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The Best TENS Unit – Reviews and Ratings for 2020

What Is The Best TENS Unit: Reviews And Ratings (For 2020)

For years we have continually tested and reviewed the best TENS units on the market. We are delighted to share our latest buying guide, highlighting our top three picks with you.

We spend a minimum of two weeks living with each new product, in order to fully understand its functionality, benefits and any drawbacks.

Whether you’re looking for your first ever machine – or considering upgrading your current TENS unit – our lowdown will clear things up and ensure that you’re looking at the right devices to help 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
DeviceChannelsPadsModesIntensity levelsBatteryPriceRating
Best TENS unit – iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle StimulatoriReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle StimulatorQuad
(fully isolated)
Infinite1425Rechargeable
lithium
$$$8.5
TechCare Plus 24 Modes TENS UnitTechCare Plus 24Dual42420Rechargeable
lithium
$8.3
PowerDot 2.0 Duo with TENS modesPowerDot Duo 2.0 Smart TENS UnitDual6Generated
by app
based on
user input
100Rechargeable
(lithium)
$$$8.2
Auvon Dual Channel TENS MachineAuvon Dual Channel TENS UnitDual
(fully isolated)
42020Rechargeable
(lithium)
$8.2
iReliev Plus TENS + EMS UnitiReliev Plus TENS + EMS SystemDual41425Rechargeable
(lithium)
$$8.2
TENS 7000TENS 7000Dual4581 x 9V$8.2
HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS MachineHealthmateForever YK15AB8 TENS UnitDual815202 x AAA$7.7
Zewa Spabuddy SportZewa Spabuddy Sport TENS UnitDual48303 x AAA$7.7
truMedic TM-1000PRO TENS DevicetruMedic TM-1000PRO TENS UnitDual4820Rechargeable
(lithium)
$$7.7
Omron Max Power Relief TENS UnitOmron Max Power Relief TENS UnitSingle29152 x AA$7.5

Our 10 Best TENS Units: Reviewed and Rated

1. iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle Stimulator

Best overall TENS unit: Our top-rated pick

Our top-rated pick from iReliev not only has TENS capabilities for pain relief but also has EMS massage programs for exercise preparation, recovery, and muscle conditioning.

iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Muscle Stimulator

iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Unit

With some some killer features and wireless capabilities to boot, this versatile unit is one of the best designed and most discreet that we’ve used.

Rated: 8.5 / 10

iReliev’s Wireless TENS + EMS machine offers 14 programs in total with 8 of them being for TENS and 6 of them for EMS.

The TENS programs are named by number: P1, P2, P3, etc. In our thorough month long testing of the device, we found each of the 8 programs to be diverse, offering something very different to the next one. (P8 is a program that has been developed specifically for arthritis).

The set button, along with the + and – keys on the remote are used to cycle between the programs. Operating the device is simple, as it has been designed so that only four buttons are required to do everything.

It’s the perfect TENS unit for back pain:

Unlike normal wired units, this machine only requires one pad per channel. One pad does the job of two.

This is something we really like, it means you don’t have to place two pads on your body to treat one area, such as your lower back. It makes the whole experience of using the device much simpler, quicker and nicer.

So for example, using two wireless pods and pads on this machine would be the equivalent of four pads on a standard dual channel device (such as our budget pick, TechCare’s Plus 24).

Treatment times can be set from 5-60 minutes and as with the programs and intensity levels, are set independently for each channel, meaning you could have a little longer on one area if you wanted.

Killer feature: Fully isolated channels

Killer feature: fully isolated channels

Unlike most other devices, the channels on this iReliev product are fully isolated, enabling you to select not only the intensity level but different programs and treatment times for each channel.

The device has 25 intensity levels, which is more than most. This gives you a great deal of control over the strength of the treatment. Most of the other devices we’ve considered in this guide have 20 levels but some have considerably less.

Having more levels at your disposal is desirable as it enables you to fine-tune strength of the stimulation. During our testing of this device, we didn’t go past level 14 for any of the TENS programs so it was more than strong enough, with plenty left.

The wireless receiver pods push onto the pads through a snap fit. This proprietary fitting does mean that they only work with iReliev’s own pads.

However, they do have a subscription service for the pads, which brings down the price considerably.

Setting up the device and pairing it with the wireless receiver pods was straightforward, it didn’t require any complicated bluetooth pairing. Once we’d done the initial charge of the system it was literally a case of turning the remote and pods and they paired with each other automatically.

iReliev’s Wireless TENS + EMS machine ships with the first two pods for channels 1 and 2. The pods for channels 3 and 4 can be purchased separately so you can take advantage of all four channels.

