Dr. Rene Boucher

Dr. Rene Boucher of Bowling Green poses for a photo with his Therm-a-Vest, a rice-filled vest that is heated for use on sore backs, in the 2005 fold photo. (Joe Imel/Daily News)

Dr. Rene Boucher is getting ready for his appearance on the QVC shopping channel later this week. He spent this morning in last-minute preparations, setting out samples of his invention, Therm-a-Vest.

And, as he worked at his home computer, he wore one himself.

Boucher, a local anesthesiologist and pain specialist, said that 15 years in the field of pain management made clear how well heat therapy works for pain and stiffness.

&#8221I had been thinking for years, ‘We have to have a better product for our patients,' “ he said.

So he developed Therm-a-Vest. After he suffered injury in a bicycle accident earlier this year, Boucher began using his own invention - as he did this morning - to ease back pain.

It's a simple device: a cloth vest partially filled with rice and secured by Velcro straps. The rice is packed across the lower neck and upper back and extends down the spine, covering the areas where most back pain is felt.

&#8221I designed the vest to have the heat where people feel their pain,“ Boucher said. Heated for a minute or so in a microwave oven, the vest can stay warm for up to half an hour.

About three-quarters of American adults will experience serious back pain during their lives, he said.

Pillows and pads filled with rice have been used for years to provide heat, Boucher said. But those couldn't be easily worn; Therm-a-Vest can be worn in the car while driving to work, on the golf course or around the house, and Boucher is working on designs that wouldn't look unusual for street wear, he said.

&#8221In the long run, what's important for people who suffer from chronic pain is to help them keep moving,“ Boucher said.

National studies show heat therapy works as well or better than over-the-counter painkillers, and since long-term use of even common drugs can have serious side effects, in the long run regular application of heat is much better, Boucher said.

Boucher will appear on QVC at 5 p.m. Wednesday. He's taking two samples in blue cloth with him to display, but the network has 2,400 ready to sell, he said.

Boucher expects that they may go for about $30 each.

QVC only accepts about three of every 100 products it's offered to sell on the air, so getting this far with a product so different from the channel's usual fare of jewelry and clothing is an accomplishment; but the network will see how these sell before scheduling another appearance, Boucher said.

Therm-a-Vest is already available in some catalogs like Solutions, but may be in Alstos and Amerimark for Christmas, he said.

Boucher applied for a patent for the vest in February 2003. Since then he's been working his way through the maze of requirements needed to get a medical product on the market: Trademarks, the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration, finding a Chinese factory to produce it and dealing with import regulations, etc. A patent is pending.

He credits his wife, Lisa, with handling much of the paperwork needed for setting Therm-a-Vest up as the basis for a full-time business. Now they're looking for a major distributor to get it into drugstore chains and sports stores.

He just returned from a San Diego meeting with Larry Castro, president of the United States Golf Fitness Association, to promote its use in golf.

- More about Boucher and his product can be seen at http://www.thermavest.com .