An estimated 10% of the world’s population is affected by chronic pain. Finding effective, long-lasting and drug-free pain relief can be a huge challenge.
However, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy may be the answer.
What does a TENS unit feel like?
Small electric pulses give you a buzzing feeling on your skin, with some describing it as a tingling sensation.
How many channels and pads do I need?
A channel has two pads, and both are required for your TENS unit to work. This is because a positive charge is sent through one pad and a negative charge through the other.
Single channel machines can be used with two pads, and you don’t have the option to add more pads.
Most people opt for a dual channel TENS unit, meaning you can choose either two or four pads. It gives you the flexibility to treat two areas of your body at the same time.
Some devices (such as iReliev’s Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle Stimulator) even have four channels, known as quad channel, allowing eight pads so you can treat a larger area, or eight different pain points!
What is the difference between programs and modes?
There isn’t actually a difference. Some manufacturers opt to use the term programs, whereas others use modes. They all generally refer to the same thing, a preset type of TENS therapy.
Should I buy a rechargeable device?
You’ll find that most modern TENS units are now rechargeable. They tend to be higher priced however over time they will probably cost less to run as you won’t need to replace the batteries.
Of course you do have to remember to charge your device, but with many portable power banks available on the market it can be a minor consideration.
Do I need independent intensity controls for each channel?
Nearly all dual channel TENS machines have independent intensity controls for each channel. This allows you to increase and decrease the strength of your treatment on each individual channel.
It’s a great option when you’re treating two areas at the same time, as it might be that you need a strong intensity on just one area.
What are fully isolated channels?
Essentially this means you can run separate programs on different channels, rather than just different intensities.
This feature can found in a selection of HealthmateForever’s machines, and is ideal if you have different types of pain.
In the example below the Acupuncture mode has been selected in channel 1, with an intensity level of 15.
While in channel 2, the Tapping mode is being run with the intensity set to level 8.
Do more intensity levels mean more power?
No. People tend to think the number of intensity levels reflect the power of the device, however this is a common misconception.
To put it simply, the intensity levels are the stages or increments that the machine can go through, like the volume control on your television.
If you have 10 intensity levels you’re going to be adjusting the power output by 10% each time. With 20 levels it’d be a 5%, 25 levels would be 4%.
Here’s a diagram to help explain:
Is it better to have more intensity levels?
The more intensity levels you have, the greater your control over the power output.
With a higher number of levels you have more chance of finding the intensity that works best for you.
For example if you have a machine with 10 levels, level 7 might not feel powerful enough but level 8 might feel too strong.
However if you have 20 intensity levels, on a machine with the same power output, you’d effectively be able to get to level 7.5.
We’ve looked closely at devices, comparing features including intensity levels, to help you make your decision.
What conditions can a TENS machine be used for?
Research has shown TENS to be an effective treatment option for managing a wide range of different conditions, including:
- Back pain
- Foot pain
- Hip pain
- Knee pain
- Labor pain
- Neck pain
- Neuropathic pain
- Shoulder pain
- Sports injuries
- Tennis elbow
How do I find out more about TENS units?
- NuroKor (2019). How long have we been using electricity for therapeutic purposes? [Online]. Available from: https://nurokor.co.uk/blogs/videos/how-long-have-we-been-using-electricity-for-therapeutic-purposes [Accessed 2 February 2023]. ↩