When we were testing this unit we kept records of battery performance and got 6 hours and 22 minutes from the wireless receivers before they needed recharging and 8 hours and 2 minutes from the hand remote.

Killer feature: No more wires!

A key benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked with this wireless setup is how discreet it is. With no wires running from the controller to the pads, you can use this without anybody knowing. Ideal for situations such as the office, when only you need to know about it.

We believe that once you’ve made the switch to a wireless device you won’t go back to a wired unit. It’s convenient, discreet and a much more streamlined experience.

We especially like how it remembers your previous session’s settings so next time you switch it on, the program and timer are exactly the same as last time. This is useful, especially if you’ve found a program you particularly like and use most of the time. With most units you have to cycle through the programs and set the timer again each time you use it, even if you want to do the exact same thing as last time.

The system comes with a made to measure hard shell carrying case to keep the device and accessories in. It’s been extremely well considered. As well as providing a home for everything, it offers a layer of protection for any accidental drops. The compactness and weight of the device and pods – coupled with the carrying case – make this a highly portable setup that can be taken anywhere, to provide on the spot pain relief.

Any potential drawbacks?

It’s worth considering that the screen isn’t as big as most of the competition, however it has been well designed and is very clear and easy to read, the information is well spaced out. At no point did we have any problem reading the information it displayed. The size of the screen contributes to the overall compactness of the hand remote.

The features iReliev have incorporated into the system make it a premium priced product so the initial investment is higher than majority of other units we’ve evaluated.

Our rating: 8.5 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

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2. TechCare Plus 24 TENS Unit

Our budget pick: Best for under $50

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to try TENS for the first time and don’t want to compromise too much on features (who does!?) our budget pick, TechCare’s Plus 24 is a tantalizing proposition.

TechCare Plus 24 TENS unit

TechCare Plus 24

Simple, intuitive to use, a large backlit display and with a whopping 24 modes, TechCare’s Plus 24 hits the sweet spot between price and features.

Rated: 8.3 / 10

Plus 24 has (you guessed it) 24 TENS stimulation modes, more than you’ll find on most units, our other two picks included. The modes are categorized into six groups with names such as ‘kneading’, ‘cupping,’ ‘reflexology’. Each of the groups has four modes within them and while some of the modes in the same groups may be similar to each other, none of them are overly similar. (We documented this in the full review of Plus 24.)

The device is dual channel which means you can treat two body parts (or for example, both sides of the back) at the same time. It has 20 intensity levels and while not as many as our other two picks it’s certainly enough to be able to control the level of current and we were never found wanting for any more. The round A / B button on the controls toggles between the two channels and then you simply press + or – to increase or decrease the strength of treatment.

A standout feature of this model that we love is the 20-hours of use its rechargeable battery provides. This is substantially longer than most of its rivals so ideal for those who want portability and to not worry about it running out of charge on them.

We found the unit to be unit to be simple and easy to use, with no unnecessary controls. The default treatment time is 20 minutes, this can be increased though with just a push of the T key. After the session is complete the unit automatically switches itself off to preserve (that splendid) battery.

Another feature that impressed us immensely was the screen. It’s backlit (so you can use it in the dark) and really big (3.75 inches to be precise) and covers almost the entirety of the front of the unit.

While it doesn’t come with a dedicated carrying case like our top pick does, it ships in a lovely box that’s sized perfectly, giving you somewhere to store the device between uses.

Plus 24 offers superb bang for the buck, making it a popular choice for those wanting a feature-rich device without having to make a larger investment.

Could it be improved?

The only slight flaw we think worth noting is that there aren’t any pad placement diagrams in the instruction manual.

Our rating: 8.3 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

3. PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart TENS Unit

Best (and most portable) smart TENS unit

There couldn’t be a more portable device than the PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart Muscle Stimulator.

PowerDot’s groundbreaking device effectively turns your smartphone into a TENS unit.

PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart Muscle Stimulator

PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart Muscle Stimulator

The smartest smart muscle stimulator in town turns your smartphone into the most portable TENS unit around, with some super slick features and functionality.

Rated: 8.2 / 10

You use your phone as the controller, sending electrical stimulation programs to the wireless pods and electrodes that you position on your body.

