13 Most Popular Tens Units on the Market

Top 3 Products

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Tens units were once only available through medical prescriptions, but now you can buy a tens unit right online. These units use electric impulses to stimulate nerve muscles.

Alternatively, many manufacturers utilize these units as a form of massage for consumers. When muscle pain and tightness develop, a tens unit is often one of the best solutions to finally live a pain-free life.

After sorting through 100+ of TENS units, spending over 10+ hours on writing this guide and sifting through over 700+ reviews, we have compiled a list of the top 13 machines on the market. Let’s begin.

Top 13 Tens Units for 2020

  1. FDA Cleared OTC HealthmateForever Unit (9931+ Reviews)
  2. TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit (8202+ Reviews)
  3. NURSAL TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator (4834+ Reviews)
  4. Santamedical Electronic Tens Unit (3040+ Reviews)
  5. truMedic TENS Unit Electronic Massager (4521+ Reviews)
  6. KEDSUM Rechargeable 16 Modes Tens Unit (1535+ Reviews)
  7. TechCare Tens Unit Plus 24 (1947+ Reviews)
  8. Omron Pain Relief TENS Unit (1172+ Reviews)
  9. MEDVIVE Rechargeable Tens Unit (953+ Reviews)
  10. Icy Hot Smart Relief TENS Unit (382+ Reviews)
  11. Portable Unit Handheld Palm Plus Digital (989+ Reviews)
  12. Omron Pain Relief Pro (561+ Reviews)
  13. HealthmateForever Hands-free TENS Unit (1277+ Reviews)

1. FDA cleared OTC HealthmateForever TENS Unit

(BEST FDA CLEARED TENS UNIT)

FDA cleared OTC HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS unit with 4 outputs, apply 8 pads at the same time, 15...
11,318 Reviews
FDA cleared OTC HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS unit with 4 outputs, apply 8 pads at the same time, 15...
  • All-Time best seller YK15AB is one of our most powerful TENS & Muscle Stimulators. Specifically designed mode buttons make pain management quick and...
  • Powerful Value: One of our most powerful TENS & Muscle Stimulator with 20 levels of adjustable intensity. Strong long-lasting pain relief.
  • Mode Buttons: Easy to read & operate buttons for each targeted body pain relief & Massage-like Modes.

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 9931+ REVIEWS)

This FDA cleared product from HealthmateForever can act as an EMS/TENS unit, is packed with features and is really affordable.

This is the Amazon’s Choice product in the category of TENS units and comes with the following features:

  • 15 modes and intensities
  • 9 auto stimulation programs
  • Buttons labeled with words
  • Small in size and portable

There are 9 programmed massage actions to choose from as well as manual controls. With over 9931 positive reviews, this is the top choice among buyers. You can buy this model today and have it by tomorrow with 1-day shipping.

Some reviewers state that the limited lifetime warranty comes with a price of $19.95 for shipping and servicing. 

What we like

  • TENS & Muscle Stimulator with 20 levels of adjustable intensity
  • Non-stop pain relief wherever you are with just one clip
  • Easy to read & operate buttons
  • Over 9931+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

2. TENS 7000 2nd Edition TENS Unit + Accessories

(BEST TENS UNIT OVERALL)

TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit with Accessories
10,784 Reviews
TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit with Accessories
  • NEED PRESCRIPTION STRENGTH PAIN RELIEF? A TENS unit muscle stimulator and electric massager that provides pain relief, acts as a muscle massager or...
  • OVER 1M TENS 7000 DEVICES SOLD: A consumer over the counter favorite back pain relief device and a leader in physical therapy equipment for providing...
  • A LEADER SINCE 2008: A 10+ year favorite TENS device among medical professionals for delivering drug-free back pain relief as well as treating common...

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 8202+ REVIEWS)

This TENS machine is another product featured with the Amazon’s Choice badge reserved only for the best selling and highest rated products. This machine can be considered to be a prescription strength pain relief. This one acts as a muscle massager, provies carpal tunnel relief and acts as a muscle relaxer.

This product comes with the following features:

  • 5 modes of custom stimulation
  • 4 pads included
  • Over 1 million TENS 7000 devices sold
  • Small in size, hard carry case included

This TENS device comes with a 1 year warranty and is supported by the Roscoe Medical best-in-class support team. With over 8202 positive reviews, this is great choice among buyers. You can buy this model today and have it by tomorrow with 1-day shipping.

