5 of The Best TENS Units Reviewed (2018)

If you have looked into solutions for pain management, then chances are you have heard of a TENS unit. If you have not heard of it, its full name is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation unit. Sounds pretty cool, but what exactly is it?

TENS units use electrical signals to manage the pain in your body. The signals are covered through patches, which sit on your skin, passing electricity to the nerves below. Most units are portable, allowing you to bring pain relief wherever you go.

If you think that a TENS unit is right for you, please consult your doctor before using one. You may find one of these humble units to be the solution to your pain problems, including muscles spasms, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, period pain, and sports injuries. It can also be used for pain relief during childbirth. (1)

Let's take a look the 5 best TENS units and how they can help you manage your pain.

How Does a TENS Unit Work?

Tens units send electronic pulses into your nerves. Do not worry; the pulses are very small in size. You will not be electrocuted. Most devices come with patches which are attached to the skin. These patches have electrodes which pass on the current. The device will provide a tingling sensation, which feels similar to a massage. It takes a little getting used to at first. When used as per the manufacturer’s instructions, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation can provide safe and drug-free pain relief.

1. TENS 7000 2nd Edition

Simply put, the TENS 7000™ is the most powerful TENS unit on the market. If you are looking for a machine which can put out 50 volts of electricity, then this is the one for you. This unit is an upgrade to the TENS 3000 unit, giving more power and features for a little more money. One of the things we like about this unit was how easy it was to use. The manual has detailed, yet simple, instructions, making this TENS unit a joy to use. 

They have really outdone themselves with this unit, adding 10 mA to the output when compared to previous models. We could talk all day about the improvements, but a few are worth pointing out. The digital processor has been upgraded. You gain more accuracy, while the unit gains durability. Combine this with the amplitude knobs, and you get an intuitive and friendly interactivity. 

The TENS 7000™ 2nd Edition sets itself apart from many other units on the market by allowing you the freedom to adjust the pulse width. When pain is a factor in your life, the more control you have over it, the better.

Things That Customers Like

  • This unit outputs a lot of volts, but the amp output is also high; up to 100 mA. Power at low cost.
  • The unit is very adjustable. There are eight levels of intensity.
  • Spend the same money on another device, and you will probably not get a case to go with it. With the TENS 7000, you will.
  • The unit is portable, but the power and durability are not compromised.
  • The instruction manual sets the bar for all other instruction manuals. The controls are intuitive, but if you are having any problems, you will find the answer in the manual.

Things That Customers Don't Like

  • The TENS unit does not have rechargeable functionality.
  • You can often find replacement pads which are better than the ones the unit ships with.

2. iReliev PlayMakar TENS + EMS Wireless Unit

Another portable TENS machine is the PlayMakar, made by iReliev. This unit offers Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to hit pain with a combination of TENS and EMS, alleviating pain and conditioning muscles simultaneously. The portability means that you can achieve this on the go.

One of the main benefits of PlayMakar, in addition to the amazing pain relief, is the fact that you can recharge the batteries in the unit. The unit does not have as much user control as rival models, but it does feature 14 preset modes, which have been finely tuned to aid you in living a more comfortable life.

This wireless TENS unit will fit under your shirt. You could be at home, in the office, or even in the car and no one would know that you were wearing it. Office workers who are sitting at their desk all day or athletes who have used themselves too hard will both benefit from the effects of this TENS unit.

Things That Customers Like

  • The unit features preprogrammed modes, but there is still a lot of customization from the user.
  • The device is intuitive and easy to use.
  • The wireless feature allows you to wear this anywhere.
  • A high quality and durable device.
  • Features a TENS and EMS combination.

Things That Customers Don't Like

  • The pads are good quality, but they only last for 20-30 uses.

3. Omron electroTHERAPY Pain Relief Device PM3030

(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)

Another great unit for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The Omron electroTHERAPY Pain Relief Device PM3030 is not only affordable, but it has been used by people suffering from pain for decades. It is also manufactured by a leading name in the healthcare world, Omron. 

When you think about a portable device, you think of one which you carry around with you. This mini TENS unit fits snugly in your pocket. It only comes with two pads which means that it focuses on a smaller area at one time, but the pads are large, and they last for a long time. 

This FDA approved unit comes with multiple preset programs, and one of the neater features is the self-shut-off. Is pain stopping you from sleeping? This device could put an end to that, and you do not want to have to set an alarm to wake up and turn it off. Overuse of TENS units can be a problem. With this device, it never will. 