Say goodbye to just standard pre-programmed settings:

You can use the app to highlight your painful areas, pick the type of pain you’re experiencing, rate your current pain score and tolerance level.

Innovative PowerDot app technology then takes that information and, using a proprietary algorithm, creates a program specially designed to relieve your pain.

This has many advantages, and a few small disadvantages in our opinion (which we’ll come on to later).

We found the app so easy to use. The layout is logical and you can connect to your electrodes quickly.

You’re able to track your progress on the different areas of your body, allowing you to see how your pain is progressing, and the impact and changes to your daily life.

As you use the PowerDot app to control your device, you’re able to receive updates, just like you might be used to on your iPhone, giving your machine regular new features.

It updates just like your other apps do.

When they introduce a new feature, such as their Long Haul Flight mode, you get that as soon as the app is updated. So if you’ve got automatic updates on your phone you’re always going to have the latest features.

Every time we got an app update, we felt like we were getting a new device!

PowerDot 2.0 Duo really is the gift the keeps on giving…

Who knows what’s coming next from PowerDot? (Well, we might have a little insider information!)

Speaking of the ‘Long Haul Flight’ mode, it’s perfect for regular travelers. Just pop the electrodes and pods on before you board, then choose your flight duration from 4 up to 17 hours.

PowerDot explain the function of the setting in their app:

“Keep the blood circulating through your muscles with refreshing massage automatically running every 30 minutes during your long haul flight.”

Your PowerDot will massage you for 5 minutes every 30 minutes, gently easing in so it doesn’t make you jump. It’s TSA approved too, so you can carry it in your hand luggage without any issues.

Long Haul Flight mode isn’t just ideal for frequent flyers. It’s also highly desirable for someone who is sat at a desk for long periods of time, experiencing their own long haul every day!

Another great option is ‘Massage’ mode. A gentle electrical muscle stimulation setting that helps to increase blood flow and oxygen to the area you’re targeting.

PowerDot is without doubt one of the most discreet TENS units around.

You can control it from your phone, and everyone will just think you’re scrolling Facebook!

A fine example of how perfectly portable it is:

We loved how you could put the electrodes and pods in the back pocket of your cycle jersey.

Your phone is your controller, so you always have that with you. Enjoy a calf massage (or a massage anywhere else that needs a little TLC) when taking a well-earned break from your ride.

Buying a TENS machine is relatively easy, but learning how to use it and get the most from it is much harder.

PowerDot offer excellent guidance on how to use their device, both within the app and on their YouTube channel.

We watched tons of their step-by-step videos, learning exactly how to position the electrodes for the area we were targeting.

Videos are insightful without being overcomplicated, helping you become a bit of a TENS expert!

The Duo version ships with two pods and two sets of electrode pads, as well as a micro USB charging cable so you have everything you need to get started.

Plus it all comes packaged in a really sleek, specially designed case, so it’s easy to transport and generally just looks great too!

Finance options are available on their website, allowing you to spread the cost over a number of months, just select their finance partner Affirm at checkout.

Are there any downsides?

You must use the PowerDot pods and electrodes. You have the ability to use a maximum of two sets of pods and pads.

So if you want more coverage, for example to cover the whole of your back, it wouldn’t be possible. Remember to always seek medical advice about pad placement.

Also, due to the clever algorithm tailoring your TENS treatment, you don’t get the standard TENS programs you get with other devices.

For example on a classic TENS unit, after experimentation, you might decide that TENS programme 4 or kneading mode is the one for you.

However PowerDot makes that decision for you based on the information you input. It could be tricky to get to grips with if you’re used to a traditional TENS device.

But…

Because PowerDot has the capability to update their app this is something they could easily add in the future. It’s certainly a feature we’d recommend (and love to see).

We initially viewed PowerDot as a product predominantly for athletes. Yet such exciting new TENS features make it an impressive new entry in to this space – PowerDot have certainly shaken things up!

Our rating: 8.2 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

4. Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit

Various modes and pad sizes create a tailored TENS experience

Auvon’s TENS Unit is a great all-rounder, offering you amazing versatility so you can get the most from your machine.

As a fully isolated dual channel device, you’re able to use individual styles of treatment on different areas of your body. A fantastic feature for such an incredibly low price.

Experiment with 20 modes, perhaps opting for kneading on one channel, with the hammering option selected on the other. You can also tailor the intensity independently on each channel.

When you buy this TENS unit it comes with pads of different sizes, with the smaller pads ideal for trickier areas to treat such as your knees or elbow.

