Using a TENS unit can improve your muscles’ flexibility and elasticity. Did you know that using a TENS unit can also lower the amount of pain you feel? In the following article, we present the best TENS unit for home use. Once you go through our TENS unit reviews and the detailed buying guide we prepared, you’ll have a clear idea of what these units can do, and how they can help you.
Not only will TENS therapy reduce the pain from your muscle and joints, but it can also be a very pleasurable experience. Getting a massage after a long workday was never easier. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 TENS machines.
What Is a TENS Unit?
TENS is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS units are used to alleviate nerve-related acute or chronic pain conditions. These units stimulate different nerve groups by sending electrical impulses through the nerve strands as a treatment.
The nerve stimulation helps with the pain in two ways. First, the stimulation stops the pain signals from reaching your brain. Second, the nerve stimulation will also determine your body to produce more endorphins that act as natural painkillers.
What Is an EMS Device?
EMS is an acronym for Electrical Muscle Stimulation. EMS devices are specially designed to stimulate your muscles to prevent muscle atrophy. When you don’t use your muscles for a long time, they weaken and lose their tone. This usually happens after injuries or surgeries.
EMS devices will send electrical impulses into your muscles and prevent muscle atrophy. When your muscles are stimulated, they receive more blood and nutrients. This will increase your muscle strength, muscle flexibility, and reduce muscle pain.
What to Expect with TENS Therapy
TENS therapy can be used to alleviate or treat a lot of different medical conditions. One of the most obvious uses of TENS therapy is to lower the amount of pain you feel, so it’s recommended for people who suffer from muscle or joint aches.
This kind of therapy, combined with EMS therapy, can have very good results for people who suffer from frequent muscle knots.
TENS massages don’t have to be rough to be effective. Unlike EMS therapy, TENS targets the nerve bundles, not the muscles. You should expect a tingling sensation, but you shouldn’t always expect to experience a strong massage if the unit doesn’t use an EMS feature.
What Is TENS Beneficial for?
TENS is beneficial for a lot of medical conditions, including but not limited to:
Sciatica is a medical condition that is nerve-related. Fortunately, you can use the TENS therapy to alleviate sciatica pain. This therapy can have surprisingly good results in some patients, and it can dramatically relieve their pain.
Some women suffer from dysmenorrhea or painful menstrual cramps. Primary dysmenorrhea usually lasts for up to 72 hours, and it’s more painful in the first two days of menstruation. Luckily, TENS therapy can help you with menstrual cramps. In fact, TENS therapy has an effect similar to that of prescribed painkillers.
Attaching the electrode pads to your feet can alleviate the pain produced by plantar fasciitis. The electrical signals will determine the muscles in your feet to contract and relax, and they will also interrupt the pain signals, so your brain won’t register the pain.
People can develop a tendon injury in every tendon in their body, but it’s more likely to develop one that affects your musculotendinous junction. The TENS therapy can help alleviate the pain caused by tendonitis. The electrical impulses will block the pain signal from reaching your brain, so your tendons will feel better.
We also have developed a buying guide with useful information about portable massage tables!
Best TENS Units Comparison Chart
iReliev TENS and EMS Combination Unit Muscle Stimulator
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TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit
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NURSAL Rechargeable Tens Unit
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FDA Cleared HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS Unit
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|[email protected] Professional Grade TENS Unit||View On Amazon|
FDA Cleared Hidow TENS Unit Massager
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|2nd Edition NK10AB (Silver) HealthmateForever||View On Amazon|
Best TENS Unit Reviews (Updated List)
1. iReliev TENS and EMS Combination Unit Muscle Stimulator
The iReliev Premium TENS + EMS unit is an excellent device that offers 14 different total massage modes to help stimulate your muscles and provide pain relief. The device is medical grade strength and has 25 adjustable intensity settings, so you can customize your massage experience.
One of the advantages of using this model is that you can personalize each massage session. Combining the 14 massage modes and adjusting their speed and intensity settings can create unique experiences every time you use the device.
