published Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Chattanooga invention that zaps back pain unveiled at Las Vegas event

  • photo
    The Neubac is a silicone device that attaches to the back with gel strips and delivers electric impulses to neutralize pain. It costs $159 and is made by Chattanooga-based Hollywog.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A Chattanooga company on Tuesday unveiled a new medical device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that zaps back agony with electrical impulses.

The Neubac -- pronounced new-back -- is a soft, silicone device that sticks to the lower back using disposable gel packs, and uses a mix of high-frequency and low-frequency electrical nerve stimulation to block pain signals.

Neubac got its start as a prescription-only device which competed with older, more complicated rivals. Unlike existing prescription products that come in boxy casings and require patients to attach wires and fiddle with switches, the Neubac can be worn all day and has been approved for over-the-counter use.

A tiny remote control can turn the intensity up and down while users go about their daily lives, said Keith Hagy, vice president of product development for Hollywog, which developed the Neubac.

"The problem with traditional devices is it didn't fit your active lifestyle," Hagy said. "You'd have to hook yourself up and sit for 30 minutes or longer. Doctors had to spend time adjusting the device, don't touch this button, do touch this button."

The device can also replace expensive and addictive medicine often used to treat back pain, he said, which can have dangerous and long-term side effects.

  • photo
    Users can control the Neubac with a remote control, changing the intensity of the device’s pain-relieving impulses.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"People are taking Oxycontin, hydro, and whatever else. And as people are getting more and more aware of what drugs do, they're looking for drug-free alternatives," Hagy said."Instead of taking a drug for the pain, this is a drug-free alternative."

Electrical impulses have been used for years as therapy for patients with lower back pain. Neubac uses transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS therapy, to essentially scramble the brain's ability to detect aches. Other types of pain relief that use electricity include Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy, which uses a electrical wire placed inside a spinal disc to deliver pulses of electricity, potentially relieving pain for up to six months, according to WebMD.

"This technology has been around for decades, it's a proven technology used every day in the rehab world, chiropractic world, and for physical therapy. What we've done differently is make this into a wearable device," Hagy said.

The Neubac is available online already for $150, but Chuck Thomas, president of the company, is working as a panelist for the show's digital health discussion in hopes of signing up brick and mortar retail partners. The goal is to get the device into retail pharmacies like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS; as well as sports retailers. If the company's retail gambit pays off, Hollywog's 10 employees could one day find themselves working to eliminate neck or shoulder pain, he said.

"We definitely see great opportunity with retail, whether it's a traditional store or sports store, or online," Hagy said.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith, esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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