The Willow Curve: Scam or Useful in Treating Joint Pain and Other Issues?

The Willow Curve - Breakthrough or Scam?

You may have seen an advertisement for "The Willow Curve" on TV, with Chuck Woolery (of "Love Connection" and "Wheel of Fortune" fame) pitching it frequently on news channels like Fox News and CNN. It is a semi-circular shaped device, a bit like a football cut in half, with red lights on the inside. Did you wonder about the claims they made?  Could this device, which looks much like a child's toy with blinking red lights, actually work?


What does the Willow Curve claim to do?The Willow Curve

According to their TV commercials and website, the Willow Curve is "Digital Anti-Inflammatory For Your Joints" that offers "Effective Treatment that Relieves and Heals"

What specific claims are made about the Willow Curve?

The commercials on TV and online say:

  • "The Willow Curve could save you from shoulder or knee surgery.
  • The World's First Smart Digital Anti-Inflammatory Device.
  • Effective Treatment that Relieves and Heals
  • ...FDA-cleared for its effective treatment of joint pain and inflammation.
  • ...can be placed on many different joints for relief of swelling and discomfort.
  • The Willow Curve has been used successfully to treat a number of conditions in thousands of hospitals and clinics nationwide, as well by the Navy SEALS and in professional sports training facilities.
  • Some users experience relief and a better range of motion from the very first use, while others require a few treatments before feeling a reduction in pain and inflammation.
  • The medication-free Willow Curve is safe to use multiple times a day if your difficult pain requires more than one treatment in a 24-hour period."

On another page on the Willow website, they provide general descriptions of a number of ailments and  that the Willow Curve can treat (see this page):

  • General Joint Pain

  • Rotator Cuff Injuries

  • Patellofemoral Syndrome

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Toxic Joint Syndrome

  • Plica Syndrome

  • Gout

  • Plantar Fasciitis

  • Tennis Elbow

  • Fybromyalgia

  • Psoriatic Arthritis

  • Carpal Tunnel

  • Lupus

  • Osgood-Schlatter

  • Occipital Myospastic/Tension/Muscular Headaches:

 

How do they claim it works?

According to their website,

"the Willow Curve is a smart computer, at the beginning of each treatment it assesses the condition of your joint and delivers a targeted, customized 'digital prescription' based on the assessment.

Photonic and thermal kinetic energies are emitted and absorbed through the skin, triggering a series of cleansing and healing responses in the body.

Diagnostic sensors gather information from the surface of your skin. Your body's responses help determine the appropriate algorithm of treatment that the Willow Curve is about to deliver.

Photonic and thermal kinetic energies stimulate 15 bio-physiological processes for repairing the joint and surrounding tissues.
Vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels, and stimulated processes within the cells increase circulation to the treated area. This helps with pain relief and detoxification.
Increased lymphatic flow and immune system response aids detoxification and reduces swelling. The production of new inflammatory cells is also reduced with treatment.
Nerve response time is slowed, reducing the perception of pain.
Endorphins are released, also reducing the perception of pain.
Toxic debris in the joint, a cause of inflammation and pain, is cleared to promote and accelerate healing.
Specific pain receptors are blocked, which promotes pain relief."

And on their FAQs page:

This smart laser device has been observed to chemically suppress local pain signals and activate latent transforming growth factor protein (TGF).
This in turn promotes healing, and regeneration. The Anti-Inflammatory technology component reduces pain, swelling, and promotes faster and more comfortable rehabilitation.

What does this mean?

In plain English, they appear to be saying that their device has sensors, connected to a onboard computer that causes the Willow to release heat and light that stimulates blood flow, lymphatic response and decrease "the perception of pain" and increase healing.

Testing and Certifications?

We found 3 relevant stuudies. First, there is an NIH study about the use of Infared (IR) heat (alone) treatment for low back pain, titled, "Infrared therapy for chronic low back pain: A randomized, controlled trial".  The objective of the study was to assess the degree of pain relief obtained by applying infrared (IR) energy to the low back in patients with chronic, intractable low back pain. The results found that average NRS scores (pain rated on the numerical rating scale) in the treatment group fell from 6.9 of 10 to 3 of 10 at the end of the study. The mean NRS in the placebo group fell from 7.4 of 10 to 6 of 10. The pain was assessed overall, then rotating and bending in different directions. The study's authors concluded that the IR therapy unit used was demonstrated to be effective in reducing chronic low back pain, and no adverse effects were observed. The Willow, appears to go beyond this, using both thermal kinetic and photonic energies.

More specifically, Willow does provide links on their website to two double-blind studies; here's what Willow says:

Published in 2013, four doctors from the University of Toledo College of Medicine in Toledo, Ohio, conducted a double-blind study to measure the effectiveness of the Willow Curve (formerly the WilloMD). The details of the study may be found attached hereto, along with the below-referenced journal abstract. To quote the publication: "Overall, the device statistically outperformed the sham form (p=0.04) with regard to the degree of angle flexion tolerated before pain perception, with the fully-active device (thermal kinetic only) borderline outperforming the sham device. The most consistently improved outcomes occurred with the use of the fully-activated device compared with the partially-activated devices, suggesting that there may be some synergistic benefit arising from the combined modalities (ie, thermal kinetic plus photonic energies)."