What we like

  • A 10+ year favorite TENS device among medical professionals
  • Massager with independent dual channels that control four TENS unit pads
  • Comes with a hard carry case
  • Over 8202+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

3. NURSAL TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator

(BEST TENS UNIT FOR MONEY)

Sale
NURSAL EMS TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator with 8 Electrode Pads/Pouch/Pads Holder, Rechargeable 16...
6,429 Reviews
NURSAL EMS TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator with 8 Electrode Pads/Pouch/Pads Holder, Rechargeable 16...
  • Safe, Non-invasive and Non-medicinal Pain Relief – The NURSAL TENS unit muscle stimulator uses electronic pulses to stimulate muscles via...
  • Built-in Powerful Rechargeable Lithium Battery – A built-in battery provides up to 20 hours of continuous use, and a rechargeable TENS unit means...
  • 8 Strong Self-Adhesive and Thicker Reusable Electrode Pads – The NURSAL electrode massager comes with 8 self-adhesive reusable conductive pads, a...

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(CHECK PRICE & 4834+ REVIEWS)

This rechargeable NURSAL TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator with 8 Electrodes Pads is a highly rated product with over 4834 reviews and coined with an Amazon’s Choice badge in the category of TENS Units.

This muscle stimulator has 10 strength modes adjustable by increasing from level 1 through level 10.

It comes with the following features:

  • Pocket size, portable and convenient
  • Simultaneous dual output design
  • Built in rechargeable lithium battery
  • Animated display on LCD screen

Some of the satisfied reviewers said: “Works for me and it means no pain pills!” or “Had a Sciatica Issue, and this has helped.”

What we like

  • 10 levels of stimulation intensity
  • Pocket size, portable and convenient
  • Built in rechargeable lithium battery – up to 10 hours of continuous use
  • Over 4834+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

4. Tens Handheld Electronic Pulse Massager Unit

Santamedical Electronic Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator Handheld Pain Relief Pulse Massager Tens Machine
3,063 Reviews
Santamedical Electronic Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator Handheld Pain Relief Pulse Massager Tens Machine
  • Santamedical Handheld Electronic Tens Unit Muscle stimulator / Pulse Massager Unit relieves the Muscle Soreness, Stiffness, or Chronic Pain on the...
  • Three selectable massages for quick pain relief, 4 Attachment pads included, Power: DC 6V (4 AAA batteries included)
  • Best unit for Stress, Muscle Soreness, Stiffness, or Chronic Pain. The Simplest Tens Pulse Massager Is Also the Most Advanced

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 3040+ REVIEWS)

Meant for muscle stimulation and pain therapy, this unit is packed with features and is really affordable. This is an amazing price considering that just a few years ago, these same units would cost several hundreds to thousands of dollars.

This is the absolute best seller on Amazon and comes with the following features:

  • Six modes and intensities
  • 4 pads included
  • LCD panel to show massaging type
  • Very small in size and portable

There are 6 programmed massage actions to choose from as well as manual controls. With over 3040 positive reviews, this is the top choice among buyers. You can buy this model today and have it by tomorrow with 1-day shipping.

What we like

  • 3 selectable massages for quick pain relief
  • LCD shows massage style, intensity and time remaining
  • Small and lightweight unit
  • Over 3040+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

5. truMedic TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager

TENS Electronic Pulse Unit & 4 Electrode Pads, Model # PL-009, For Muscle Stiffness, Soreness, Aches...
4,594 Reviews
TENS Electronic Pulse Unit & 4 Electrode Pads, Model # PL-009, For Muscle Stiffness, Soreness, Aches...
  • PAIN RELIEF! Perfect for people who need pain management from a sports related injury or natural wear and tear. Muscle & Nerve stimulation. Improved...
  • WHAT'S INCLUDED? Included in your package is 1 PL-009 TENS unit, 4 electrode pads, 2 lead wires & 4 AAA batteries. Make sure when you unpack your TENS...
  • BENEFITS! High frequency electronic pulses designed to relieve pain & reduce stress. Preset massage programs with specific benefits for each muscle...

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 4521+ REVIEWS)

truMedic offers one of the best, easiest units to use on the market. The great thing about this unit is that it comes with 5 stimulation programs and 3 massage settings. Not only is this an effective unit, but it has an awesome price too.

  • 4.5 star rating with 4521 positive reviews
  • Procedures for the waist, shoulders, feet or joints
  • Massage, beat and knead settings
  • Easy to follow LCD screen with time and procedure

When trying to alleviate pain and simply get back to your old self, this is a tens unit that you will want to buy. Buy your truMedic today and enjoy a state-of-the-art electrotherapy massage session.

