What are TouchPoints?
According to the company website, TouchPoints (formerly known as Buzzies) are “non-invasive lifestyle wearables” that can relieve stress by over 70 percent after just half a minute of use.
The devices are designed to be worn on both sides of the body to regulate its stress response. You merely need to turn them on when you feel anxious, the company claims, and the stress will start to disappear.
TouchPoints.com states that anyone can benefit from using these devices and that they are a practical, affordable solution for combating stress and enhancing performance. In fact, the site says that using TouchPoints for as little as five minutes a day will result in improved focus and increased productivity for users.
But will they work as promised? Let’s dive into the details to gain some insight.
How Do TouchPoints Work?
TouchPoints’ technology was invented by the neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin. Psychology Today told us that Dr. Serin graduated from Fielding Graduate University in 2006 and specializes in anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, depression, parenting, giftedness, phobias, and women's issues at her Arizona clinic.
The company website states that the devices work by use neuroscientific technology through gentle haptic micro-vibrations to calm you down.
The devices are sold in pairs, and they are designed to be worn on your wrists, clipped to clothing, or held directly. When activated, they use Bi- Lateral Alternating Stimulation Tactile (BLAST) technology to alter the body’s natural fight, flight, or freeze (F3) responses. This purportedly relieves stress by restoring your neural functioning back to base level.
In other words, TouchPoints work by affecting your neural system in three main ways:
- Reduce Body Sensations: TouchPoints reduce the physical symptoms of stress like a racing heartbeat and butterflies in the stomach within thirty seconds of using the devices.
- Shifts “Fight, Flight, or Freeze’ Response: TouchPoints shifts your brain from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system to increase logic and rationality while reducing stress.
- Creates Neural Pathways: TouchPoints make it possible to think about stressors without triggering a physical response, which can create new, positive neural pathways in the brain. Because these effects last over time, the device can work to treat PTSD.
The company website states that TouchPoints are useful for treating a variety of physical and mental conditions, from general stress to sleep problems, PTSD, and autism. The technology is also purported to increase feelings of calm and focus, improve sleep quality and performance, and reduce anger and cravings.
Wearing and Using TouchPoints
To get the most out of TouchPoints, one device needs to be worn on both sides of the body, though they don’t need to be touching skin. Once secured, you can turn on the desired setting (or connect the device to the app for TouchPoints original) and follow instructions.
To use TouchPoints, turn the device on and chose your setting (the options differ depending on the model you choose). Once on, the two devices will gently vibrate to let you know they are on.
When you feel panicked or stressed, the device will be triggered and start to calm you down within 30 seconds. For best results, the company recommends wearing the devices for between a minute to up to two hours during stressful situations. It’s typically recommended that you use them before, during, and after a stressful event to calm you down. Once you feel calm again, you can turn the devices off to save battery life.
In this way, the device can be used to spot treat stress for short durations or be left in place for extended periods to prevent it from happening in the first place.
TouchPoints has positioned itself as a solution to the stress epidemic today. Just how troubling are current anxiety levels? Looking at the research might, well, stress you out.
How Big of a Problem is Stress Today?
According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, stress is an unfortunate fact of life for millions of Americans. An NPR study funded by the Harvard School of Public Health found that close to fifty percent of Americans underwent a significant stress event in the past year, leading to many adverse health effects.
While Medical News Today tells us that some stress is essential for survival because it triggers the “fight or flight” mentality that kept our ancestors alive, too much pressure won’t do you any favors.
Huffington Post tells us that chronic stress causes adverse physical and emotional effects, and between 75-90 percent of doctor’s visits today are related to stress.
Some common signs of stress, according to Medical News Today, are a racing heartbeat, poorly functioning digestive system, rapid breathing, muscle tension, a lowered immune system, and insomnia.
There’s little question that living with stress is terrible for your body, and TouchPoints are designed to combat its effects by calming you down before your anxiety is overwhelming. Will using TouchPoints help you relax? Let’s look closer at the kinds of conditions this device was designed to help.
Who Can Benefit from TouchPoints?
While TouchPoints was initially developed for Autism and ADHD treatment, the copy on the company website states that TouchPoints are effective for treating a variety of conditions, including insomnia, autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s, EMDR, PTSD, and general anxiety. They consider the technology to be especially beneficial for improving performance before or during stressful experiences like giving a presentation or taking an exam.
Notably, the company also makes it clear that TouchPoints aren’t intended to treat medical conditions or to be a substitute for professional advice. Instead, they are meant to be used as a general wellness device, preferably in conjunction with therapy or medication.
What Does TouchPoints Research Look Like?
The product website tells us that TouchPoints works with patent-pending BLAST technology (Bi-lateral Alternating Stimulation-Tactile Technology). In other words, the devices work by sending vibrations that disengage your standard stress response to prevent it from becoming debilitating.
Understanding BLAST Technology
While the company claims that the premise behind BLAST technology has been used in treatments and scientific research before, they state that they are the first company to put it to use in a wearable device.
The product website includes links to over a dozen published research articles, including peer-reviewed research, in-house research, case studies, and academic research.
Brand founder Amy Serin published TouchPoint's in-house research. One paper states that BLAST technology can be used as a fast-acting, passive, and non-invasive way to inhibit the human stress response and improve memory recognition. Her research also states that BLAST has value outside of PTSD, ADHD, and autism treatment, and can work as a ‘stand-alone methodology to improve individual’s lives.’
At the time of writing, the website also listed about a dozen outside research sources about the role of tactile stimulation on memory formation, improving moods, and relieving the symptoms of stress. From our research, these studies didn’t reference the term “BLAST Technology” explicitly but instead referenced some of the properties of the technology separately.