The studies are found here:

Clinical trial 2013 (Summary: indicates that over 8% (61/69) of users experienced favorable results )
University of Toledo College of Medicine, Toledo, OH, USA,
Kenneth M Chelucci,
Ronald S Shapiro MD, PhD,
Donald B White,
Kenneth Bachmann; PhD

 

and here,

Clinical trial 2005 -

University of Toledo College of Medicine, Toledo, OH, USA,
Kenneth M Chelucci,
Ronald S Shapiro MD, PhD,
Donald B White,
Kenneth Bachmann; PhD

FDA Approved?

According to the FDA, the FDA uses a risk-based, tiered approach for regulating medical devices:

FDA classifies devices according to risk. Only the highest-risk devices, such as mechanical heart valves and implantable infusion pumps, require FDA approval before marketing. To receive FDA approval for these devices, the manufacturer must demonstrate that its devices provide a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness.
Moderate-risk medical devices (e.g., dialysis equipment and many types of catheters) are cleared for marketing based on an FDA determination that they are substantially equivalent to an already legally marketed device of the same type. FDA has exempted certain low-risk medical devices (e.g., certain bandages) from premarket review when they are for the same use and of the same technology.

The Willow Curve falls into a classification with the FDA which cannot receive an approval because the FDA does not approve technologies like the Willow.  So, an FDA approval simply isn't relevant.

Complaints?

To their credit, as far as formal complaints go, the Better Business Bureau reports no complaints as of February 2015. Generally, a good BBB rating, especially for a heavily advertised product like this, indicates that customers who wanted refunds were given them in a timely manner.

Willow says:

To those who are still concerned, just try it. We back our 90-day money back guarantee and want to be part of your next, pain-free steps toward recovery. Our company is built on integrity and honors its commitments. The Willow Curve is anything but a scam. It is a revolutionary device which uses digital technology to reset many of the body's natural responses to pain and toxicity. While revolutionary, it isn't magic. It is science.

On their website and TV commercials they advertise a 90-day money back gaurantee. The BBB reports indicate that they horo that. Given that it costs about $600, if customers were dissatisfied, you would think they would have asked for refunds.

Who is behind the Willow Curve?

On their website, they say:

The WilloMD is a fifth generation consumer/medical device developed by Physician's Technology, LLC founded in 1997 and originally based on the early work of Drs. Ronald Shapiro and Richard Dunlap. Through extensive research and clinical application, our Company has developed significant advancements designed to treat pain that limits performance and particularly knee and joint pain; collectively referred to as Performance Enhancement Technology (PET).
Specialties
knee pain treatment and relief, joint pain treatment and relief, pain management
Website
http://www.willomd.com
Industry
Medical Devices
Type
Privately Held
Headquarters
23 E. Front Street Suite 200 Monroe, Michigan 48161 United States

Unanswered questions

  • What do the sensors sense? 

  • How do the sensors work?

  • What intensity and wavelength of light and heat does the device emit?

  • How was the pain (or perception of pain) measured?

The Bottom Line:

  • The Better Business Bureau reports no complaints
  • The have a 90 return period.
  • There are two independent studies from a major university (University of Toledo) that verify it provides measureable pain relief for some patients
  • User reports are mixed: some individuals say it works, some say it doesn't

AT $600, it is expensive, but less expensive methods haven't worked for you, like a $25 to $35 heating pad and some over the counter pain relievers, this could be worth a try. Especially since the BBB reports no complaints, and it appears that Willow offers refunds when asked for them. Of course, the best advice is to first talk to your own doctor, who has evaluated your specific case. 


Similar Products and Competitors

The Willow Curve is sold directly on their website (click here to go to their online purchasing - unlike our links to Amazon products, CFR receives no commission from the sales; we are just presenting the link out of fairness).

There are competitors offering devices that claim to reduce pain as well. One is TENDLITE® Red Light Therapy Anti-Inflammatory Therapy | MEDICAL GRADE Strength & Relief) which had over 350 reviews on Amazon and an average rating of 4.5 stars. Look at the bottom on this page for similar products which are highly rated by users on Amazon, but cost much less. Again, we are not endorsing these products, merely pointing out that large numbers of consumers have rated them highly on Amazon, and they cost much less.

Ff you wish to see products that claim to offer similar relief (but work differently) on Amazon, and see their customer reviews, click on the links below. We have no affiliation with any of these manufacturers and have not tested their products. Notice that some of these products (Penetrex) have over 5,000 customer reviews, get 4.5 out of 5 stars, and yet cost only a fraction of the roughly $600 cost of a Willow Curve.

 

 


References:

 


Do you own a Willow Curve?

