Kelli's Migraine Daily

Product Review: SootheAway Thermal Therapy System

My simple review: Excellent - A+ product! Details below.

Click here to see the SootheAway Product Demo

I was recently contacted by the makers of SootheAway and asked if I would be willing to try their new product and provide my feedback.

"SootheAway is a new heating and cooling device for migraines a surgeon here in the Cleveland area has developed. We are passionate about informing migraine sufferers of this treatment, and we would love to offer you a free unit to try!!!"

Of course, anyone that is doing anything to help migraineurs, I am more than happy to participate and give my feedback. The company sent me a trial unit. As I write this, the unit is in process of being returned to the company after my 2-month-long trial. I have not been compensated for this review.

The product is described on the SootheAway website as follows:

"SootheAway is the first affordable source of continuous, targeted, heating and cooling therapy that offers soothing, drug-free pain relief at the push of a button.

With SootheAway's therapeutic pads, relief is immediately delivered directly to the area of pain, swelling, bruising or discomfort. Traditional treatments start off too hot or cold and quickly lose their effectiveness as temperatures change. Owning the convenient and comfortable SootheAway device means achieving therapy at the temperature you want for as long as you need it.

No more mess, no more hassle, no more pain."

How it works: (from my layperson viewpoint - I'm sure there are better technical ways to explain it on the website):

There is a base unit that you fill up with a tiny amount of distilled water (it has to be distilled, so make sure to get some before your unit arrives). You then attach the blue pad (I've been testing the front migraine pad) to the base and turn the unit on. Through the blue tubes... the pad's network of small tubes are filled up with water. You then put a tiny bit more distilled water into the base of the unit so there is always a certain amount of water available for the unit to move through the base and pad. Once the water is in the pad, you can choose what temperature you'd like... hot or cold.

It's fantastic... what a great idea this is. It gets to the temperature you want so fast, and like the description says, it's a constant source of the exact temperature you want. There's no way you can get that with an ice bag, gel pack or hot water bottle. Yes, an electric heating pad is kind of similar, but this is still a little different because of the slight pressure the water moving through the system provides.

I had my doubts that it would get cold enough for me. I like to use ice and frozen gel pads... so I just didn't think this would get cold enough. BUT IT DOES!! It's plenty cold for me, even on a mid-level setting... so I was impressed. The heat setting works great as well. So... really what you have here is BOTH a source of cold AND a source of heat you can use at any time as long as you have a source of power (AC or car adapter). I find that really exciting. It has pads that come in many different sizes (see right)... so it can be used on many areas of the body. I think it's fantastic to have a device I can use both for my migraines AND for any muscle pains or neck tension I might have. I can switch back and forth in a matter of minutes. Nice!!

Here are some of the thoughts I shared with the company in my initial email after testing for the first month.

Definite upsides:

1. The consistent temperature is a major bonus - you know it's ALWAYS going to be ready to get cold.  No forgetting to put your favorite ice pack in the freezer. No having it get warm too quickly. You can have the exact temperature you want for as long as you need.

2. The ability to choose your temperature - HUGE!  I talk to a lot of migraineurs and some are helped by cold and others by hot.  You can choose your own level of cold or hot on either side is also very helpful (levels 1-10 on either side).  Some people like to use ice - as cold as it can get (that's me)... and others don't do well with that much cold and need it more like refrigerated cold. This gives everybody what they need. Genius!

3.  The pad does not sweat as much as ice packs and pads do.  It's not a huge problem, but something I've needed to accommodate using towels, etc... so I don't get wet.  With this, on the coldest setting, it does sweat, but doesn't drip or anything (at least so far) and I can keep dry just by putting kleenex in between my head and the pad, which doesn't dilute the cold at all. 

4.  It's COOL (and not just the temp setting)!  Everybody loves a new toy... and this is a cool new device that is also able to help with a big problem.  It feels like it's something you should get in a hospital, but now we get to have it at home at a reasonable price. It's fun to try new things we've never seen before, and then if they work well, it's a triumph!

5. SootheAway offers a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee! Your purchase is NO RISK! If you don't like it, you can simply return it, no questions asked. I seriously doubt they have a high return rate on this product. :)

6. SootheAway is helping people. There are many people other than me who are singing its praises.

Possible downsides: It looks like I have more negative comments than positive... but the items below are all minor points compared to the HUGE benefits this product delivers - per my comments above. These minor items would not affect my decision to purchase. For people with chronic, daily headaches... I honestly don't believe that any of these minor things should outweigh the benefits of having cold/hot therapy so easily available.

Note: I received a great reply from Brad A. Pulver, President & COO of Innovative Medical Equipment, LLC, addressing my downsides, questions, concerns. I appreciate so much when a company listens to its customers and is willing to either explain or fix any downsides... the makers of SootheAway certainly seem to be that kind of a company. Brad's responses are in red.

