current running through my uterus. The trick was to find the sweet spot where the Livia setting matched the pain I was feeling.
And does it actually work?
Yes…and no. Once I got past the strangeness of the sensation, my cramps felt less severe, and I was surprised at how fast that happened—unlike taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen, which could take an hour to kick in. But it was difficult to find a balance between pulse level and period pain. After a while, I felt the effectiveness wear off (or my abdomen was going numb), but if I increased the pulse level too much, I was in even more pain.
TL;DR: For those who suffer from mild cramps (or don’t want to rely on over-the-counter pain relievers), the Livia might be a worthwhile investment. Even for someone with moderate to severe cramps like me, the device could help minimize those can’t-move-from-the-couch-level pains. It really depends on your pain level. I liked that the effects, while subtle, were immediate…and how inconspicuous it was when attached to my body. But on days when my cramps were really bad, I had more luck with my tried-and-true heating pad and bottle of Advil.