This is an affordable and compact TENS unit that doesn’t scrimp on features.

Many who initially unwrapped the unit were worried if the dinky size could still pack a punch, however after their first treatment they were impressed with the power it could deliver.

Plus with an internal rechargeable lithium battery, you can get up to 10 hours of continuous use.

When you read reviews of TENS machines, people always have mixed opinions of the pads supplied, however not with this device.

Auvon pride themselves on supplying pads that can be used up to 30 times, with many users reporting that they actually lasted much longer.

Our rating: 8.2 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

5. iReliev Premium TENS + EMS Pain Relief Recovery

A device that provides the benefits of TENS and EMS

When shopping for a TENS device, you might also come across EMS machines. EMS is not the same as TENS, it’s designed for muscle strengthening and rehabilitation, among other things, rather than pain relief.

However if you want a machine with the benefits of both, then you can’t go wrong with the iReliev Premium TENS and EMS system.

You have eight different TENS modes to play around with for your pain, and six different EMS settings to help with your athletic performance.

One of the TENS modes has been created specifically for those with arthritis. It’s worth a try if you’re struggling with the condition, as the treatment has been proven to help manage different types of arthritis.

You have 25 different levels of intensity to choose from, giving you the high level of flexibility you can always rely on with iReliev products.

If you love our number one pick, but want to spend a little less then this is a great alternative from iReliev, without the wireless features.

It comes with a USB and mains charger, as well as different sized electrodes, and can be easily clipped on to your belt.

Users experimenting with the device loved how easy it was to operate, and how they could enjoy a 60 minute session without any annoying 15 minute limitations.

Our rating: 8.2 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

Did You Know?

‘TENS’ is an acronym and stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

6. TENS 7000

A TENS unit trusted by over one million people around the world

TENS 7000 is one retro looking device, however don’t let this put you off, as this unit has been trusted for more than 10 years.

According to the manufacturer, over 1 million units have been sold and it’s easy to see why.

As a dual channel device, you can treat two areas of your body simultaneously, using up to four pads.

With five different modes, adjustable pulse rate and eight intensity levels, it’s ideal if you enjoy the satisfaction of tweaking the settings to enhance your treatment.

Many TENS devices come with a time limit, when they auto-switch off. However TENS 7000 puts you in control, allowing you to pick a treatment time.

Fans of the product described the controller unit as lightweight, plus it comes with a hard shell carry case so it’s easy to pop in your bag.

The fact it’s battery powered might make you think twice. However the company do sell a rechargeable battery pack as an added extra.

Pop out the battery and load it into the charger. You get two rechargeable batteries in the pack, so you can always have a fully charged spare on standby.

Though TENS 7000 has so many features and settings, it’s still simple to use, thanks in part to the clear instruction manual that comes with the device.

Everything feels logical, and the buttons, though quite small, are clear and easy to operate.

Finally one of the best features we just have to mention:

Controls are protected by a cover so you don’t knock them and accidentally bump up your intensity!

Our rating: 8.2 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

7. HealthmateForever YK15AB8 TENS Unit

Use eight pads at the same time!

HealthmateForever’s YK15AB8 can be used with an amazing eight pads, so it’s ideal if you’re looking for more body coverage or have many pain points you’re trying to target.

There are 15 different modes you can choose from, including acupuncture and scraping. 20 intensity levels gives you control on both channels, which is great as some did report that this machine could be extremely powerful.

Settings couldn’t be easier to control. Quickly opt for the area on your body that you want to treat and tap the style of treatment you want to enjoy.

It’s a little bigger than many other TENS units, with users likening it to the size of a home phone. But it’s affordable and doesn’t scrimp on features.

Many reported the great battery life of this device, however it isn’t rechargeable so if that’s a deal breaker for you, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

You’ll notice that the unit takes just three AAA batteries, so you could opt for rechargeable batteries, such as this highly rated pack from Amazon.

Our rating: 7.7 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

8. Zewa SpaBuddy Sport TENS Unit

Have the ultimate control over your TENS intensity

Zewa SpaBuddy Sport TENS unit is a nifty little device that can easily compete with the more expensive machines.

You can choose from eight different programs, and Zewa encourage you to experiment.

Unlike some units which are limited to 15 or 30 minute sessions, Zewa sessions can be set between 5 and 95 minutes.

Not 10, not 20, but 30 intensity levels:

Allowing you to really control the power and find the setting that works best for you.