This TENS machine has a large, backlit display screen making it very easy to read and operate. Unlike the previous iReliev TENS Units, this device has a rechargeable battery.
Read more: iReliev TENS + EMS Combination Unit
2. TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit
The 7000 TENS unit is a small and compact model that has a good portability. This unit comes with a plastic carrying case, and it still manages to have a decent price.
One of the advantages of using this TENS machine is that it produces a very powerful massage. The unit has a dual output feature that will allow you to use 4 electrode pads at the same time, and all of them will receive plenty of power to stimulate your muscles.
Another advantage is that this model comes with very good lead wires. The length of the wires will allow you to place the electrode pads on every part of your body when you’re holding the device at the waist level.
Read more: 7000 2nd Edition TENS Unit
3. NURSAL Rechargeable Tens Unit
The NURSAL TENS unit is a popular model that has an aesthetically pleasing design. Apart from its nice design, this model offers 16 massage modes, and it comes with 4 pairs of electrode pads.
A great thing about this model is that it comes with no less than 8 electrode pads. Each of the 4 electrode pads pairs has a different size and design, and each of them is better suited for certain tasks. The large pair can massage a group of muscles in a short time, while the small pair can target hard to reach muscles specifically.
All things considered, this is a very good model that produces a comforting treatment.
Read more: NURSAL 16 Modes and 8 Pads Tens Unit
4. FDA Cleared HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS Unit
The HealthmateForever TENS unit is probably the most popular model currently available on the market, and it’s easy to see why. This model uses 4 outputs, so you will be able to use up to 8 electrode pads at once.
The best thing about this TENS machine is that you can adjust the intensity of every pair of electrodes pads separately. This will allow you to personalize your massage experience, and it can shorten the amount of time you spend using the device.
A good thing about this model is that it provides a good mix of massage programs. Each program is specially designed to target a certain part of your body, and they’re very effective.
Overall, this is one of the best TENS units on the market, and it offers great value.
5. [email protected] Professional Grade TENS Unit
The [email protected] TENS unit is a good model that comes with a double output design. The double output will allow you to connect and use up to 4 electrode pads at the same time, so you can massage different muscle groups at the same time.
A good thing about this model is that it offers 8 massage modes. 5 of them are predefined, and 3 will allow you to personalize your experience.
Another good thing is that the TENS machine allows you to extend every massage session for up to 120 minutes, instead of the 60 minutes most models offer. This can be an advantage for people who enjoy long and relaxing massages.
6. FDA Cleared Hidow TENS Unit Massager
The HiDow TENS unit is one of the best models available on the market today. This TENS machine offers a complex variety of bio-electrical signals that will stimulate your muscles.
One of the advantages of using this TENS unit is that it has a double output design. This will allow you to use up to four electrode pads at the same time, so you can massage different parts of your body simultaneously.
Another advantage is that this model uses 12 predefined massage combinations to stimulate different parts of your body.
All in all, this is a very good model that will provide a good massage experience.
Read more: FDA Cleared Hidow Tens Unit Massager
7. 2nd Edition NK10AB (Silver) HealthmateForever
The NK10AB Healthmate Forever is a compact electronic pulse massager, designed to relieve tension and pain in the back, neck, shoulders, and legs. Highly recommended for people with chronic back and neck pain, upon consultation with your physician. It comes with four electrode pads and allows you to select ten pre-programmed massage modes, with 20 intensity levels. An advantage of this item is that it has two individual outputs, which enable you to massage different body parts simultaneously or even apply to two individuals at the same time. The user can program the duration of the session from 10 to 60 minutes. Overall, the product has a durable battery with a life of up to 20 hours of continuous use. It comes with a 3-month warranty.
The NK10AB is very light and easy to carry, but its delicate padding material may require frequent changes. It is also not suitable for sensitive skin, as the pressure applied can cause rashes and irritation and allergic reactions in some users.
8. Hi-Dow AcuXP Micro Physical Therapy Tens Unit
The HiDow AcuXP TENS unit is a very good model that helps with pain relief and muscle recovery. This model offers 8 different massage options, and you can alternate them to experience more benefits from every massage session.