Because the term “BLAST technology” is still patent-pending at the time of writing, it doesn’t appear that the technology has been evaluated in any peer-reviewed journals.
What Comes with a TouchPoints Purchase?
At the time of writing, TouchPoints come in value bundles that include two devices, a linen carrying bag, dual-pronged charging cable, couplers for watchbands, and one set of watchbands of your choice.
TouchPoints Original and Basic Differences
At the time of writing, TouchPoints offers both an original and basic option. Both rely on BLAST technology, but they differ in the features that they provide.
TouchPoints original comes with six pre-settings (calm, sleep, cravings, performance, focus, anger) and lets you customize and save your own settings as well. The device is controlled by a downloadable app that works on both Apple and Android devices and costs $250.
In contrast, TouchPoints basic is operated manually without an app and comes with three pre-set settings: sleep, calm, and anger. At the time of writing, it sold for $165.
Every purchase comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. A one-year extended warranty is also available for $30. All purchases are also backed by a 30-day money back guarantee. You can contact the company to initiate a return at 877-77-TOUCH or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About TouchPoint Battery Life
According to the company website, the battery life for both TouchPoint models is about three to four hours of consistent use. The included batteries are made of rechargeable lithium and last an average of three years.
It takes between two and three hours to restore the charge, and TouchPoints need to be charged weekly regardless of whether they are used.
Understanding Customer Reviews of TouchPoints
We found reviews for TouchPoints in a variety of places online.
The product website published over 100 positive reviews at the time of writing, many of which noted that the using the devices helped ease fibromyalgia pain, reduced insomnia, soothed anxiety and Parkinson’s-related tremors, and lowered cravings for some users. One user even noted that TouchPoints dropped her blood pressure by 20 points within seconds of use.
TouchPoints has mixed reviews on the Google Play Store, and most complaints we noticed were about difficulties that customers had connecting their device to the app.
Many noted that the app had to “update” for several minutes every time they tried to use it, and some stated that it never successfully connected with the device- a significant problem for people who were using the device to relieve anxiety in the first place.
Others found it frustrating that TouchPoints only worked with an internet connection.
The overall consensus we saw was that people found the device useful, but that it was too glitchy to be reliable because of problems with the app. Of note, reviews on Google Play were only for TouchPoints original, not basic.
Facebook reviews for TouchPoints seem to be similar to the product website. Notably, the comments section is filled with testimonials from parents who proclaim that the devices were life-changing for their autistic or anxiety-prone children.
Many noted that their children had better focus throughout the school day when they wore them and that they were less likely to get overwhelmed or act out.
From studying these reviews, we found that most people are impressed with TouchPoints- when they work. If you think a glitchy app will only add to your stress, you might be better off with the basic model instead.
What Devices are Similar to TouchPoints?
Wearable tech for stress relief is a booming industry right now, and there are several competitors to TouchPoints on the market today. We chose to see what the Spire Mindfulness and Activity Tracker and Vitali to see how they differed from TouchPoints.
The Spire Mindfulness is an Apple Device that connects to your iPhone through an app to monitor your physical symptoms throughout the day and encourage relaxation. A companion device can be worn clipped on your pants or bra, and the device sends notifications to your phone throughout the day with updates on your physical state and suggestions for better relaxation.
Unlike TouchPoints, Spire doesn’t automatically adjust your physical symptoms through BLAST technology. Instead, it reminds you to breathe deeply when stressed so that you can take control over your physical state. In this way, the device is designed to educate you about your changing physical states throughout the day, not alter them itself.
Unlike TouchPoints, Spire will last for an entire week on a single charge, and it also works as a step counter and calorie tracker. It retails for about $130.
Vitali is similar to Spire in that it is a wearable accessory that reminds you to relax throughout the day. It is designed to attach to a sports bra where it tracks breathing, posture, and heart rate variability throughout the day. Your stats are then reported on the IOS or Android app so that you can see firsthand what situations lead to the most stress and adjust your life accordingly.
Vitali comes with a specially designed sports bra and costs about $150. At the time of writing, the device will launch on Kickstarter in late April 2018.
What kind of wearable tech is best for your needs? That depends on whether you want to track your stress triggers or automatically reduce them. While all three devices promise to get you more in touch with your anxiety, only TouchPoints works to soothe stress automatically when it’s sensed.
However, you give up a long battery life for that benefit, so it’s important to weigh that tradeoff before making a decision.
Our View: Who Can Benefit from TouchPoints?
While we didn’t try TouchPoints for ourselves, a careful analysis of the company’s claims, the science behind their theory of stress relief, and customer reviews from the device’s users paint a positive picture of what it is capable of.
We found evidence that wearing TouchPoints might calm down your anxiety or treat a host of other health concerns by controlling your sympathetic nervous system. Many users in customer reviews noted that they felt better within thirty seconds of using the device.
However, there are some factors with TouchPoints that could be potential drawbacks. Both devices need to be worn at a time, which some people might find cumbersome. Likewise, battery life for the devices is only 3-4 hours, and it takes about two hours to charge them. This means that it’s not possible to wear TouchPoints all day unless you buy multiple sets.
Likewise, we noticed a large number of complaints about the product’s app, and many people found it frustrating only to be able to use the device with an internet connection (for the original model only).
If you think this will be a factor in your use of TouchPoints, you might be better off with the basic model instead.
In short, if you’re looking for a non-invasive way to control anxiety, treat autism, curb cravings, or deal with other physical or emotional issues, TouchPoints might be worth a try. Our research didn’t uncover any adverse health effects to using them, and many customers raved about their effectiveness. They might just work for you, too.