If you suffer from pain in your muscles and are looking for a way to treat it without the interference of pills, a TENS unit might be for you. Helping to reduce the soreness while also increasing your muscles’ flexibility and elasticity, a TENS unit can be used from the comfort of your own home.
What is a TENS unit?
TENS is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is an electronic therapy technique for relieving pain. A TENS unit stimulates different nerve groups by sending electrical impulses through the nerve strands, giving you a massage. These electrical currents help to stop pain you may be feeling, but you have full control over the intensity and the duration of the sessions and there aren’t any unpleasant side effects that come with the use of painkiller drugs. TENS therapy is often used in physical therapy to help with pain management.
How does a TENS unit work?
The soothing vibrations that help to ease pain pass through the skin by using pads that stick to the skin. The nerve stimulation then helps with the pain in two ways. First, the electrical stimulation stops the pain signals from reaching your brain and secondly, the nerve stimulation helps your body to produce more endorphins that act as natural painkillers. TENS therapy can help with many different types of pain including muscle pain, joint pain, menstrual pain, post-operative pain and arthritis.
What is the difference between a TENS and an EMS unit?
A TENS unit stimulates the nerve endings while an EMS unit stimulates the muscles. While a TENS unit is great for easing pain, an EMS unit is mainly used for rehabilitation purposes, muscle strengthening and helping to relax the muscles. When you don’t use your muscles for a long time, say after an injury or an operation, your muscles can weaken. An EMS unit is often recommended by a physical therapist as it can be used as a muscle stimulator to strengthen them and rebuild your health.
What should I look for?
There are a few factors you should take into consideration when buying a TENS unit. Take a look at our buying guide below:
Programs and Modes
Every TENS unit comes with different modes — some come with pre-set modes and others allow you to create your own mode and programs for a more personalized experience. Some TENS units also come with modes and programs for different parts of the body, so you have to tell the unit which area you are planning on using the TENS on.
Multiple channels in a TENS unit is really useful. One channel is used to send electrical impulses through two electrode pads, so the more channels you have, the more pads you can have attached to your body.
Having multiple intensity levels in your TENS unit is great because it means you can adjust your TENS massage to your needs. If you are looking for a gentle massage you can set the TENS unit to low, or if you are suffering from severe pain you can set the TENS unit to high. With different intensity settings you can also share your TENS unit with members of your household so everyone can enjoy the benefits.
Not only a safety feature, a timer on your TENS unit can be very useful so you know how long your TENS session has been going. Using your TENS unit for too long at one time can do more damage than good, but using your TENS unit for a short period of time can actually have no effect at all. The timer is also useful as it switches itself off and therefore preserves the battery life of the UNIT and the life of the electrode pads.
The EMS feature is useful in your TENS unit as it gives muscle stimulation too and deliver muscle strengthening and soothing properties. This can help you deal with your pain better, especially if you suffer from chronic pain.
You want your TENS unit to have a good battery life so it will last you a long time. Some TENS units come with built-in rechargeable batteries — these are optimal because of their ease and it does not cost a lot to run. Other TENS units can run off AA or AAA batteries, which are relatively cheap and easy to find, while others run off V9 batteries. These are a little harder to find and more expensive, but generally last longer.
Size and Portability
The size and portability of your TENS unit is important, especially if you plan on taking your TENS unit with you to work or on vacation. Some TENS units are no bigger than a smartphone and can easily fit in your pocket. These TENS units are designed for home use.
If you’re ready to try a different way of relieving pain without the side effects of painkiller drugs, take a look at the best TENS units that we recommend below.
The Best TENS Unit Reviews
With 24 different modes, the TechCare Massager Plus 24 TENS Unit is a dual channel battery powered unit that gives you the option to customize your massage from a choice of popular massages, such as tapping, acupuncture and deep tissue. With the dual A-B channels, you can have two different massages at the same time, working on different areas with different levels of intensity. The large LCD display makes it easy to use and there is an adjustable 10 to 60 minute timer. The battery is also rechargeable, saving you lots of money and the unit comes with three pairs of pads. This TENS device is portable and also comes with a belt clip so you can use it wherever you are.