A good thing about this model is that it comes with a very good battery. The battery can last for up to 50 hours of use or more, depending on the massage features you use. This will allow you to use the device for weeks on end without having to recharge it.
Another good thing is that the unit is lightweight and compact. This will allow you to take the TENS machine with you everywhere you go.
9. AccuMed AP212 Portable TENS Unit
The AccuMed AP212 is a good portable TENS unit that offers 16 massage modes. Each of the massage modes will stimulate your muscles in a different way, so alternating them will be more beneficial.
One of the advantages of using this model is that it’s capable of producing a very powerful massage. Despite its slim appearance, this TENS machine is capable of producing quite a punch, so you should start using it at its lowest intensity settings and increase them as your body adjusts to the massages.
Overall, this is a very good model that offers a nice value.
Read more: AccuMed AP212 Portable TENS Unit
10. NAIPO TENS Electronic Pulse Massager
Don’t let the size of the unit fool you. This NAIPO TENS unit will be able to stimulate your muscles and relieve pain in the back, ankles, joints, knees, and many other areas where you require help.
The personalization functions are truly impressive as you get to decide on what mode you want. You can select between:
Additionally, the available intensity levels are 16, and when it comes to duration, you can choose to have 5, 10, or 15-minute long massages. A slight knock on the functionality of the unit is the fact that there is no screen lighting. Also, the gadget will not save your settings, but this shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
You have four pads at your disposal that you can distribute wherever on your body you see fit. The unit is fully compliant with all FDA regulations and standards.
A Complete Buying Guide For Portable TENS Units
Finding the right TENS unit might be more difficult than you think. There are a lot of models available on the market, and not all of them perform as well as you would expect.
To help you make up your mind on which is the right TENS unit for your needs, we prepared a detailed buying guide. After reading this guide, you will be able to make an informed decision on which model would be better for you.
As you could see from our TENS unit reviews, these machines use different features to customize your massage experience. In the following section, we explain how each feature affects the units’ performance, and how it can improve your massage session.
Programs And Modes
Every TENS unit comes with different modes and programs you can use. Some of them only offer predefined massage programs, but others can offer you the possibility to create your own massage program using a combination of their features.
Some models come with predefined modes and programs for every part of your body. Instead of picking a certain type of program, you only have to let the device know which part of your body you’re massaging, and it will use a program specially designed to stimulate that part of the body.
One of the best approaches you can have when buying a TENS unit is to look for models that offer multiple massage modes and programs. This will increase the likelihood of finding a model that will have programs you’ll actually enjoy using.
Having multiple channels or outputs is a real advantage for every TENS unit. A channel or output is used to send electrical impulses through 2 electrode pads. Every pair of pads needs its own channel, so having multiple outputs will allow you to use more electrode pairs at the same time.
One of the advantages of using multiple channels at once is that you can work for multiple muscle groups at the same time. This will allow you to spend less time using the TENS unit but still get all the benefits from massaging different parts of your body.
Another advantage of using a TENS unit that comes with multiple outputs is that you can use more electrodes at the same time. This will allow you to target a painful group of muscles from different angles and it will increase the chances of relieving the pain in those muscles.
When it comes to channels or outputs, having more is definitely better.
TENS frequency, intensity, and stimulation parameters have significant effects. Most TENS units come with multiple intensity levels, and that is very helpful. Having more intensity levels to choose from is an advantage because it allows you to personalize your massage experience.
Sometimes you might want to enjoy a relaxing massage, so you can set the TENS unit on a low-intensity level. Other times, you might want to experience a reinvigorating massage, so you can set the unit at a higher intensity level.
Thanks to the adjustable intensity setting, you will also be able to share the TENS unit with other members of your household. Every person has his or her own sensitivity, so having multiple intensities to choose from is very important.
However, you should be aware that not only the number of intensity levels is useful. Some manufacturers include a lot of intensity levels in their models, but the differences between one level and another are not noticeable. This can be problematic because you might not be able to adjust the intensity setting as easily as you would like.
