Funny things happen when you stay up too late with the television on in the background. You periodically hear something that grabs your attention, and even though you are so certain that you misheard, you look up and pay attention to the television for a while to find out what you really heard.

Last night, while updating a couple of programs for this morning (the ultimate last minute), I heard  Dr. Ho state that Dr. Stu McGill did testing with his muscle stimulating pain relief system and that he found it to be effective. Wait, what?

I looked up in time to see a photo of Dr. McGill in a lab environment in the background of the infomercial. Seriously? My next thought was that this was marketing trickery, but I couldn’t let it go, so I went to Google for more.

(Image credit:


I was pretty shocked to find this,

Description and comparison of traditional T.E.N.S. to DR-HO’S T.E.N.S.

Stuart M. McGill, PhD
Professor of Spine Biomechanics
University of Waterloo, Canada
June 2002

Granted, it is hosted on Dr. Ho’s site, so maybe it’s a fake. But it reads like Dr. McGill’s work (I’ve been re-reading Low Back Disorders lately). From the report:

“In our investigations on various scientific issues related to back pain we were apprised of the Dr Ho’s device. Specifically in our work with the device on patients, we did quantify reductions in perceived pain as claimed by the manufacturer. However, given the subjective nature of data obtained from pain scales, we were motivated to find “hard” evidence obtained with instrumentation. We were successful in being able to find two phenomena
measurable with instruments – specifically we observed reductions in muscle spasm (using electromyography) and increases in muscle oxygenation (using Near Infra-red Spectroscopy). “


“For example traditional TENS units typically output a singular pattern that does not change although the stimulating strength is adjusted for a patient by altering the peak to peak voltage, or the current intensity. In contrast, the Dr Ho’s device outputs a pre-programmed sequence of stimulating pulse patterns that appears to be quite effective for the therapeutic claims made. “


“Debate continues as to the mechanism of action of TENS. Current
hypotheses are dominated by the notion that TENS decreases the sensitivity of
pain-sensing nerve fibers. Our work shows that the sophisticated modulated
patterns of the Dr Ho’s stimulation device reduces muscle spasm and increases
oxygenation suggesting that the pain-spasm cycle is reduced.”

I’m really not sure what to make of this. Except that I still find it unbelievable that what I’ve always perceived as infomercial trash  might actually have some merit.  Still shocked.


Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada, who places great value in Dr. Stuart McGill’s teachings, and incorporates much of it into her training approach. Will Dr. Ho’s be the next new toy at Custom Strength?

Posts about low back pain:
6 Exercises for low back health
Ab exercises: if your back gets sore before your abs
Lessons of the hip and spine from Dr. Sahrmann


  1. We bought a similar not so flashy system over 25 years ago at a home show in Toronto and found it works quite well and reduces the muscle and back tensions. It has multiple settings and the stick on pads which must be changed after time in order for it to be most effective and eliminate the tingly shocks due to insufficient connectivity. Aside from the glitz, I would say the product for most people will do a good job

  2. Have use Dr Ho for long time because it really work for me. I am like a dynamo again.

  3. I have been using Dr. Ho’s 2 pas system for a few months now and I found it has been helping my sciatic nerve problem very well I probably wouldn’t be walking as well as I am without using it

  4. Haha, I just saw Stu on the infomercial and immediately thought “there’s no way he granted permission for that footage” and what do you know…

  5. I I also bought the dr ho,s on large pads and I found over the years that you may put it away but when you take it out it really does help on what I used it for so I bought the large pads and small pads but I’m a big guy so the large pads to help me and I would recommend it and tell you what if you don’t like it you can always find dr ho. At Some. Garage sale ,s. Yes. It works ps If ti feels prickly. You we’ll need new. Pads

  6. I recently placed an order for Dr Ho’s machine….decided not to keep it and send it back “money back guaranteed”….that I don’t know yet all I know is that the shipping and handling comes out of my pocket….$25 on this case…..a nasty surprise since nothing was said about this. Not a good business practice.

  7. I have asked Dr. McGill about another massager since we took our son to see him and he recommended Dr. Ho’s modulating 4 pad system (the same one seen on TV). He said it was effective in breaking down muscle spasm. We are getting it. Dr. McGill wrote the submissions for both the FDA and Health Canada on it.

  8. Hi all. I’ve used Dr Ho’s zapper blaster since somewhere around 2003ish. I saw the add but it was the “try it and see” set up at the mall that got me to part ways with my 75 canadian dollars. It works and it works good! I still have it over a decade later. I purchased some more pads at drhos Web site. I initially thought they wouldn’t fit but the girl on the phone assured me that all new Dr ho pads are compatible with the old machines. I have never bought anything from an infomercial and even after buying this awesome product I’m still skeptical of those late night adds. But this product is one of the best I’ve ever encountered

  9. I bought one of DR HO’S units for my daughter who has been dealing with very severe back pain for over ten years. She says the device works and she has been telling her friends about it. She has only had it for 3 weeks. We will see if it continues to work. But anything is better than taking extremely strong pain medicine which is addictive and is not good for her. So just know that so far she has finally found relief from the constant pain.

  10. Hey Mark, I guess it’s just my own personal bias against both TENS units and products I see on infomercials that makes me so surprised by it. Maybe it’s time to review my biases.

  11. Why do you find this so surprising? Look up the opioid and gait pain theories. TENS can be programmed for either.

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