The large screen and simple buttons make it a TENS unit that can be used easily even by the most technically challenged, or during stressful situations such as labor.

Locking buttons were particularly appreciated during labour, as it stops you from accidentally knocking the settings.

Zewa’s unit takes batteries, so not as convenient as a rechargeable device. However our detailed review of the product found you could get 10 hours of use out of high quality batteries before they’d need replacing.

The electrodes included with the product were considered by many to be fairly standard, however these can be easily swapped out if needed.

All in all, great features and performance for a low cost TENS unit.

Our rating: 7.7 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

9. truMedic TM-1000PRO TENS Unit

Simple to use TENS unit, ideal for a beginner

If you’re new to TENS and looking for your first unit then the truMedic TM-1000PRO is a solid choice.

It’s really easy to use, you can simply pick it up and go, which made it popular with users.

Choose the area of your body that you want to treat from the five pre-programmed options including back, shoulder and leg.

You can then choose from three different massage settings, standard Massage, Beat and Knead.

truMedic put you in control of the length of your treatment, rather than imposing a time limit. Select a 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 or 120 minute session.

20 intensity levels help you better tailor your pain relief and you can increase and decrease the setting easily with the plus and minus buttons.

It isn’t the smallest TENS unit around, meaning it does have benefits for those who prefer simpler devices with bigger buttons that aren’t too fiddly. You can easily charge it through the mains or a USB charging outlet.

And because packaging is important:

truMedic’s device comes in a magnetic box for simple transportation, win win!

Our rating: 7.7 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

10. Omron Max Power Relief TENS Unit

An uncomplicated but powerful TENS device

Omron has been a trusted name in the TENS unit world for many years, creating many popular devices.

Their Max Power model (PM3032) however promises to be twice as powerful than the models that have gone before. Such as the Pain Relief Pro or the simple and uncomplicated PM3030.

On this newer device you can choose from six different modes tailored for different parts of the body, such as Foot, Legs and Lower Back. Three massage modes include Rub, Tap and Knead.

These settings, plus 15 levels of intensity, are controlled with large buttons and displayed on a simple screen, to make the set-up process as easy as possible.

If you or the person you’re shopping struggles with fiddly technology, then this is the TENS unit for you.

Included with the machine is a handy belt clip, so you can wear it discreetly, and not worry about accidentally pulling the wires away from the device.

Omron’s Life Long Pads can be washed up to 10 times and are expected to last for 150 uses, so you can save money on electrodes in the long run.

One slight limitation is the fact that the unit is battery powered, however fans of previous Omron products feel it’s their best device yet and offers the power they crave.

Our rating: 7.5 / 10  |  See reviews and ratings on Amazon

TENS Unit Reviews: Our Rating Process

If you’re looking for more information about specific models and in-depth product analysis, we’ve put together a series of TENS unit reviews, which can be all be found in this section of the site.

Our research and review process is comprehensive:

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.

Fact:

The first modern, patient-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 not to just throw 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 tons 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.

should your TENS unit be rechargeable?

If it helps, we’ve put together a list below of the different features, explaining exactly what each feature means so you know exactly what you’re buying.

If you’re not sure exactly what features are important to you, why not speak with your doctor or physical therapist for advice?

Don’t forget this essential step…

Before looking at what a machine has to offer, there’s an extremely important step. Under no circumstances should this be overlooked.

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 TENS unit 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.

how much are you willing to spend on a new TENS machine?

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.

Put together a shortlist of five devices that meet your criteria and budget.

create a shortlist of up to 5 devices

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:

  • Features
  • Consumer ratings
  • Value for money

Which two or three devices really stand out?

find highly-rated TENS units

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?

research and analyze those machines in greater detail

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.

finally, choose the TENS unit that best suits your requirements

How to choose a TENS unit in 5 simple steps
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Functions and features of a TENS unit

For a more organized and systematic approach, these can be broken down into sub-sections.

Programs and modes

When shopping for your TENS unit, take a closer look at the different programs and modes the device offers.

Cheaper TENS 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 including 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.

Timer

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.

Battery

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, especially over a period of time.

Channels

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.

Intensity Levels

As well as different programs and modes, TENS units also offer varying levels of intensity.

Remember!

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.

EMS

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 however works to contract the muscle, meaning it’s ideal for sportspeople who want to manage their pain but also maintain their level of strength.

Interferential

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.

Size

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?

Screen

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.

Accessories

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.

Warranties

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.

Price

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 to 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 TENS unit 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.