Most TENS units come with a timer feature. This setting is usually implemented by the manufacturers as a safety feature, but it can also be very helpful for the treatment. The timer will ensure that the TENS devices won’t run for too long if you forget to turn it off after use. This will preserve the unit’s battery life, and it will also preserve the life of the electrode pads.
Using a timer feature is also useful because it lets you know how much time you spent using the TENS unit. Using the unit for too long can be uncomfortable, and it can also lead to bruising, especially if you have no previous experience using such a device.
On the other hand, using the TENS unit for a short period of time can have no effects whatsoever. The timer can be helpful because it can let you know you’ve spent enough time stimulating your muscles for it to have an actual beneficial effect.
Most TENS units also have an EMS feature. Since the units already produce an electrical stimulation of your nerves, manufacturers implement the EMS feature to stimulate the nerves in your muscles as well.
Some models use special programs for the EMS feature, while others will produce an EMS massage instead of a TENS one when you increase the unit’s intensity setting.
Having a TENS device that also acts as an EMS unit is definitely an advantage, and it will help you deal with acute and chronic pain better than a simple TENS unit would.
The screen of the TENS unit allows you to track all the settings that are activated at any given time, and it allows you to keep track of all the changes you make. Sure, the screen of the unit is not what you’re buying it for, but since you have to spend money on a TENS devices, it’s better to buy one you can actually use with ease. Large screens will allow you to track the settings easier, and having a TENS unit with a large screen is very important for people who want to use their TENS devices while they’re doing something else at the same time.
If you plan on using the TENS unit on your commute to work or when you’re actually working, having a large screen can be very beneficial. You won’t have to squint to see all the settings you’re using, and you will be able to make adjustments with ease.
Having a backlit screen is also better than having one that doesn’t have a backlight. This will allow you to use the TENS device comfortably in low-light conditions.
The battery type and the battery’s lifespan are very important for every TENS unit. Using a unit that has a long lifespan is definitely an advantage, but the battery type is also important.
Some manufacturers use built-in rechargeable batteries for their TENS units. Using a unit that has a rechargeable battery is an advantage because it will have low operating costs. When the battery runs out, you can connect the TENS machine to a wall outlet or a USB-compatible device and the battery will recharge.
Other manufacturers use two or three AA or AAA batteries to power their TENS units. While this is not as good as having a built-in rechargeable battery, it’s still a good solution and a relatively inexpensive one. AA or AAA batteries are easy to find, and they’re not very expensive. In fact, buying them in bulk can be really cheap.
A small number of manufacturers use 9V batteries to power their units. While the 9V battery will last longer than a set of AA or AAA batteries, using a model that comes with such a battery might be more difficult. 9V batteries are harder to find than the other types, and they’re also more expensive.
Unlike AA or AAA batteries, the 9V ones won’t work with other gadgets and devices you might own, so you won’t have the advantage of buying them in bulk to lower your expenses.
The most important accessories the TENS units come with are the electrode pads and the lead wires. Here’s how these accessories influence your massage experience.
The lead wires connect the electrode pads to the TENS unit itself. A lead wire goes into output and allows the electrical current to go from the unit to the pair of the electrode pads.
The length of the lead wire is important, but so it’s its design. TENS units that have long lead wires are easier to use because you can apply the electrode pads anywhere on your body when you’re holding the unit at waist level.
The lead wire’s design it’s important because it connects to two electrode pads at the same time. If the lead wire is long but it offers only a small distance between the pads, it has a bad design. You will have to place the pads close to one another, and that can be uncomfortable.
If you want to benefit from a really good massage experience, the lead wire should be long, and it should allow you to place the electrode pads at a considerable distance from one another.
The electrode pads are active components of the TENS unit. Using an adhesive surface, these pads stick to your skin and conduct the electricity to the nerve bundles underneath it.
The pads have different designs, and each design is better suited for certain tasks.
