Let’s face it: The past year has been chock-full of stress. From dealing with the pandemic unknowns to being quarantined at home, sometimes morning yoga and inspiring podcasts just don’t cut it when you’re feeling overwhelmed. But a new wellness device — called the Apollo Neuro wearable band — can purportedly help relieve stress through touch therapy.
Essentially, the Apollo Neuro is a smart bracelet that you can wear around your wrist or ankle and works to give you stress-reducing buzzes in times of need. It syncs to the brand’s app, so you can control its touch therapy functions from your phone. The whole mechanism behind the wearable is that it vibrates at various intensities in order to stimulate different nerve responses, be it finding rest and relaxation or boosting concentration.
To see if it’d actually work to calm my stress levels, I wore it for a week — here’s what to know about how it works and whether it lived up to its promise.
How Apollo Neuro Works
According to Jason Woodrum, ACSW, a therapist at healing center New Method Wellness, touch therapy is a relatively new practice used to treat anxiety, depression, and trauma. “Practitioners can use a host of different tools such as Apollo Neuro to introduce stimuli to the body that can assist in soothing different points of the body,” he says, noting that gentle vibrations can be employed to bring you to the present moment as a sort of mindfulness practice.
Dr. Dave Rabin, MD, psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and co-inventor of the device, says the product is meant to be used as a safe tool to help with things like chronic pain and stress, and he created the technology to bring relief so people could “feel more in control of their healing process without having to rely on drugs,” he tells Bustle.
The Apollo Neuro, which retails for $349, has seven different modes, including those meant for sleep, meditation, and focus. Each mode has a unique duration and vibration intensity level for the specific task at hand, and the gentle waves come at different speeds, which makes it easy to tailor your touch therapy to what you need. According to the brand, the vibrations are meant to restore the body’s balance by using rhythms your body is used to, and using the device regularly can (supposedly) begin to train you to respond better to stress.
Testing It Out
To tap into this mindfulness practice, I decided to use the wearable for the first time after finishing an intense morning Chloe Ting workout. According to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, MD, a New York-licensed neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, vibrations can be soothing to the body and mind, and can help bring you back to a calm state after strenuous exercise. “Gentle vibrations help the body stimulate the nerves and alleviate muscle tension,” she tells Bustle. “The alleviation of muscle tension can make you feel calm and relaxed, thus reducing anxiety.”
With that in mind, I put my Apollo Neuro on the “rebuild and recover” setting, which is tailored for after physical activity. I find it difficult to meditate or stretch after a high intensity workout, so the device was a helpful mindfulness activity that didn’t require any effort besides turning it on. My exercise exhausted my muscles, so the wearable’s intensity — which, in this mode, vibrated at 30% intensity for five minutes — was the perfect setting to help restore and relax my body in just a short amount of time.
Even though the wearable was strapped on my ankle, I felt its soothing effects all over my body whenever I activated the vibrations. “Different parts of our bodies respond in unique ways to touch receptors, based on the density and responsiveness of nerve endings,” says Woodrum. “Vibration, when utilized effectively, can activate the pleasure system within our brains, spreading dopamine and serotonin which stir up a sense of wellness and happiness all throughout the body.” According to Rabin, the wearable is basically like music that's composed for your skin. “Touch receptors, rather than for your ears, could reliably shift the body into a more recovery-focused state,” he says. “Ears are very sensitive to changing frequencies, rhythms, and tones, the same way that the skin is sensitive to the changes in frequency and rhythm and tones.”
Every day around mid-afternoon (slump time), I would put on my Apollo Neuro to use the “clear and focused” mode. The setting, which is half an hour of vibrations at 20% intensity, allowed me to center in on work. At one point, I even stopped noticing the vibrations because I was so focused.
The device also has a “social and open” setting for when you’re hanging out with friends and family. Since most of my socializing is confined to a computer screen nowadays, I wore the band during Zoom chats with friends — something that calmed down jitters from the inevitable awkward moments of video chats. The slower movements felt comforting and helped make me feel more present as I felt vibrations through my ankle. Rabin says this mode can help those who are uncomfortable in social settings and alleviate symptoms of social anxiety.
One of the most convenient parts about the wearable is that you can manually switch to whatever mode you want, whenever you want — and you don’t even have to wear it all day. You can also track your progress through the app, which keeps tabs on how many minutes of touch therapy you clock each day and tells you when you reach several-day-long streaks.
Apollo Neuro’s ultimate goal of helping manage stress definitely translated into my life. I would find myself syncing my app and putting my wearable on even before I drank my daily morning coffee. Most days, I feel groggy before my caffeine boost, but after working out and switching on the meditation and mindfulness setting for a quick pick-me-up, I definitely felt more ready to conquer the day — so if you’re looking for a new method for handling stress, I’d recommend giving this a try.
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Dr. Dave Rabin, M.D., co-founder, co-inventor, and CIO of Apollo Neuro
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, New York State-Licensed Neuropsychologist and Faculty Member at Columbia University
Jason Woodrum, ACSW, and therapist at New Method Wellness