The $180 Reliefband Flex is an anti-nausea accessory that is designed to attach to an Apple Watch, allowing for a single wrist-worn device that is able to cut down on or eliminate motion sickness, migraine nausea, pregnancy nausea, and more.
You might be wondering what an anti-nausea device has to do with Apple, but many VR headsets cause motion sickness in people who are prone to feeling ill from motion, and Apple's own VR headset is set to launch in the not too distant future. The Apple Vision Pro won't be coming until 2024, so it's not yet clear if it will cause the same motion sickness in vulnerable people that other headsets cause, but if it does, the Reliefband might be a solution for some.
I am prone to motion sickness, so I thought I'd give the Reliefband a try. I get ill from car rides, 3D rides (and sometimes movies), VR headsets, boats, and first-person shooter video games - basically anything where my brain gets signals that I'm moving while my body is stationary. I've always had this problem, so I'm familiar with various treatments.
The Reliefband uses electrical pulses targeted at the underside of the wrist. It targets the median nerve in the wrist, and the pulses stimulate the nerve to interrupt nausea signals traveling to the brain. There are several similar products on the market, and there have been studies that suggest this kind of acustimulation is effective for nausea, but there have also been studies that suggest it is not, so keep that in mind here.
The Reliefband Flex that I tested looks like a medical device. It's not at all sleek, and in fact, it's bulky on my small wrist. It's made from a plastic material with a button and pulse level indicators on the front and two metal plates on the back. It has watch straps and can be worn alone with a nylon band, but it is also designed to attach to an Apple Watch.
Reliefband provides a special band that attaches to both the Apple Watch and the Reliefband hardware, so the Apple Watch goes on the top of the wrist and the Reliefband goes at the underside of the wrist. With this setup, you don't have to wear a device on both wrists if you need the benefits of the Reliefband.
I have small wrists so there's not a lot of space between the Apple Watch and the Reliefband, and it's not the most comfortable setup, but it can be better than having two separate devices. The band that Reliefband provides is reasonably comfortable, and it reminds me of Apple's woven bands, but again, there's a lot of bulk on a small wrist with the dual-band setup. The band is made of a soft velcro-like material with velcro fasteners to size it. The Flex version uses replaceable batteries, so it does not need to be charged. Batteries need to be swapped at around the year mark, though that varies based on usage.
To get the Reliefband to work properly, it needs to be precisely positioned. It has to go a half inch or so above the crease of the wrist, and it needs to be in the middle of the wrist. When it's turned on and in the proper spot, the pulses are felt in the palm and the middle finger. To use the Reliefband, conductivity gel is required, and a small tube comes with the device. The gel needs to be applied before use and also refreshed if it wears off because it makes the pulsing less uncomfortable and more effective.
There are five levels of power with the Reliefband Flex, and the idea is to set it on the lowest level that you need to address nausea. To me, it feels a little bit like getting a small shock. I did not find levels 1-3 to be too painful, but levels four and five really get my attention. With the lower levels, the pulsing can kind of fade into the background, and I think on someone with a larger wrist, the higher levels would too.
So does it work? For me, yes and no. I experimented with the Reliefband several times, in the car, when I had nausea from a migraine, playing a first-person video game, and using an Oculus, which always makes me ill. If I put the Reliefband on before I anticipated getting motion sick, it kept it at bay. Putting it on when I was already feeling nauseous did not work as well.
I think part of the reason for that was because I didn't like setting the power above a level three, and I needed a higher power to distract from the nausea. I did meet with the Reliefband team, and they said that it's common for people to need some customization and help with optimal settings. They advised me to use extra conductivity gel to make more of a barrier between the band and my skin, which did help, and they also helped me figure out that I could kick it up to a 4 or 5 for a short period of time and then drop it back down. Their customer service team is accustomed to helping people troubleshoot.
If you look up the Reliefband, you'll see a lot of comments about how it works, plus a lot of comments about how it's snake oil or a placebo. In my experience it wasn't perfect, but it did help with my motion sickness on several occasions, and it's something I plan to try again if Apple's upcoming Vision Pro headset causes me to become motion sick when I use it.
When I'm in a situation where I know I am going to have intensive motion sickness over multiple days, I get a prescription patch with scopolamine. Day to day, I have used the acupressure bands with the plastic nubs that dig into the wrist, taken high-dose ginger pills (my preferred anti-nausea option), used benadryl, taken dramamine, and more, so I am used to trying all kinds of unusual things. I don't care for dramamine and benadryl so it is nice to have a more functional alternative when the ginger pills are unavailable or aren't working.
I don't know that the Reliefband Flex is going to work for everyone, but if you have the kind of intense motion sickness that I do, you're probably willing to experiment.
The $180 price on the Reliefband seems high for the all-plastic build and the clunky design, and it's definitely expensive enough that it will put off some buyers. There is a 14-day return policy, so there is an option to test it out just for the cost of shipping, and it can also be bought on Amazon for a simpler return process.
How to Buy
The Reliefband Flex can be purchased from the Reliefband website for $180.