Large pads should be your go-to design if you’re naturally impatient. These pads will allow you to massage large groups of muscles such as your back, legs, or chest muscles in a short time. They will help to use the TENS unit for your back pain more easily. A model that comes with large pads is the best TENS unit for back pain. However, these pads are not great at targeting aching muscles or muscle knots because they cover a large area at once.
Medium pads are the most popular ones. They give you the possibility to massage a decently-sized area of your body at once, and they can be used to target the most painful areas successfully.
Small electrode pads should be your go-to products if you suffer from muscle knots, or muscle and joint pain. These pads won’t cover a large surface at once, so it will take you a long time to massage your whole body using them. However, you will be able to target specific muscles and parts of your body that are harder to access using the other pad designs.
Electrode pads are reusable, but not all of then will last for the same amount of time. Some models can be reused for hundreds of applications, while others can only be used for dozens. Unfortunately, most manufacturers create their TENS units in such a way that they’ll only be compatible with the electrode pads produced by the same manufacturer. However, there are some generic designs that are compatible with most TENS units, so if you’re not satisfied with the pads your unit comes with, you can look for them online.
Follow the link to read wireless tens unit reviews if you want to find out more!
Size And Portability
TENS units come in different shapes and sizes. Their shape and size influence how easy you can use the unit, so it’s very important to find models you’ll feel comfortable using.
The portability of a TENS unit is a very important feature, especially if you want to use the device while you’re away from home.
Some models are not larger than a smartphone, and they will fit comfortably in a pocket. Other models are slightly larger than a mobile phone, and you will have to carry them in a purse or a backpack. To increase their units’ portability, some manufacturers include belt attachments for their models. This will allow you to carry the unit at your waist, and it can be more comfortable than carrying it around in a pocket. Some manufacturers include plastic cases for their TENS units to increase their portability. The cases are made out of hard plastic, and their interior is cut out to fit the TENS machine and all its accessories.
However, since the TENS units are usually small and the electrode pads and the wire weigh close to nothing, the plastic case can actually lower the unit’s portability instead of increasing it. You can simply put all the accessories in a plastic bag and carry the unit in a pocket and be done with it.
Ease of Use
The TENS unit’s ease of use is influenced by all kinds of factors, including some of the features previously mentioned in this article. Let’s see how each of these factors determine how easy it is to use such a device.
Modes And Programs
Having predefined modes is an advantage because it will allow you to access the TENS unit’s features with ease when you’re in a hurry or when you’re doing something else at the same time.
However, having the possibility to personalize your massage program is better because you will be able to select the modes and programs you actually like instead of having to endure the ones you don’t just because they’re part of the predefined mode.
Using a TENS machine that offers more channels is definitely an advantage. This will allow you to use more electrode pads at the same time, so it will enhance your massage experience.
TENS units that offer more intensity settings are easier and more pleasant to use. Combining different programs with different intensity settings will allow you to personalize your massage sessions every time you use the unit.
Using a TENS unit that comes with a highly adjustable timer is preferable. Some units allow you to set the timer anywhere between 5 – 240 minutes in 5-minute increments.
Since you’re going to spend money on a TENS unit, why would you not choose one that comes with an EMS feature, as well? This feature will allow you to better stimulate your muscles, increasing their endurance and flexibility.
Units with large screens are easier to use. When you’re using a unit with a large screen, you can have a clear vision of the programs and intensity settings that are activated at any given time, and you can adjust all the settings with ease.
TENS Units that come with built-in rechargeable batteries are the easiest to use. They can be recharged at any moment, and their operating costs are very low. Those who come with AA or AAA batteries are still easy to use, especially if changing the batteries is not complicated. Models that come with 9V batteries are more difficult to use.
The models that come with a long lead wire are very easy to use. They allow you to place the pads anywhere on your body when you hold the unit at waist level, so you can adjust them however you please.
When it comes to electrode pads, the easiest to use is the TENS units that offer electrode pads with different designs. Even if all the electrode pads have the same design, it’s always better to have more of them.