Things That Customers Like

  • Has a simpler control interface than many units on the market.
  • It fits in your pocket. You really can take it anywhere.
  • Is great for occasional and more regular use.
  • The ergonomic design makes you want to carry it around with you at all times.
  • Very affordable.

Things That Customers Don't Like

  • Does not feature as much power as some units.
  • The self-shut off is great, but if you want to go longer, you have to restart a program.
  • There are fewer modes than other devices.

4. Pure Enrichment Pure Pulse Duo EMS and TENS Combo Device

(Click the image to view this product on Amazon)

The Pure Pulse EMS and TENS Combo is manufactured by Pure Enrichment. It is another device which features a combination of TENS and EMS. The TENS is great for pain relief and blood circulation. The EMS is great for improving the strength of your muscles. The two together mean that your overall health will be improved beyond what you thought possible. 

This device comes with fourteen preset modes, giving you control of your own treatment. The adjustable timer allows you to choose the length of your session. Functionality usually comes at a price, but in this case, the manufacturers have managed to contain everything in one small unit, which also has a LED display screen. The screen gives you even more control and information when using the device.

Things That Customers Like

  • This unit offers TENS and EMS.
  • Numerous modes mean that you will find something which is right for you.
  • The unit features so many levels of control that no amount of pain is safe from this wonderful unit.
  • The unit is one of the most user-friendly on the market.
  • The screen is LCD which means that there is only so much on there at any one time. This helps to present the information without the screen being cluttered with useless data.

Things That Customers Don't Like

  • The unit does not come with a rechargeable battery. AAA batteries are needed to use this device, and if you use it a lot, then you may go through a lot of batteries.
  • The LCD screen is great, but it is not back-lit. If you are using the device in a dark area, you may need to program it in a lit area or use a light when programming it.

5. HealthmateForever TENS Unit Pro15AB

This TENS unit is great for pain management, but it may surprise you to know that it also comes with a bodybuilding mode, helping to firm up your muscles and build their strength. The unit is not shipped as a wireless TENS unit, but you can purchase the wireless kit WI-9 separately. 

The HealthForever TENS unit has a variety of electrical impulses which utilize some of the techniques of Shiatsu, deep tissue massage, cupping, tapping, and acupuncture. Users of this device range from those suffering from back pain and sore joints to bodybuilders. The device has two separate channels which can be customized individually. Both administer the same power or electrical impulse, allowing you to harness the same power whether you are using one or two, but you can change the intensity and program of each channel. 

This device has an LCD screen which is back-lit, allowing you to see exactly the program you are working through without the need for a light. The battery is rechargeable, and the device comes with a pause button. You can stop the program at any time if an emergency whole arise. 

Things That Customers Like

  • As it comes with two separate channels, you can focus on two separate areas at the same time.
  • Small enough to fit in your pocket and be used anywhere.
  • Extremely adjustable. From the program to the time, everything is at your fingertips.
  • Once charged, the TENS unit will last very well before needing charged again.
  • Very user-friendly.

Things That Customers Don't Like

  • The dual channels come at a cost. More expensive than other models on the market.

Conclusion

When choosing a TENS unit, your chosen device will depend a lot on the pain you are experiencing. You will also need to factor in the location of the pain, the severity, and alternative treatments. Most units are reasonably priced, and most are small. If you cannot decide for yourself, then here are our recommendations.

Best overall TENS unit

The HealthmateForever TENS unit Pro15AB. This device won for one reason alone. The dual channel allows you to treat two areas at once. If you have multiple injuries, then you can treat them in half the time. It also features a bodybuilding mode. The extra features with this machine help to give it our seal of approval. 

Best TENS unit for the money

The TENS 7000 unit is one of the best on the market. If you are looking for sheer power, then you will not find anything close at this price point. For most, if not all, pain, this device will have you covered. If you want something which works but does not break the bank, then this is the device for you. 

Buyer's Guide and FAQ

Before you purchase a TENS unit, it is worth doing a little research. Without this information, you cannot tell if a TENS unit will be right for you. Once you know what a TENS unit does, you will be able to understand how it can begin to impact your life. 

How Long Can You use a TENS unit for?

It is recommended that you do not use a TENS unit for more than thirty minutes at a time. There is no real risk to your health, that has been found, other than skin irritation. If you feel irritated when using a pad, you should give your skin a break every twenty minutes, or look into pads which are better for sensitive skin. The best answer that we can give, with regards to overuse, is to use it as much as feels comfortable. 

How Often Can You Use a TENS Unit?