If you have actually tried a WIllow Curve, we would love to hear from you! Tell us about your experiences in buy and using the device and whether you can detect any benefit to it.

Feedback and comments:

Keep in mind, we cannot verify these statements. Just like with Amazon, these are unedited and unconfirmed:

  • Monday, May 11, 2015 3:00 PM: In reference to the Willow Curve: I was very skeptical about purchasing the Willow Curve. I figured with a 90 day free trial, what could I lose? I have used the Willow Curve 3 times now for my plantar fasciitis. After each use there is a noticeable difference in the degree of pain. Before a Curve session, my pain level might be a 8. After the Curve, it's reduced to a 5. As I've only been using the Curve a few days, I have not seen any cumulative effects, just immediate effects after each use. I've got 60 days left to use the Curve.... we'll see what happens.
  • Wednesday, May 06, 2015 1:13 PM: I have had my Willow Curve of about 3 months and use it daily. It has definitely helped my wrist and ankle. It is a little big for those areas but i can adjust it to work. My only complaint is it beeps and that scares my dog. We have a dog fence and her collar beeps is she is too close. I would recommend an extra battery as it appears to only charge once it is completely drained and that is a little inconvenient. I have RA and when I don't use it my ankles and wrists swell and are very painful. If I use it daily i feel much better. Remember it is pain management not a cure. It only works if you turn it on.
  • Monday, May 04, 2015 5:59 PM: If the idiots who wrote the above would try Willow Curve, they would find most of the positive claims about Willow Curve are 100% accurate. I could not walk thirty yards without an ace bandage and enough 'heat' cream on my knee to soak up a beach towel. After trying Willow Curve for the first time, I am now able to play 18 to 36 holes of golf twice per week. I am able to walk the 1/2 mile walk to the town of Apalachicola, Florida and walk around the town shopping with my wife. I do not use an ace bandage or any 'heat' cream. This Willow Curve Works.My wife has a lung problem which makes her cough enough to hurt her ribs. She uses the Willow Curve and her pain in her ribs goes away almost immediately.Why is it that non-believers are the ones who do not try a new product. I'll tell you why because they are the same people who go to hear a congressional candidate speak and start 'booing' him before they have heard his or her side of an argument.The world can do well without these people. No! I take that back. The world needs those people to make the 'good' people ''shine''.I am: Lathan Hudson...You can find me on the Google Search engine
  • Tuesday, April 28, 2015 8:48 PM: I too tried the device for tendonitis without any relief. used it for and hour a day for two weeks with no positive effect. Returned it a month ago and am awaiting a refund. I wrote a review for Willow website and they do not post any negative reviews.
  • Tuesday, April 28, 2015 9:32 AM: It is a shame to see what is being said about the Willow curve. I have used one since last year and could not live with out it. I lived on pain meds for several years due to bad knees and was at the point of looking at replacement. I now have no need for this and am active again including running a weight lifting. I also know of 2 other people that have had the similar results. The Willow is the real deal and allowing people who have never tried one to comment on it is not only wrong it is preventing people from getting pain releif without having to use drugs.
  • Monday, April 27, 2015 11:59 AM: I have had the willow curve for 2 weeks now and have noticed considerable relief from pain in my knee.
  • Thursday, April 02, 2015 5:45 PM, anonymous: I purchased the Willowcurve and received it relatively promptly. I have tendonitis in both elbows, an occupational hazard as I've been a court reporter for 23 years.
    I used the Willow Curve at least 2-4 times a day for about 2 weeks. When you initially begin the treatment, it does feel good, much like a heating pad would. I tried positioning it in every way imaginable to make sure to expose whatever was causing my pain in my elbows. I decided to return the product when "feeling" that my elbows were actually hurting me worse. I am not saying that the WC caused my elbow pain to worsen, but I never, not even once felt any relief, not even for a moment once the treatment was concluded.
    My thought is that it may not be "designed" for my particular type of problem. That being said, I called WC and they promptly sent me a return label vian email with no questions asked. I had kept the original packaging and receipt, which they say in the warranty or return you must have. I now await my refund.
    Hope this was helpful...
  • March 23, 2015 from Joe:  "an 66 year old male. I was VERY skeptical of the Willow Curve. On the basis of recommendation from a person of integrity I purchased a Willow Curve.
    With doubt,I tried it out since it has the 90 day guarantee and was recommended.
    After a month I have determined that it DOES WORK . Still,600 bucks is a lot of money.....but....NO PAIN is NO PAIN1 I have not had to resort to ANY ibuprofen in a month.
    You fellow DOUBTERS out there should try the Willow.
    By the way... I have read no testimony until now,after more than a month because I did not want to be swayed by OPINIONS but rather by FACT."
  • February 22, 2015 from imallears2: "The Tendlite absolutely works on my arthritic thumb and toes! As such, I ordered the Willow Curve to see if similar results can be realized in larger areas. I.e.: knees and shoulder."
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For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.

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