Wireless

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.

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 labelled and easy to identity?
  • 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, here are a number of them:

Decreases Pain

TENS units have been shown to decrease the perception of pain, as they work by blocking the pain signals reaching your brain.

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.

Did You Know?

Healthcare professionals have known the power of electricity for a long time, and have used it to relieve pain since the mid 1960s!

Use at Home

Of course, 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 in to your home.

Affordable

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.

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…

Good for Daily Use

…which of course makes it ideal for daily use!

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:

Did You Know?

Emerging evidence suggests TENS may be helpful for people with fibromyalgia and spinal cord injury.

Sciatica

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 unit 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.

Menstrual Cramps

TENS has been proven through research to be effective in the treatment of menstrual cramps, with certain devices such as the Livia (a wearable device), designed solely for this purpose.

Did You Know?

Research has shown TENS to be more effective in managing the pain of menstrual cramps than ibuprofen.

Plantar Fasciitis

For those suffering with Plantar Fasciitis, low frequency electrical stimulation has been shown to have a positive impact on symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

By using a dual channel machine on both sides of the hand and wrist, TENS can offer relief from the pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Tendonitis

We know a TENS machine can reduce inflammation, which is why TENS devices are recommended for relief from the pain of tendonitis.

Headaches and Migraines

Research has shown that TENS is effective in the treatment of headaches and migraines, not only in managing the pain but also as a preventative method.

Did You Know?

Chronic migraines affect approximately 2% of the world population.

Nerve Pain

Another advantage of using a TENS machine, is that it stimulates the nerves meaning it’s commonly used for treating general nerve pain.

Neuropathy

Those suffering from neuropathy are often offered tricyclic antidepressants as a first start of treatment, however a TENS device can be a drug free alternative.

Diabetic Neuropathy

This common complication of diabetes can respond well to TENS, however users are told to take care as some do report skin irritation from the electrode gel.

Fibromyalgia

TENS has been shown to reduce pain for those living with Fibromyalgia, particularly when combined with other treatments such as exercise.

Arthritis

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 arthritis.

Tennis Elbow

Some research has suggested that TENS is not particularly effective in the treatment of tennis elbow, with ultrasound therapy proving to have a greater impact on symptoms..

Labor

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.

Muscle Spasms

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

If you have a burning question about TENS units then hopefully we’ve answered it below, if not you’ll find more info here.

What is a TENS unit?

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?

What does a TENS unit do?

To put it simply, 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.

Did You Know?

Electricity as a form of pain relief isn’t a new idea, back in ancient Rome they used to get relief from pain by standing on an electric fish!

How does a TENS unit work?

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?

What is a TENS unit used for?

TENS units are used for the management of both chronic and acute pain, whether that be on a daily basis for sufferers of nerve pain or as drug free pain relief for women during labor.

How often can you use a TENS unit?

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?

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.

Can you use a TENS unit while pregnant?

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?

Can a TENS unit help build muscle?

While a TENS device set on a high intensity level may causes 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 have many different uses.

Do TENS units work?

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?

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?

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?

Which TENS unit should I buy?

Our handy guide above should help to point you in the right direction, giving you a variety of different options for your price range and explaining the different features that each unit offers.

Where can I buy a TENS unit?

Where can I buy a TENS unit?

You will find TENS units for sale online, and are widely available on many websites, such as Walmart, CVS, Target and Walgreens. If you want to buy a machine locally, visit your nearest pharmacy. Several online retailers offer free shipping on orders as well.

How much is a TENS unit?

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 handy guide above to help find one within your price range, with the features you need.

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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.)

