After suffering from painful periods since the age of 13, it took until I was 22 to be diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS and conditions like endometriosis are common and can cause (among other symptoms) extremely painful cramps. Even without these conditions, 50% of women are said to suffer from menstrual cramps each month. Whilst hormonal contraception helps some, there are currently few options when it comes to women’s monthly pain.
I use a hot water bottle for pain relief when I’m at home, but being out and about means I’m often taking 800mg of Ibuprofen for the duration (six days—lucky me). Taking large doses of painkillers each month can cause side effects—everything from rashes, dizziness and nausea to heartburn and drowsiness. But when you’re in severe pain, they can seem like the only option to help you get through the day.
When I heard a device called Livia was promising to improve my monthly agony, I knew it was something I needed to try. Keep scrolling, and all will be revealed.
WHAT IS LIVIA?
Livia is a small electronic device that promises to help end your period pain. The brand says you simply “Turn it on, clip it on, feel the relief and get going.” Sounds ideal to me.
The device stimulates the nerves, closing the “pain gates” to the brain. In an independent clinical study, 163 women who suffer from significant menstrual pain were given a Livia device, and 80% said Livia allowed them to significantly or completely eliminate the use of pain medications.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Livia is a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine. TENS have been hugely popular since the 1960s, used to treat a host of muscular pains and conditions. TENS Units are clinically proven for pain relief, as the vibrations from the device travel to the brain faster than pain can, which “shuts off” the painful feeling, as the brain is focusing on the vibration and can’t process both.
Whilst a TENS Unit may seem like nothing new, there has never been a device developed specifically for period pain before. Livia says it has specifically designed the vibrations to alleviate the pain from menstrual cramps. The electrodes are placed over the peripheral nerves, and as well as giving instant relief, can help “activate the natural pain response by releasing beta endorphins” over time.
CAN ANYONE USE IT?
Livia is FDA approved and has a CE certification. Whilst the effect of the device may vary from woman to woman, it is completely safe and side effect–free.
The only women who can’t use a Livia device are those with pacemakers, in the first three months of pregnancy or undergoing fertility treatment.
HOW DO YOU USE IT?
There are two small gel pads attached the device that can be stuck onto the skin near the site of pain (commonly the lower stomach or back). The small coloured device then discretely clips onto to your pants or other clothing. Livia works immediately and one charge lasts for 15 hours. The electrodes are attached to a small rechargeable power pack with a USB, so there’s no need for batteries.
The small LED indicator above the Livia’s power button indicates what level the device is set to and can be adjusted from a low to high intensity. It takes four taps to move the indicator, so it has 16 intensity settings.
You receive four gel stickers with the device, each pair lasts up to six months and a replacement pack cost £9. The device comes in turquoise, lavender, purple and pink, and for £9, you can change the “skin” of the device with options in black, red and textured patterns.
First, I was shocked by how small and light the device was—a dainty two-inch square. I could easily clip it to the top of my trousers or skirt and have the device go undetected. However, if it did peek out, the sleek design looks similar to that of a fitness device or MP3 player, so it raises no queries if others see it (if that is something that puts you off). The device didn’t budge or come off as I moved around during the day, and it was also light and compact enough to carry in my bag when I wasn’t using it.
My worst menstrual cramps come in the first two days of my period, so I was interested to see how Livia helped. When my period came, I placed the electrodes 10 centimetres apart on my lower abdomen and switched the device on. The sensation can be likened to a tingling, almost prickling feeling. Whilst not painful, I kept the device’s settings fairly low, as I found the sensation a little distracting at first.
The instructions say to increase the level until it feels “pleasant,” but I ended up keeping this fairly low throughout the six days, as I found the tingling vibration too strong at a higher level. After a few minutes, the device started to work—I was shocked that my pain was reduced.
When I was having strong cramps, I sometimes felt I needed the device to be at a higher setting to alleviate the pain, but I found the sensation at a higher setting uncomfortable so I ended up turning it down again. This meant that I was left with some pain but less than usual. This remained the case for the two first (and worst days) of my period, but as I explained, my cramps are quite severe. On days one and two, I can happily report I didn’t take as many painkillers (200mg opposed to my usual 800mg per day). There is no doubt the device works—I just would have preferred no sensation—but perhaps I’m asking too much? After all, my Ibuprofen intake was much less, which is what I’d hoped for.
I didn’t use Livia at night, unable to fall asleep with the device running at an adequate pain-reducing level. I was used to the feeling in the daytime now and was also distracted by other things, unlike at night when all was silent. I did try turning the device down at night so I could still wear it, but some pain remained. This is mainly why I still took some painkillers during the week to counteract the pain I experienced whilst trying to get to sleep. I found Livia most effective on day’s three to six when my pain was moderate to start with. This is when I got the most relief—even on a low setting. For these three days, I took 200mg of Ibuprofen one day and none on the other two, which is incredible.
The user manual recommends adjusting the sticky pads position after 24 hours to reduce the chances of skin irritation. Despite having sensitive skin, the sticky pads didn’t irritate me at all.
Overall, I was impressed by Livia—anything that cuts down my use of painkillers is a bonus for me. I would have loved to be pain-free from day one, but I will continue to use the device hoping that it alters my natural pain response over time. Everyone is different and the great thing is that Livia offers a 60-day money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work for you, so I’d recommend giving it a try. Other users have said that it stops their severe pain completely, so it’s worth a go. Next month, I’m going to try using it in combination with other things I do to ease period pain such as stretching and exercising to see if that helps.
Up next: Read the nine things a gynaecologist wants you to stop doing during your period.