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How Alice Smellie cured her Long Covid with a £200 device used to treat injured racehorses

Alice cured her long Covid — by wearing a £200 pain zapper invented to help injured horses 

Just nine months ago, things looked bleak. In October, having managed to avoid it up to that point – and despite being fully jabbed – I caught Covid. One of the children brought it home from school and we all went down like dominoes, one after the other. My children, aged 14, 16 and 17, bounced back. I didn’t.

To start with, it was classic Covid: a raging fever, night sweats, insomnia, a loss of the ability to taste or smell and a sore throat that felt like swallowing glass.

But this gave way to the most horrific, relentless stabbing headache that made me want to vomit every time I moved. It was hellish.

And then, after three weeks of this, I collapsed, rather dramatically I imagine, while dropping my eldest son at a friend’s house. An ambulance was called. I was rushed to hospital. I felt as if I was dying, but heart scans and blood tests came back normal. People kept reassuring me: ‘It’s just Covid.’

Alice Smellie, pictured,  cured her long Covid — by wearing a £200 pain zapper invented to help injured horses

Many people who develop Long Covid can see their normally busy lives disrupted causing problems domestically and in the work place

Many people who develop Long Covid can see their normally busy lives disrupted causing problems domestically and in the work place 

I was discharged with a single piece of advice: ‘Don’t get dehydrated.’

The next morning my GP called.

‘What should I do?’ I asked.

‘Nothing,’ he advised.

And, in truth, doing nothing was all I could manage. Over the next few weeks I struggled with a fatigue so profound I couldn’t do the laundry or walk the dog.

I had just enough energy to get out of bed and drive my three children the two miles to school.

Then I’d lie on the sofa for the rest of the morning, which was, I can assure you, not my normal routine. Any attempt to, say, empty the dishwasher, led to such dizziness I’d have to lie down.

By mid-November I was contemplating a very different life from the one I’d had – an active mother-of-three with a busy career.

Was I to be one of the millions blighted by long Covid – the unfortunate souls who struggle to recover after being infected with the virus, having previously been healthy?

Well, no. I’m glad to say that today my problems are in the past. I feel better than ever, in fact.

As I write this, I’ve just got back in from one of my regular three-mile runs. I do this, alongside Pilates and swimming, when I’m not trying to keep up with three demanding teenagers.

What’s more, my recovery happened within a week – and I credit my astonishing turnaround to a £200 device that was initially created to treat injured racehorses and return them to competition.

Alice has been using a £200 device which is normally used on horses which she claims has alleviated her Covid-19 symptoms

Alice has been using a £200 device which is normally used on horses which she claims has alleviated her Covid-19 symptoms 

The device, called Arc4Health, is the size and shape of a TV remote and emits a weak electric current. It sits in a Velcro cuff – a bit like the ones used with a blood pressure monitor – that you strap around a leg or arm.

You wear it three hours a day for six weeks and you can’t feel anything while it’s switched on. But the imperceptible pulses it shoots into the body – via two electrode pads which face the skin – stimulate tissue repair, help manage pain and fight inflammation. Fascinatingly, there are decades of clinical research that suggests this sort of treatment, known as microcurrent therapy, can treat a whole host of muscle and joint problems, from shoulder, knee and back pain to sinus problems. There’s also compelling evidence it can make injuries heal faster. And now there are growing numbers of long Covid sufferers who say that it’s helped them, too.

I should point out, I’ve specialised in health reporting for decades. I’m probably more sceptical than most about miracle cures. I’m used to questioning studies and being critical of treatments promoted as panaceas. No trials have so far been done on microcurrents for long Covid. But, oh boy, did it work for me.

I was told about Arc4Health by a journalist friend who had been writing about how it might help restore Covid-related loss of sense of smell and taste. She’d been speaking to people who’d reported great results. She had also used the device herself after a Caesarean and found that she healed surprisingly fast.

At that point I was desperate – I didn’t really look into it any further. I would have tried anything to feel normal again. So I went to the company’s website, paid £200 and, a few days later, my device arrived in the post.

By mid-November I was contemplating a very different life from the one I’d had – an active mother-of-three with a busy career

By mid-November I was contemplating a very different life from the one I’d had – an active mother-of-three with a busy career

Since doing the six-week Arc4Health programme, small aches I’d had for years have vanished. Obviously, I am now evangelical. But more to the point, with up to three per cent of the population suffering from long-term Covid-related problems, I wonder could it help them, too?

Since doing the six-week Arc4Health programme, small aches I’d had for years have vanished. Obviously, I am now evangelical. But more to the point, with up to three per cent of the population suffering from long-term Covid-related problems, I wonder could it help them, too?

After just five days of using it, something remarkable happened: I had enough energy to cook dinner for the first time in almost two months. That very morning a friend had picked me up so we could go for a coffee – I’d felt too weak to drive myself. But that evening I was pottering about the kitchen, finding it hard to believe I was upright.

My father had come to stay for the weekend and help out, and the next day I suggested we took a day trip – we walked around a cathedral and had a lovely time.

It was only after a full day of gentle exertion that I felt the crushing tiredness return, and then had to stop.

Over the following week, gradually, I could do more and more – being able to tidy the children’s bedrooms and put the washing away was, I’ll admit, a surprisingly joyous experience.