What we like

  • Easy to use with clearly labeled buttons
  • Included is 1 PL-009 TENS unit, 4 electrode pads, 2 lead wires & 4 AAA batteries
  • Pulse Duration 120—680 µs, Frequency 1-100 Hertz
  • Over 4521+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

6. KEDSUM Rechargeable 16 Modes Tens Unit

KEDSUM Rechargeable 16 Modes Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator, 3rd Gen Pain Relief Machine Electric Pulse...
1,770 Reviews
KEDSUM Rechargeable 16 Modes Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator, 3rd Gen Pain Relief Machine Electric Pulse...
  • The perfect tens machine PAIN RELIEF device by sending electrical pulses through electrodes placed on the skin to underlying nerve fibers,it can help...
  • Simultaneous dual output design for two person or two different body areas, you can use "+" button increases intensity or "-"button decreases...
  • Designed with 16 rectangle preprogrammed massage modes:16 modes totally: Knocking, Acupuncture,Cupping,Tapping,Shiatsu-Deep,Sensitive Parts Massage...

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 1535+ REVIEWS)

This rechargeable 16 modes TENS unit by KEDSUM is another product with an Amazon’s Choice badge and because of that it’s a great choice for your money. It has over 1535 positive customer reviews with ratings of 4.5/5 stars.

This unit is designed with 16 rectangle preprogrammed massage modes. Some of the modes are: Knocking, Acupuncture, Cupping, Tapping, Shiatsu-Deep, Sensitive Parts massage mode and more.

Some of the notable features of this product:

  • Reusable TENS Pads
  • Easy to control and animated backlit LCD Display
  • Designed with 16 rectangle preprogrammed massage modes
  • Rechargeable internal lithium battery – up to 10 hours of continuous use

Some of the feedback from user reviews: “I like it so far but the user’s manual is useless”, “It’s miles better than the one my mother tried” and more. 

What we like

  • Massage mode, 20 level of strength + 10-60 minute timer default timer
  • Simultaneous dual output design for two person or two different body areas
  • Designed with 16 rectangle preprogrammed massage modes
  • Over 1535+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

7. TechCare TENS Unit Plus 24

Tens Unit Plus 24 [Lifetime Warranty] Rechargeable Electronic Pulse Massager Machine Multi Mode...
2,673 Reviews
Tens Unit Plus 24 [Lifetime Warranty] Rechargeable Electronic Pulse Massager Machine Multi Mode...
  • WHAT IS TECHCARE MASSAGER : It is a combination of TENS and PMS device. TechCare Massagers delivers low-voltage pulses to the skin to stimulate...
  • FEATURES : 24 preprogramed massage modes includes stimulation of Tapping, Acupuncture, Deep Tissue, Foot, Cupping, Combo. Adjustable 10 to 60 minutes...
  • WHAT IS INCLUDED ? : 1x 2019 Newest Model Controller, 6 Large Electrodes ( Pads ), 2 Electrodes Cables, Belt Clip, User's Manual, Usb and Wall...

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(CHECK PRICE & 1947+ REVIEWS)

This TechCare TENS unit is a combination of TENS and PMS device. Backed by the famous Amazon’s Choice badge and over 1947 reviews, this is a great unit to buy.

It contains 24 preprogrammed massage modes includes stimulation of Tapping, Acupuncture, Deep Tissue, Foot, Cupping and Combo.

This device features rechargeable internal lithium battery. Up to 20 hours of continuous use. A-B Output will allow you to use it as 2 separate users.

TechCare Plus 24 was chosen as best tens unit of the 2018 by the wirecutter, New York Times company.

What we like

  • Combination of TENS and EMS device
  • 24 preprogrammed massage modes
  • Rechargeable internal lithium battery
  • Over 1947+ customer reviews
  • Limited lifetime warranty & 30 days money back guarantee

What we don’t like

  • Some customers wrote that this unit stopped working after limited use

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

8. Omron electroTHERAPY Pain Relief Device PM3030

Omron Pain Relief TENS Unit (PM3030)
1,184 Reviews
Omron Pain Relief TENS Unit (PM3030)
  • Drug free solution for acute and some chronic pain relief
  • FDA cleared for over the counter use
  • Relieve your pain in as little as 15 minutes

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 1172+ REVIEWS)

Meant for joint and muscle pain, the PM3030 is small, fashionable and reasonably priced.