References

  1. Maurer, D. (1974) Transcutaneous stimulator and stimulation method U.S. Patent 3,817,254. [Online] Available from: https://patents.google.com/patent/US3817254 [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  2. University of Rochester Medical Center. (2019) TENS Therapy. [Online] Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=127 [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  3. Vance, C. G. T. et al. (2014) Using TENS for pain control: the state of the evidence. [Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186747/ [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  4. Miller, J. (2018) What is Sciatica?. [Online] Available from: https://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/sciatica [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  5. Dawood, M. Y. & Ramos, J. (1990) Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized crossover comparison with placebo TENS and ibuprofen. [Online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2179780 [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  6. 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 4 December 2019].
  7. Ehrlich, S. D. (2016) Tendinitis. [Online] Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=739 [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  8. The Migraine Trust. (2019) Facts and figures. [Online] Available from: https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/facts-figures/ [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  9. Brawley, O. (2009) How can I ease peripheral neuropathy pain?. [Online] Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/expert.q.a/08/12/peripheral.neuropathy.brawley/ [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  10. Hackethal, V. (2014) TENS for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Efficacy and Drawbacks. [Online] Available from: https://www.patientcareonline.com/diabetes-type-2/tens-diabetic-peripheral-neuropathy-efficacy-and-drawbacks [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  11. Thompson, J. M. (2019) TENS therapy: An option for fibromyalgia treatment?. [Online] Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tens/expert-answers/faq-20058378 [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  12. BabyCenter. (2019) Using a TENS machine in labour. [Online] Available from: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a542581/using-a-tens-machine-in-labour [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  13. Maurer, D. (see footnote 1)
  14. University of Rochester Medical Center. (see footnote 2)
  15. Yu, F. C. (2015) Introduction to Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). [Online] Available from: https://exploreim.ucla.edu/news/introduction-to-transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation/ [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  16. University of Rochester Medical Center. (see footnote 2)
  17. University of Rochester Medical Center. (see footnote 2)
  18. University of Rochester Medical Center. (see footnote 2)
  19. Patient. (2018) TENS Machines. [Online] Available from: https://patient.info/treatment-medication/painkillers/tens-machines [Accessed 4 December 2019].
  20. Patient. (see footnote 19)

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25 comments

  1. Help!! I have several issues going on such as a bulging disk, degenerative disc disease, bursitis in my left hip, Piriformis muscle syndrome on my left side, and scoliosis. I am wanting to purchase a tens unit that is easy to use but effective in hopes of getting some pain relief. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Hi,

    Have you had anyone that has used this for gastroparesis? If so which one do you suggest?

    Thanks,

    Whit

  3. Hi, I have pain top middle lower spine and radiating pain across neck shoulders and braline… I have nerve damage in both thighs and also in my arm. Due to such a range of places I’m guessing I need a 4 pad? but I’d like to use it indoors first thing.. do not want batteries and live in the UK… any ideas please…

  4. I have the old model TENS and it works brilliantly effective especially for muscle knot. Been using TENS more than 5 years and the worst case i had was when I twisted my hips with unbearable pains but TENS saved my life within 3 days pain drastically reduced. I do not like hand massage therefore TENS is the solution until now. I trust TENS so much and wish I discover TENS before my 5 years usage. Thanks TENS and i believe and trust you soooo very much.

  5. I have a prescription for a tens unit and I was wondering in you could help me find the best tens machine for Missouri. I have medicade and Medicare

    • The devices featured on this page are available online, over-the-counter (OTC). For prescriptions you will need to consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

  6. Brandy Krivoruchka

    Which TENS unit would be best suited for use during labor?

    • I would suggest you speak to your physician to get guidance and recommendations based on your personal situation and needs.

  7. I am totally new to TENS units and a little bit lost. I have chronic pain conditions that effect both my pelvis and my shoulders and neck. As such I am super interested in tens units that have isolated channels but I am wondering if thats the best place to start as a novice and if there is anything in particular I should be looking out for?
    And then when it comes to replacement pads, how often do the pads need to be replaced? Should I stay away from a high end machine that has isolated channels if the replacements pads cost a fortune?
    Are there any units that you can recommend for these needs?

    • HealthmateForever produces a number of devices with isolated channels. Machines with isolated channels use the same pads so you wouldn’t spend any more when replacing them, compared to a standard dual channel device. Most of HealthmateForever’s units accept snap fit pads, you can read more about replacements here: https://www.thegoodbody.com/tens-unit-pads/

  8. In need of a Tens machine to stimulate muscles that on each side of my drooping eyelids – this was recommended by my plastic surgeon – doesn’t need to be too fancy – please advise

    • Firstly, every manual I have read states not to place the pads on or around the head. Secondly, TENS uses electrical current and is commonly used to treat nerve related pain conditions.

  9. I’m a migraine sufferer with a lot of neck pain from deteriorating vertebrae. Is there any danger in using the tens machine with the pads placed high on the neck, where it is nearer the brain?

    • This is something you would need to speak to a medical professional about. The instruction manuals I currently have in front of me all state not to stimulate over the neck.

  10. I have used a tens 7,000 for many years now And I must say it is a good one. But I spend so much in 9 volt batterys. And unforntatly I need a new one. I was looking for one that is not to expensive, with a plug in adaptor. What do you think of the Intensity 10 tens unit compared to the tens 7,000?