It felt as if some great weight had fallen away from me.

I went swimming with a friend. I’d attempted to go when I was sick but had to haul myself out after little more than a length and lie beside the pool for an hour.

My teens were delighted, as I was once again able to drive them to and from their social engagements, and we didn’t have to live on ready meals. In January, I ran in a 10k race. And it didn’t end there.

Since my own Lazarus-like return to health, I’ve been looking into it. While the signs seem promising from where I’m standing, it’s too soon to make any guarantees

Since my own Lazarus-like return to health, I’ve been looking into it. While the signs seem promising from where I’m standing, it’s too soon to make any guarantees

Since doing the six-week Arc4Health programme, small aches I’d had for years have vanished. Obviously, I am now evangelical. But more to the point, with up to three per cent of the population suffering from long-term Covid-related problems, I wonder could it help them, too?

Since my own Lazarus-like return to health, I’ve been looking into it. While the signs seem promising from where I’m standing, it’s too soon to make any guarantees.

Studies have shown horses who had supposedly career-ending injuries made a full recovery thanks to the device.

In humans, alongside pain relief and improved healing – proven in gold standard ranadomised clinical trials – it’s been shown to tackle symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME. But at the moment, in long Covid, the evidence is mainly anecdotal.

Some doctors have been suitably impressed with the results to begin recommending it.

One is Dr Tina Peers, a GP with a special interest in long Covid and women’s health, who gave the Arc4Health device to four patients suffering the lingering effects of the virus.

Studies have shown horses who had supposedly career-ending injuries made a full recovery thanks to the device

Studies have shown horses who had supposedly career-ending injuries made a full recovery thanks to the device

‘All of them experienced significant reduction in their symptoms,’ she says. Some saw improvements in a few days, while others took a few weeks.

‘One or two have done amazingly well in terms of reduction in headaches and improvement in mood and sleep,’ she adds. The reports are observational and rely on patients’ self-reporting but she says, overall, 80 per cent of symptoms were either improved or resolved within the six weeks.

ARC Microtech, which makes the Arc4Health machine, says it works because everything we do as humans is powered by minute pulses of electricity passing through cells. The device, by introducing an external source of this electricity, ‘simply reboots or restores those pathways’ if cells are damaged from illness or injury.

The company’s chief executive, Peter Clayton, says: ‘Each cell contains adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, whose prime role is to get nutrients from one healthy cell to another via the cell wall. When you sustain an injury, cells are damaged. Introducing microcurrent boosts ATP production, reduces inflammation and kick-starts the body into healing itself.’ The current is too small to be felt and has a systemic effect – meaning it works throughout the whole body, he adds.

The company makes no claims for its machine’s effectiveness with long Covid. But Mr Clayton says people who were using it for injuries found their lingering Covid symptoms were also alleviated.

Can something like this – a pulsing electric current – really help with what’s clearly an incredibly complex condition?

Dr Deepak Ravindran, who heads Berkshire’s NHS long Covid clinics, seems open minded. ‘If patients find it is beneficial then there is no harm in trying it, although we would need a higher quality of robust evidence for NICE to recommend it in long Covid clinics.’

I do wonder why I was laid so low with Covid. I was super-healthy before my illness – bar a few allergies, such as hay fever. A few years ago I suffered from alopecia areata – patchy hair loss – which thankfully resolved.

In truth, no one knows exactly why some people get long-term symptoms. There are theories: it could be due to problems with the immune system leading to a build-up of inflammatory compounds in the body. These normally fight infections but can end up damaging healthy cells.

Others suggest Covid triggers problems with the blood and circulation, or causes the nervous system to become hyper-sensitive

Others suggest Covid triggers problems with the blood and circulation, or causes the nervous system to become hyper-sensitive

Others suggest Covid triggers problems with the blood and circulation, or causes the nervous system to become hyper-sensitive.

‘There’s also the possibility that residual fragments of the virus might be repeatedly reactivating the nervous system,’ says Dr Ravindran.

For all of these reasons, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. Long Covid clinics generally rely on a combination of diet and lifestyle advice, breathing exercises and physiotherapy.

I’ve recommended Arc4Health to many friends and family. One reports that the Covid-related headache and chest pain she’d had for some weeks had totally gone. A friend’s son had equally positive results after suffering a few months of symptoms.

Without proper research into Arc4Health for long Covid, it’s impossible to say whether the improvements reported by some users are genuinely down to the device, or a placebo effect – a psychological trick in which the brain believes something has been beneficial when it has not made any actual difference

Without proper research into Arc4Health for long Covid, it’s impossible to say whether the improvements reported by some users are genuinely down to the device, or a placebo effect – a psychological trick in which the brain believes something has been beneficial when it has not made any actual difference

Without proper research into Arc4Health for long Covid, it’s impossible to say whether the improvements reported by some users are genuinely down to the device, or a placebo effect – a psychological trick in which the brain believes something has been beneficial when it has not made any actual difference.

The power of mind over matter is strong. However, I had no expectations before I used it.

And yes, I might have just recovered anyway. But it would be one hell of a coincidence.

Ultimately, the scientific jury is still out. But I believe it helped me. And I’m grateful that, like the racehorses, I’m not ready for the knacker’s yard just yet.

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