You might be tempted to say that smaller TENS units are better, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, the unit’s design plays a large role in its ease of use. If the unit is small but it comes with a small screen and small buttons, it might be more difficult to use than a medium-sized model that comes with a large screen and large buttons.
All these factors influence the way you’ll use the TENS unit. However, you should also adapt them to your needs. If you want to use the unit on your way to work, you should buy a highly portable one. If you want to share the unit with another member of your household, it might be better to find a model that comes with more electrode pads and programs.
Buying a TENS unit that comes with a warranty is recommended. Once you invest in such a unit, you should be able to use it for a very long time, even if some models are really cheap.
A good warranty period is also a sign of the manufacturer’s confidence in the product. Some manufacturers are so sure they produced a good TENS unit, they offer a lifetime warranty for their products.
Some models don’t come with a warranty at all. They only have a 30-day refund guarantee. Buying such a unit can be risky because you might not notice any defects in the first month of use, but the unit might stop working soon after that.
How Does a TENS Unit Work?
Even though these devices are pretty small, TENS machines work in a complex way to relieve pain. The TENS units produce an electrical current that goes into your skin and stimulates specific nerve pathways. This is a non-invasive safe way to deal with pain, and it can offer a lot of beneficial effects.
To better understand how these units work, you should learn about the Gate Control theory. According to this theory, a neural mechanism in our spinal cords acts as a gate. The gate closes and opens when it receives signals from the brain. Some signals determine the gate to close, some determine it open, while others determine it to close only partially.
Now, according to this theory, the electrical signals produced by the TENS machine interfere with the signals that normally determine the pain sensation in your brain. Instead of reacting to the signals produced by your spinal cord, the gate reacts to the signals produced by the TENS unit, so your brain won’t register the pain, even if the pain signals are still produced.
According to the Endorphin Release theory, the electrical impulses produced by the TENS unit will stimulate the production of endorphins in your body. Some endorphins act as a natural painkiller, so they will block the pain signals from reaching your brain. This theory suggests that the endorphins produced by your body act exactly like prescription drugs, but without the side effects taking prescription drugs have.
How to Use a TENS Unit
TENS units are medical devices, so you should always make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them before using a device. Every device comes with its own instructions, but here are some general rules you should follow when using a TENS unit.
- Place the electrode pads on the painful areas of your body
- Start the TENS unit, but use its lowest intensity setting at first
- Gradually increase the intensity
- Avoid placing the electrode pads on your sinus nerves, temples, throat, and mouth
- You should never place the electrode pads directly on your heart, and you should never place them on swollen or inflamed areas.
- To extend the electrode pads’ lifespan, avoid touching the gel on their surface.
- Pour a few drops of water on the adhesive side of the pads before attaching them to your skin.
- If your device comes with a built-in battery, make sure you charge it for 8 – 10 hours before you start using it
- Do not use the TENS unit when the battery level is very low. Change or recharge the batteries before using the unit
- Make sure your skin is clean before attaching the electrode pads.
- Always put the protective films on the pads’ adhesive surface before putting them back in the pad holder.
- Remove the lead wires after using the TENS unit and place them in the box when they’re not in use.
- Store the TENS unit in a cool and dry place until you use it again.
Is TENS Safe While Pregnant?
You should avoid using a TENS unit while pregnant. Pregnant women are not exposed to any risks while using electrotherapy, but the electrical impulses can affect your unborn child.
If you’re pregnant or you’re planning on getting pregnant, you should talk to your medical practitioner before using a TENS unit. You should always avoid placing the electrodes right above your uterus, and you should avoid using the unit during the first and second trimester of your pregnancy.
We’re certain that after reading our detailed buying guide and the TENS unit reviews we prepared you can make an informed decision on which is the right model for you.
Keep in mind that finding the best TENS unit for home use is not the same thing as finding the most expensive model. You should always take into consideration how you’re more likely to use the unit, and buy a model that will better suit your particular needs.
Always start using the TENS machine at its lowest intensity setting, and increase it gradually until you feel comfortable. Avoid placing the electrode pads on sensitive areas, and don’t use the machine for too long at once.