As we discussed, there is no real threat to using a TENS unit for a prolonged period. This means that there is no real threat to using a TENS unit multiple times throughout your day. A TENS unit can be used as many times as you deem necessary. TENS units are designed to provide immediate pain relief to the user. If you have pain, then it is a good time to use the device. TENS units also release your endorphins, naturally killing the pain in your body. The way we see it, there are benefits to using it as much as you want to.

Are TENS units safe?

As we mentioned already, you should always consult your doctor before using any form of treatment. There are some situations where a TENS unit may be unsafe to use. If you are fitted with any pacemaker, then it would not be appropriate to use one. If you are pregnant, or believe that you may be pregnant it is important that you speak with your doctor before using one. If you have a rash, wound, or sore skin, you should not use the device on that area. If any skin condition develops which using the device, you should stop use immediately, and consult your doctor.

TENS vs EMS: what is the difference?

TENS stimulates your nerves, keeping pain signals from reaching your brain.
EMS contracts your muscles, strengthening them.

How do I know where to place the pads?

Pad placement for the TENS unit is key.  In general, you need to put the pads where you feel the pain, but there may be additional areas where you can also use the TENS unit.  We recommend discussing the position of the pads with your doctor as it will be different for each individual.

Never place the pads by your eyes, across a cardiac pacemaker, on the front of your neck,
on an open wound, over a malignant tumor, over the spinal column, internally, or on an infected area.

What Should I look for When Buying a TENS unit?

Check what comes with your TENS unit. Does it come with spare electrodes? Spare batteries? Rechargeable batteries? Gels? A case? Do you need to spend any extra money after purchasing the unit?

The System

How intuitive are the controls? Are they easy to use? Can they be mistakenly adjusted when in use? Do you prefer buttons or knobs? Does it come with an AC adaptor or batteries?

The Display

Does the unit have a display? Is it too big or too small? Is the screen clear and readable? Are the controls labelled clearly?

What types of Pain can a TENS Units Treat?

  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Feet-Soles, Arches
  • Joint pain
  • Knee pain
  • Hip pain
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Lumbar Back Pain
  • Menstrual Pain
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Muscle Pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Menstrual Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Peripheral Nerves
  • Phantom Limb Pain
  • Post-Operative Pain
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sciatic pain
  • Shingles
  • Shoulders
  • Strains and Sprains
  • Sports Injuries
  • Tendonitis
  • Tension Headaches
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Whiplash

Does a TENS unit relax muscles?

A TENS unit will indirectly relax your muscles.  It treats the pain which may be causing your muscles to be tense.  As the pain decreases, you will notice that your muscles feel more relaxed.

7 Reasons to Buy a Tens Machine

1. Pain Relief
Muscle pain can be relieved with electrical impulses. Anywhere there is access to a muscle, like the back, arms, or legs, a TENS unit can be used. So, how does this work? Well, the body reacts to the impulses to release endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller. All you are doing is prompting your body to send these painkillers out. The best part? There are no nasty side effects.

2. Nerve Retraining
If your body suffers nerve damage, those nerves can become damaged, leading to pain and loss of movement. The nerves become unable to send the needed signals to your brain to request endorphins. TENS units can help to retrain nerves through electrical stimulation, leaving them working as they should.

3. Massage
If the intensity of the unit is high enough, the TENS unit can provide massage to the muscles below (some units are specifically built to do this through EMS). What could be better than relieving pain and retraining nerves while receiving a relaxing massage?

4. Ease of Use
When you buy a TENS unit, you are essentially investing in a medical tool. One which will change your life. One of the greatest things about one of these units is how easy they are to use. Press a few buttons and let the machine do the rest.

5. Reduced Inflammation
If muscles are inflamed, the inflammation will no doubt be accompanied by pain and discomfort. A TENS unit can greatly reduce inflammation.

6. Affordable Pain Relief
A TENS unit is an investment, but as investments go, it is an affordable one. If you are managing pain with medication or visits to a medical professional, your bills will be increasing and increasing. A one-time investment in a TENS unit can give you the same relief at a fraction of the cost.

7. Quick Rehabilitation
When you suffer from pain, the simplest tasks can become daunting and often impossible. You want the quickest and safest recovery possible. A TENS unit can be used whenever and wherever. No need to schedule appointments and wait a week between them. A TENS unit may be the best purchase you ever make.

First published on December 6th, 2017
Last updated on May 25th, 2018

Massage Gear Guru is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. 

Elena Curtis
 

Elena graduated from the Chicago School of Massage Therapy Clinic, and since her graduation in 2008, she's honed her style that consists of Eastern and Western massage techniques. When she's not working with patients, Elena spends her time reading and enjoying nature.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments