- 10 Top-rated TENS Units: Compare Features, Price and Ratings
- Our 10 Best TENS Units: Reviewed and Rated
- 1. iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle Stimulator
- 2. TechCare Plus 24 TENS Unit
- 3. PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart TENS Unit
- 4. Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit
- 5. iReliev Premium TENS + EMS Pain Relief Recovery
- 6. TechCare Touch X Tens Unit
- 7. TENS 7000
- 8. Etekcity TENS Unit
- 9. Beurer EM44 TENS Unit
- 10. Omron Pocket Pain Pro TENS Unit
- TENS Unit Reviews: Our Rating Process
- How to Choose and Evaluate a TENS Unit
- Functions and features of a TENS unit
- Benefits of TENS
- Who is TENS beneficial for?
- FAQs about Buying a TENS Unit
- What is a TENS unit?
- What does a TENS unit do?
- How does a TENS unit work?
- What is a TENS unit used for?
- How often can you use a TENS unit?
- Are TENS units safe?
- Where shouldn’t you use a TENS unit?
- Can you use a TENS unit while pregnant?
- Can a TENS unit help build muscle?
- Do TENS units work?
- Are TENS units effective?
- What does a TENS unit feel like?
- Which TENS unit should I buy?
- How do I choose a TENS machine?
- Are TENS machine pads reusable?
- How much is a TENS unit?
- Can anyone buy a TENS unit?
- Where can I buy a TENS unit?
For years we’ve been testing and reviewing the best TENS units on the market. We’re excited to share our latest buying guide for 2022, highlighting our top three picks with you.
We spend at least two weeks living with each device, so we can fully understand its functionality, benefits and drawbacks.
Whether you’re looking for your first ever machine, or considering upgrading your existing unit, our lowdown will help you find the right device to relieve your pain.
Below are some of the top TENS units on the market today:
10 Top-rated TENS Units: Compare Features, Price and Ratings
In the table below you can compare the machines discussed on this page and discover the best TENS unit.
- Click on a device image / name for further product information and to read consumer reviews
- Rating is out of 10 and based on our system, a combination of: features, ease of use, value for money
- The price column displays an approximate price range to give an indication of costs. Prices can vary due to special offers and promotions. Here are the ranges: $ = entry level | $$ = mid-range | $$$ = high-end
|iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle Stimulator||Quad|
|TechCare Plus 24||Dual||4||24||20||Rechargeable|
|PowerDot Duo 2.0 Smart TENS Unit||Dual||6||Generated|
|Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit||Dual|
|iReliev Plus TENS + EMS System||Dual||4||14||25||Rechargeable|
|TechCare Touch X TENS Unit||Dual||4||24||20||Rechargeable|
|TENS 7000||Dual||4||5||8||1 x 9V||$||8.2|
|Etekcity TENS Unit||Dual||8||15||20||Rechargeable|
|Beurer EM44 TENS Unit||Dual||4||18||50||3 x AAA||$$||7.5|
|Omron Pocket Pain Pro TENS Unit||Single||2||5||10||2 x AAA||$||7.5|
Our 10 Best TENS Units: Reviewed and Rated
TENS Unit Reviews: Our Rating Process
We follow a comprehensive research and review process to put together the information about specific models and the in-depth product analysis featured above.
Our reviews are uncomplicated and easy to understand. We highlight the pros and cons of each unit and present a balanced argument, for and against.
They have been written in a way that is easy to understand with context, case studies and scenarios to give you the clearest picture.
Our final appraisal of the device takes into account its features, how easy or difficult it is to use and what sort of value for money it represents, allowing you to compare one machine with another.
The first modern, wearable TENS unit was patented in the United States on June 18, 1974.
How to Choose and Evaluate a TENS Unit
Step 1: What Do You Need Your Machine to Do?
Before you start shopping, consider exactly what you want from your unit, apart from pain relief of course. Try to avoid just throwing the first unit you like the look of into your basket.
Consider all aspects, such as:
- Do you want your device to be rechargeable?
- Do you want a variety of modes to experiment with?
- Or is it more important that you can treat multiple areas simultaneously?
Start by writing down what you want from the unit, and place these in order of importance.
If it helps, we’ve put together a list below of the different features, explaining exactly what each one means so you know what you’re buying.
If you’re not exactly sure what features are important to you, why not speak with your doctor or physical therapist for advice?
Don’t forget this really important step…
Before looking at what a machine has to offer, check that the device has been:
Cleared by the FDA as an over-the-counter (OTC) class II medical device.
If you come across a device that doesn’t have clearance, be very careful. Companies are not legally permitted to market their products as medical devices, unless they have this clearance.
Step 2: Set a Budget and Draw up a Shortlist
Before you start searching stores like Amazon, Walmart or Target, you need to set a maximum budget and stick to it.
This will help you narrow down your search and ensure you don’t waste your time looking at units that you’re not in a position to buy.
Why not start by putting together a shortlist of five devices that meet your criteria and budget?
Step 3: Narrow your list down to 2 or 3 units
Take a look at the five units and try to narrow down your list to two or three units, considering:
- Consumer ratings
- Value for money
Which two or three devices really stand out?
Step 4: Check out product reviews
Take a look at consumer reviews from people who have bought and used the product:
- Are reviewers generally pleased with their purchase?
- Do you see any issues cropping up repeatedly that would put you off buying the unit?
- Does it sound like the machine can work how you need it to?
- Is anyone mentioning the type of pain or area you’re looking to treat?
- How do the reviews compare between the devices?
- Do people feel that the unit generally offers good value for money?
Step 5: Make your choice
Taking into account everything you’ve assessed, which device really stands out?
If you’re still struggling, go back to your original list of requirements and see if one fits better than the others.
As previously discussed, your new machine doesn’t have to cost the earth. If you can afford a top-of-the-line device that’s great. If you can only afford a basic model, don’t worry.
Many affordable machines still have excellent user feedback, and are providing people with pain relief on a daily basis.
In fact, if you’re purchasing your first TENS unit, why not try an affordable device and see how you get on? You can always upgrade at a later date.
Functions and features of a TENS unit
When you’re shopping for your first TENS unit, choosing between different devices can be tricky.
Below we’ve looked closely at each function and feature to help you understand what’s available:
Programs and modes
When shopping for your machine, take a closer look at the different programs and modes the device offers.
Cheaper units might not provide the variety you need, whereas more expensive feature-packed options could be too complex if you struggle with modern technology, or simply want a unit for casual use.
Different types of programs and modes include cupping, tapping, acupuncture and hand pressure. These preset modes are designed to make it simpler for the user.
Take the time to consider:
- What programs / modes does the machine have and what are they for?
- Would you use them and if so, how often?
Some machines, like the TENS 7000 have less modes but allow you to fine-tune the pulse width and pulse rate, enabling you to optimize the settings to treat your particular pain.
Be aware though, they require more user-input and you’ll need to familiarize yourself with things like pulse-width and wavelength.
A pre-programmed timer on your unit can be a handy feature if you want to simply set up your machine and use it for a predetermined length of time.
Timer lengths vary widely between units, often going up in increments, so be sure to check when shopping around. Many units also include an automatic shut off feature which can be short on some devices causing frustrating when you need a lengthier relief from pain.
You will also want to consider what kind of batteries your unit relies on. Standard replacement batteries are obviously easy to find, however some machines can be a little thirsty when it comes to power, so you may want to invest in a pack of rechargeable batteries.
A lot of newer devices have built-in lithium rechargeable batteries, meaning you don’t have the cost of replacement batteries and can simply charge your device between uses.
If the unit is rechargeable, think about:
- How is the battery charged, e.g. through the mains, USB?
- How long does a full charge last?
While a rechargeable unit may require a higher initial investment, it’s worth considering how much can be saved on replacement batteries over a period of time.
The majority of units on the market today are dual channel with independent intensity controls.
With this type of machine you can use two or four pads at one time, as the number of channels corresponds with the number of pads you can use.
Therefore on a dual channel machine, each channel has two pads, which means you can use a different intensity level on different areas of your body.
It’s important to consider here:
You can always use a dual channel device with two pads or four, but you can never use a single channel machine with more than two.
Add to that:
There’s hardly any difference in price between most single and dual channel devices nowadays. Therefore, there doesn’t seem to be much argument for choosing single over dual channel.
You will find some quad channel devices on the market, as well as units that allow you to run completely different programs on separate channels (referred to as fully isolated channels).
If you’re suffering with back pain, a quad channel device can be useful as you have more pads to cover a wider area.
As well as different programs and modes, TENS units also offer varying levels of intensity.
The number of intensity levels does not reflect how powerful the device is.
If a machine has 50 levels, it doesn’t mean it has twice the power of a machine with only 25.
A device with 50 levels is going through the power range in increments of 2% at a time, whereas a machine with 25 is adjusted in increments of 4%.
When shopping for your device, ask yourself:
- How powerful is the device?
- How many intensity levels are there?
- How is the intensity adjusted?
Of course you can’t test the device in advance to gauge the power, however you can learn a lot from consumer feedback.
Reviewers of TENS units often speak about the intensity offered, with some finding their machine offers too much or too little intensity, which is why ensuring you have enough variety and power is important.
Certain TENS units also include EMS, or electrical muscle stimulation.
There are a number of differences between TENS and EMS:
TENS in its simplest form, relieves pain by blocking the pain signals from reaching the brain. EMS offers different benefits. It works to contract the muscle, meaning it’s ideal for sportspeople who want to manage their pain but also maintain their level of strength (as it’s an alternative way to build muscle).
Another function that you can find on a handful of units is interferential therapy, which essentially works by sending two different levels of electric pulse to the site of the pain which confuses and interrupts the pain signals being sent to the brain. It gives you another option for your pain relief.
If portability is an important factor for you, for example if you’re looking for a unit to use during labor, you’ll want to look closely at the size of the device.
Devices vary widely in size, so it’s worth thinking about:
- What are the dimensions of the device?
- How much does it weigh?
- How does its size and weight compare to other machines?
- Does it ship with a carrying case or something else to store it in?
It might seem unimportant but finding an appropriate screen that offers you the size, clarity and readability that you want is really important.
Some come with separate controls, others are touch screen so you might want to think about what you can work with, as there’s nothing more frustrating than having a system that you can’t operate or read.
What is included with the unit? An in car charger? Additional pads? When comparing prices look closely at exactly what is on offer.
While a few extra pads isn’t likely to influence a decision on a high-end machine, they could on a $30 product.
Many TENS units are also compatible with add-on accessories, such as TENS belts and socks, to help you get even more from your machine.
Even small additions like a belt clip can make your unit more convenient to use!
The majority of machines ship with a one-year warranty, a few have two years of cover and some have cover for only 90-days.
It’s worth considering how long the warranty is and exactly what it covers, to help you compare one unit with another.
One of the best things about TENS machines is that they come in many shapes and sizes, with various features and capabilities, so vary widely in price.
Rest assured though:
Whether you have $30 or $300+ to spend, you will be able to find a TENS unit.
They all work the same way, sending low voltage electrical impulses to the body, which then stimulate the nerves.
As you’d expect, the higher priced machines tend to have better specifications.
Think of it a bit like when you purchase a smartphone, you pay for more power, a better screen, battery, etc.
It’s the same principle with TENS devices. The key thing is to find the best TENS unit in your price range.
The majority of people probably wouldn’t need or even use every feature on the most expensive TENS machines. So there’s no need to worry if you’re not in a position to invest in the highest spec device.
There are a number of things to consider when working out the overall cost:
- How does this unit compare to units with similar specifications?
- What ongoing costs will you incur, such as replacement pads or batteries?
- How do these running costs compare to other devices?
Our individual reviews go into more detail about specific machines. They can help you to work out what sort of device you can expect to get for your money.
In the last few years there has been a growing number of wireless TENS units entering the market.
These are either a wearable pad with the control built in or wireless pads that work with a separate handheld unit.
In some instances (like the PowerDot 2.0) they can even be controlled by your smartphone.
Some devices like the aforementioned PowerDot 2.0 now pair with an app that you can use to customize your treatment.
You could download the app before purchase and explore it on a basic level to understand how it works with the device and the level of control available.
One benefit of an app-controlled TENS unit is that new modes and programs can be added regularly — it’s like getting an updated device every few months!
Ease of use
Consider how the unit is operated and whether it’s suitable for you:
- Do the buttons and controls seem easy to use?
- Is everything cleared labeled and easy to identify?
- What is the screen like? Is it clear and easy to read? Is it backlit?
Benefits of TENS
There are many potential benefits to TENS that you can read more about here.
However below is a summary of the main advantages:
1: Decreases Pain
TENS units have been shown to decrease the perception of pain, as they work by blocking the pain signals reaching your brain.
2: Drug Free
If for whatever reason you’re unable to use prescription drugs or you’d prefer not to, then TENS offers you a drug free option for your pain relief.
3: Use at Home
A unit can be used in the comfort of your home, you don’t need to travel anywhere for treatment or hire someone expensive to come into your home.
TENS machines vary in price however there are some very strong and affordable options that you can see above, giving you a reasonably priced treatment option.
5: Easy to Use
A TENS unit is easy to use, with pre-programmed functions offered on most devices it’s easy to just switch on and go…
6: Good for Daily Use
…which of course makes it ideal for daily use!
7: Reduce Inflammation
Research has shown that TENS helps to reduce inflammation if the right settings are used. However of course check with your doctor before considering it for use.
Who is TENS beneficial for?
TENS is used to treat a number of different conditions, both chronic and acute pain:
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, and can cause intense pain that runs from your lower back down to your lower leg.
A TENS machine can help to relieve the pain by blocking the signals sent to the brain, so it is often recommended as a treatment option for those suffering from sciatica.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Headaches and Migraines
Research shows that TENS is effective in the treatment of headaches and migraines, not only in managing the pain but also as a preventative method.
Another advantage of using a TENS machine, is that it stimulates the nerves meaning it’s commonly used for treating general nerve pain.
Research seems to be mixed on the effectiveness of TENS in the treatment of arthritis. However many professional bodies and organizations (such as Versus Arthritis) suggest it as an option for coping with the daily pain associated with the condition.
Users of PhysioForum recommend a TENS unit to others suffering from tennis elbow as an effective and affordable treatment option. Not all research points to the treatment being effective for the condition, however there have been some positive findings.
Suggested as a drug free alternative during labor, TENS units help to block the pain signals being sent to your brain as your contractions intensify. They are thought to help by way of distraction, seemingly giving you control over your own pain relief.
Strong results have been seen from users who suffer from muscle spasms, improving not just the associated pain but also their range of motion.
FAQs about Buying a TENS Unit
Got a burning question about buying a TENS unit? Then hopefully we’ve answered it below. If not you’ll find even more information about TENS therapy here.
What is a TENS unit?
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The output of the unit is a stimulating pulse that excites the nerves and blocks pain signals being sent to the brain.
What does a TENS unit do?
TENS sends low-voltage electricity directly to different parts of your body. This electricity blocks the pain signals being sent to the brain, therefore stopping or minimizing the effects of the pain.
How does a TENS unit work?
TENS works through (low-voltage) electrical current which suppresses the pain signals being sent to the brain. This electric therapy is delivered via pads or electrodes which you attach to key parts of your body, using a controller or touch screen to set the level of intensity.
What is a TENS unit used for?
How often can you use a TENS unit?
Guidance varies on how often you can use a TENS unit. Consult the instruction manual supplied with your TENS unit for the recommended length of use, so you don’t overuse it.
Are TENS units safe?
Generally TENS units are considered to be safe, however you should speak to your doctor or a medical professional before using one. Burns and irritations of the skin have been reported, and those with heart problems or implanted devices are advised not to take this course of therapy.
Where shouldn’t you use a TENS unit?
There are a number of places you shouldn’t use a TENS unit. These include the front or side of your neck, your temples, your mouth or eyes, or onto any irritated or infected skin.
Can you use a TENS unit while pregnant?
TENS is often chosen as a natural pain relief option during labor, however there is mixed advice when it comes to using a TENS machine during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor or medical professional for further guidance.
Can a TENS unit help build muscle?
While a TENS device set on a high intensity level may cause muscles to contract, it is not intended for toning or strengthening. Electric muscle stimulators (EMS) look and function in a similar way to TENS machines, however they are designed to make muscles contract and are a way to build muscle without lifting weights!
Do TENS units work?
When used correctly, TENS units have shown themselves to be effective for a number of conditions, however you should always speak to your doctor or a medical professional before starting treatment.
Are TENS units effective?
TENS has been proven to be effective for a number of different conditions, however it is a case of finding the right unit for your needs.
What does a TENS unit feel like?
People most commonly describe it as ‘little electric shocks’ or a tingling sensation.
Which TENS unit should I buy?
Our handy guide above should help to point you in the right direction. It gives you a variety of different options for your price range and explains the different features that each unit offers.
How do I choose a TENS machine?
In this article we’ve broken down the functions of TENS machines to help you make your decision. Make a list of the features that are most important to you and set a budget, then explore our shortlist of the top units on the market to find the best fit.
Are TENS machine pads reusable?
Yes, when you’re shopping for a TENS unit or electrodes take a look at the number of uses you can get from the set of pads before they need replacing. The number of uses will vary widely between products, however typically you get can get between 10-15 uses from a set of electrodes.
How much is a TENS unit?
TENS units vary hugely in price but can be found for close to $20 these days. Most fall within the range of $30 to $200, however they can cost hundreds and in some cases, thousands of dollars. Use our comparison guide above to help find one within your price range, with the features you need.
Can anyone buy a TENS unit?
Yes, anyone can buy a TENS unit over the counter (OTC) or online without a prescription. However there are a number of people who should not use the therapy, so you should always check with a medical professional before purchasing.
Please ensure that you speak to your doctor, physical therapist or other medical professional prior to using a TENS unit. While you can purchase these devices over the counter (OTC) or online (without a prescription) – it is recommended that you consult with a professional first. Always read the instruction manuals thoroughly before operating a TENS machine. There are certain exclusions where people should not use the machines, such as those who have a pacemaker fitted. (Check for other exclusions before using and make sure it’s suitable for you.)
- Google Patents (1974). Transcutaneous stimulator and stimulation method [Online]. Available from: https://patents.google.com/patent/US3817254 [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Vance, C. et al (2015). Using TENS for pain control: the state of the evidence [Online]. US National Library of Medicine. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186747/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- University of Rochester Medical Center (2021). TENS Therapy [Online]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=127 [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Vance, C. et al. (see footnote 2) ↩
- Miller, J. (2021). Sciatica [Online]. Physio Works. Available from: https://physioworks.com.au/pain-injury/back-pain/sciatica/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Dawood, M. & Ramos, J. (1990). Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized crossover comparison with placebo TENS and ibuprofen [Online]. National Library of Medicine. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2179780/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Natures Gate TENS (2017). Using a TENS Machine to Relieve Pain Associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome [Online]. Available from: https://naturesgatetens.com/blog/using-a-tens-machine-to-relieve-pain-associated-with-carpal-tunnel-syndrome/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- University of Rochester Medical Center (2021). The Best Ways to Treat, Prevent Tendonitis [Online]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=739 [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Migraine Research Foundation (2021). Migraine Facts [Online]. Available from: https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Brawley, O. (2021). How can I ease peripheral neuropathy pain? [Online]. CNN Health. Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/expert.q.a/08/12/peripheral.neuropathy.brawley/ [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Hackethal, V. (2014). TENS for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Efficacy and Drawbacks [Online]. Patient Care. Available from: https://www.patientcareonline.com/view/tens-diabetic-peripheral-neuropathy-efficacy-and-drawbacks [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Thompson, J. (2021). TENS therapy: An option for fibromyalgia treatment? [Online]. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tens/expert-answers/faq-20058378 [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Thomas, C. (2021). Using a TENS machine in labour [Online]. Baby Centre. Available from: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a542581/using-a-tens-machine-in-labour [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- The Physio Company (2013). Electrotherapy In Physiotherapy Treatments [Online]. Available from: https://www.thephysiocompany.com/blog/electrotherapy-in-physiotherapy-treatments [Accessed 24 November 2021]. ↩
- Maurer, D. (see footnote 1) ↩
- University of Rochester Medical Center (see footnote 3) ↩
- University of Rochester Medical Center (see footnote 3) ↩
- University of Rochester Medical Center (see footnote 3) ↩
- NHS (2018). TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens/ [Accessed 18 November 2021]. ↩
- Rull, G. (Patient). 2018 [Online]. TENS Machines. Available from: https://patient.info/treatment-medication/painkillers/tens-machines [Accessed 18 November 2021]. ↩
- Rull, G. (see footnote 20) ↩