Also with 24 different modes, the NueMedics TENS Unit offers you a choice from many different massages, all clearly labelled on the LCD screen such as “Neck”, “Shoulder”,”Back”, “Elbow”, “Hip” — so you can get the correct massage for the correct area. With two different channels you can have different pads in different areas, so you can get two massages at once. There is also a timer so you know how long you have been using the unit for, plus 6 pads for convenience. The battery is rechargeable, giving you 20 hours of battery life at a time, and there is a protective cover case for the unit, making this TENS unit portable without the risk of it being broken.
This TENS and EMS combination unit from Belifu comes with ten reusable pads (5 pairs) in different shapes and sizes so you can choose which pad is right for different areas of the body. With A and B channels, you can have two different massages at the same time with this unit, and there are 24 modes to choose from and 20 different levels of intensity. There is also a time control function so you can see how long you have been using the TENS device for, and the powerful rechargeable battery gives you up to twenty hours of battery life at one time. The TENS and EMS machine is portable and comes with a drawstring bag for easy transportation, as well as cable ties so the wires and pads do not get tangled up.
The NURSAL TENS Unit comes with eight strong and thick, self-adhesive, reusable electrode pads, of varying shapes and sizes. With two different channels, six of these pads can be attached to two different body parts at one time, so you enjoy different massages to ease different types of pain, such as back pain. The rechargeable battery means you don’t have to worry about spending money on AA batteries anymore, and you will get up to twenty hours of continuous use. The battery level indicator also tells you when you need to charge the TENS machine, so you never run out of power. Easy to transport, you can take this unit anywhere with you and relieve yourself from pain in your back, knees, shoulder, ankles, wrists and elbows. The NURSAL unit comes with a lifetime warranty.
With five automated massage programs and twenty different power levels for different intensities, the EHE012PRO TENS unit from Easy@Home is an approved, effective device for pain relief. There are also three traditional massage modes so you can choose which setting is right for you and four electrode pads with two different channels, so you can target different areas of your body at the same time. The battery is rechargeable and gives you up to 120 minutes in one session. The compact design means it is portable and the large LCD backlit screen means that it is easy to use. This TENS device comes with a one year warranty, so you can be sure you are getting a quality product.
With two independent channels, you can have four electrode pads attached to two different areas of your body with this EHE009 TENS unit from Easy@Home. You can choose from three different types of massage — massage, beat or knead — and there are six different auto programs and 10 levels or power intensity that can be adjusted, alongside the speed which can also be altered to your needs. Powered by 4 AAA batteries that are included, this TENS device is easy to use and is small enough to be portable so you can get great pain relief anywhere. It also comes with a one year warranty.
The TENS 7000 unit is perfect if you are someone who is in need of a TENS unit while travelling. With a portable carry case, this unit offers two different channels so you can have four pads stuck to one area or two pads stuck to two different areas, and feel different massages in different places on the body. The intensity is adjustable and there are five therapy modes for you to choose from. Running off a V9 battery, the battery life of this TENS machine is long so you can enjoy the pain-relief for sessions at a time. There is also a timer so you know how long you have been using the unit for. This unit comes with a one year warranty.
With eight main modes — massage, acupuncture, cupping, scraping, beat, sole, ear and combo — the Vive TENS Unit offers therapeutic relief from pain. Each mode also has a preprogrammed variation with even more options, you can create an experience that is personalized for you and right for your body. With two outlets you can have two modes and intensities in two different parts of the body at the same time, and there are four electrode pads included. The large display also shows the session time and the bright screen can be used either during the day or at night. With a one year guarantee, you can be sure you’re getting a great deal.
A TENS unit can drastically help to reduce any discomfort you may be feeling, stimulating the nerve endings and stopping the signals to your brain that indicate you are in pain. All available to you on Amazon, the portable TENS units above, some with built in EMS that help to relax your muscles, are a great way to relieve many different types of pain from the comfort of your own home and without the use of any prescription drugs.