    • I do like the InTENSity 10. The AC/DC adapter is really handy – and so long as you have a mains power supply, you need never worry about running out of battery. In terms of this as a replacement for TENS 7000, they are very different machines – I don’t see it as a like-for-like replacement. If you like being able to fine-tune the settings within the modes (pulse width and frequency), you need to be aware that this isn’t possible with the InTENSity 10 device. It has pre-programmed modes for different areas of the body. So there’s less user input required for InTENSity 10 but it doesn’t give you as much control over the therapy. Have you considered investing in a set of rechargeables for your existing unit?

  11. Thanks again for your reply and sorry for the delay responding. I decided to try a SpaBuddy and got one. Haven’t had the chance to try it yet, hope it’s good.

  12. What do you think of the HealthmateForever YK15, especially compared to the HM6ML / SpaBuddy?

    Thanks

    • The first thing to note is the YK15 is quite a bit bigger than the other two devices, making it less portable, in case that’s something you’re looking for. The HM6ML also has a rechargeable battery. The YK15 doesn’t look like the rest of the HealthmateForever range, it has a different style of software, buttons and display. It looks to me like it’s been made in the same factory as the truMedic PL-009. Take a look at the shape, design, buttons, style, etc. and even packaging – they’re almost identical, apart from that it has more controls and options. The three you mention are very contrasting machines so it really depends what your priorities are.

      • Thanks very much for the reply!

        I’m not as familiar as you are with the general appearance of the HealthMate forever range, but I did notice the resemblance to the PL-009 right away. I hadn’t looked at the packaging. I was unaware of the size difference, thanks for pointing that out.

        All else being equal (power, effectiveness, features, whatever) I’d rather have a device that takes AA or AAA batteries so I can use rechargeables (or disposables in a pinch) so I can keep going without waiting to recharge. But if rechargeability makes a device more effective, I’m not opposed to it.

        My priority is totally on effectiveness at pain relief, especially nerve related pain, which I believe makes TENS features my priority as opposed to EMS. Any opinion on which of the 3 devices is the best fit for that?

        Thanks!

  13. I have had back surgery and need to strengthen my core. Considering Flexbelt, but your ratings of tens units rate HealthmateForever Pro-8AB10M as the best. Will the Healthmate provide the same level of core strengthening as the Flexbelt? If so, what other comparative pros and cons of each should I consider? e.g. arm and/or leg toning, back pain relief etc. Thank you!

    • I’ll try to explain the differences as concisely as possible. The Flex Belt uses electric muscle stimulation (EMS) technology to work the stomach muscles, it has 10 different programs that have been developed to tone, firm and strengthen. The HealthmateForever Pro-8AB10M is a combination device that has both TENS and EMS modes, meaning it’s more of an all-round electric massager – most of its modes are geared up for pain relief. However, one of the modes it has is called, “Body Building”, which is used for working muscles. Further information about TENS and EMS can be found here: http://www.thegoodbody.com/difference-tens-ems/. If you were looking for a machine that you could use on different muscle groups you could consider the EMS units here: http://www.thegoodbody.com/electric-muscle-stimulator/. They use electrodes (adhesive pads) that can be placed on different areas of the body so you can work specific muscle groups. I would say the Flex Belt is best suited to somebody who is looking for a device to work the stomach muscles only. The Pro-8AB10M is the type of machine for pain relief and a bit of muscle work. EMS units are mainly used for recovery, training, rehabilitation, prevention and cosmetic reasons. In terms of our rating system, it combines: features, ease of use, value for money. A higher rating doesn’t necessarily mean one machine is better than another, it means it’s received a higher average score. The device that best suits you will be very much down to personal preference, requirements and budget. I hope this helps, please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

  14. I need an EMS machine to assist as a non professional bodybuilder. Must be able to target at least four to 6 muscle groups i.e chest and shoulders, quads and hamstrings buttocks or stomach and lower/upper back. Should be able to set different intervals and intencity. Regards Fred

    • I use a Compex myself and am very happy with it. I wrote a case study about it here: http://www.thegoodbody.com/electric-muscle-stimulator/ With mine, the ramp times, along with the pulse width and pulse rate are built into the programs but you can adjust the intensity levels (individually for all four channels). The instruction manuals that ship with these devices are the most comprehensive I’ve come across. Compex sell different models depending on the region, some countries are stricter than others about what can be sold OTC (without a prescription).

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