1.  From 2-9 levels on the cooling there is a high pitched noise coming from the unit (edit: power supply) (highest pitch when it's right in the middle at 5).  When I crank it to 10, the noise goes away, or if I keep it at 1, there's no pitch.  I've tested it again this morning for the 5th time, and the pitch is still there  I have this problem with a couple lamps I have too... if they're anywhere mid-power, they make more noise than lowest or highest.  This is the only thing I've found that's really negative.
*** High-pitched noise - The noise you are hearing is actually in the power supply and it is from the electrical load generated by the device.  Because the unit is drawing a significant amount of power, the power supply makes that noise at certain therapy levels.  We actually have tried a few different power supplies, and this Leader Brand Power Supply seems to be the best one we could find.  It is actually quieter than the Ming Data power supply we initially started with for the prototype version.  We've made a switch to this new power supply and have also made the power cord longer, so that the user could leave the power supply "brick" on the floor, and hopefully the noise won't be as bothersome.

2.  A little bit if difficulty with the water filling.  It's tough not to overfill... hard to tell where the water level is (maybe it's just me - but I have a hard time telling if it's empty or full.  Not sure there is any better option... the window you have is about as good as it can get I would think... I think it's just the nature of the task that it's going to have a little mopping up of your mistakes. Not a product flaw by any means.
*** Water filling - unfortunately most bottles of DISTILLED water available for consumer purchase are sold in 1 gallon containers, which are unwieldy and difficult to pour.  We are in the process of evaluating the inclusion a small plastic cup (with measuring increments) to instruct people how much water to use, and to facilitate easier pouring into the device.  Secondly, we are evaluating a way to make the water level more visible.  The engineers have tossed around the idea of a different color window into the water reservoir, a small ball that would float at the top of the water so you can see it, or a piece of litmus paper that would change color indicating the level of the water.

3.  The fan noise.  It's not that it's a loud fan, it's just that any noise can be irritating to a migraineur.  I'm pretty sure that the benefit of the cold would outweigh the sound for me though, and I think it would eventually become more like white noise one would get used to and might even be soothing.  If it was just the fan noise, and not the high pitched tone, no problem at all with the noise. Edit: after using this for awhile, I don't even notice the fan noise anymore.
*** The fan noise - unfortunately we tried several different fans, and this is the quietest one we could find.  The device needs the fan to draw the cold air away when in the heat setting, and draw the hot air away when in the cool setting.  This is a critical component of the thermoelectric technology that gives the device the unique ability to both heat and cool.

4.  Directions say use only 30 minutes at a time.  I may have an ice bag on for hours depending on the severity of the migraine.
*** 30 minutes of use - as you can imagine this is for safety and liability reasons.  Most people use it for much longer than 30 minutes, and it is usually completely safe to do so (just like with ice or heat), but we would prefer they check with their physician before doing so - in case they have a special condition that would make this dangerous (like altered sensation in any area of the skin).

5.  Being tethered to the machine.  Again, nothing that can be done about this... just something it takes some getting used to when you're used to a more easily portable ice wrap or ice bag. 

6. Not terribly easy to carry around.  It's just kind of bulky, but if you're able to use it in the same spot most of the time, no problem.  Edit: I ended up using my test unit mostly while I was working. It allowed me to have relief with the cold therapy while my medicine was kicking in. I loved being able to sit upright with it on. I would just take it off for any short period I needed to get up and then just slip it back on when I returned. Worked great!
*** Portability - there is a convenience factor to the small portable ice wraps, but those come with the limitations you described so clearly in your points above - the temperature doesn't stay consistent, the wrap has to be frozen ahead of time, the wrap gets warm after a short time, etc.  We tried to make this device battery powered, but quite honestly, the only battery that would power the device for any significant amount of time was about the size of a car battery.  We continue to research ways to make the device more portable, but in the meantime, most people seemed to indicate they would typically find themselves in a chair or a bed, trying to remain immobile when the migraine hit.

Kelli, thank you again for agreeing to try the device and for your comments that will help make the device even better in the next generation.  I hope I have been able to help clarify some of your questions and give you a sense of what we are doing to address your concerns.  

7. The only other downside for some people may be the cost: $349 plus S&H (update 7/27/10 - the price is now $50 off - $299 introductory price). I know for many of you... that sounds like a lot when you're already paying for insurance, medication, doctors visits, etc. But... for me personally, this product is worth every penny and if I look at this compared to my other expenses... it's CHEAP. It's a one time purchase that will deliver years of relief, so if you look beyond the initial investment, it won't seem expensive in the big picture. SootheAway actually does a great job of showing the costs of migraine disease and how their product can help mitigate those costs - see here. SootheAway is also offering a payment plan of 4 installment payments if you need it. Click the link below to learn more.

Order SootheAway Now