Judging from the 1172+ reviews on the product, one thing is for sure: users love this product. This model has been cleared by the FDA for home use and comes with:

  • 3 pre-set programs
  • 5 intensity levels
  • Adhesives reusable up to 150 times

Users will be able to use this model on their arms, lower back and legs. The only downfall seen, which is common, is that batteries will die fast when using this unit.

For an all-around great choice, buy the Omron PM3030 today.

What we like

  • FDA cleared for over the counter use
  • Drug free solution for acute and some chronic pain relief
  • 3 pain modes with 5 intensity levels
  • Over 1172+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

9. MEDVIVE Rechargeable Tens Unit

MEDVICE Rechargeable Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator, 2nd Gen 16 Modes & 8 Upgraded Pads for Natural...
1,281 Reviews
MEDVICE Rechargeable Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator, 2nd Gen 16 Modes & 8 Upgraded Pads for Natural...
  • PROFESSIONAL PAIN RELIEVER TENS UNIT - Clinically-proven, natural and effective tens device for easing pain without requiring the user to take...
  • UPGRADED TENS UNIT PADS - The Low impedance Solid Gel has been upgraded to the industry leading Japanese adhesive, which can provide much better...
  • 16 PRE-PROGRAMMED MODES/INTENSITY ADJUSTMENT Our versatile muscle stimulator tens unit delivers 16 different massage modes and 20 strength levels....

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 953+ REVIEWS)

This MEDVIVE rechargeable TENS unit & muscle stimulator with 16 different massage modes is backed by over 953 customer reviews. This is a clinically-proven, natural and effective tens device for easing pain without requiring the user to take medicine.

This mini tens unit muscle stimulator device comes with a carrying bag, allowing you to carry it on the go and use when necessary. It is lightweight & durable, small enough to fit in your pocket, it’s designed to give you relief where ever you go!

This device features a rechargeable lithium battery for up to 10 hours of worry-free long life!

What we like

  • FDA cleared for over the counter use
  • Rechargeable lithium battery
  • 16 different massage modes & 20 strength levels
  • Over 953+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

10. Icy Hot Smart Relief TENS Therapy Starter Kit

Icy Hot Smart Relief TENS Muscular and Chronic Pain Relief Starter Kit
418 Reviews
Icy Hot Smart Relief TENS Muscular and Chronic Pain Relief Starter Kit
  • PORTABLE, AT HOME TENS Pain Relief: Icy Hot's SmartRelief TENS Starter Kit is wireless & easy to wear & use. This unit has 63 intensity levels, &...
  • EASY TO USE: Portable, battery powered, & easy to use, SmartRelief TENS Pain Relief products are made for use at home, work, or during daily...
  • ICY HOT PAIN RELIEF: Icy Hot carries a variety of pain relieving solutions, from creams, lotions, balms, and gels to sprays, patches, & SmartRelief...

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 382+ REVIEWS)

Icy Hot is a household name, and they have introduced their on Tens Therapy starter kit with a great response. Currently the 4th most popular unit on the market, this unit is extremely small and is much different than other models that you may have seen.

This model features:

  • 63 intensity levels
  • Wire-free
  • Prescription strength tens unit

This is a unit meant for back pain and it is such a good seller because it uses an adhesive to stay on your back.

You will be able to walk around while feeling relief from the unit’s massage. The only downfall is that after use, the pad loses its stickiness and often falls off in the process.

For a simple but effective tens unit, Icy Hot Smart Relief is a smart choice.

What we like

  • This unit has 63 intensity levels
  • Offers chronic pain relief for back, joints, shoulders, knees & sore muscles
  • Starter Kit includes a control unit, 3V battery, reusable electrode pad + user guide
  • Over 382+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

11. HealthmateForever Hands-Free Tens

10 Modes Best Muscle Stimulator tens EMS nmes Unit Machines Electric Electronic Pulse Massagers for...
1,007 Reviews
10 Modes Best Muscle Stimulator tens EMS nmes Unit Machines Electric Electronic Pulse Massagers for...
  • FDA CLEARED TENS UNIT & PMS MACHINE. LCD screen with backlit and pause button. The rechargeable electric muscle stimulator sends electronic pulse to...
  • 10 PRE-PROGRAMMED MODES WITH TWO OUTPUTS& 20 INTENSITY LEVELS. 10 preprogrammed massage like modes is in a rectangle design: Tuina (Push & Pull),...
  • FDA 510K CLEARED LEADING TENS PADS. Includes various sizes of medical-grade reusable electrodes, this TENS pads are non-irritating, self-stick,...

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 989+ REVIEWS)

A more expensive model that comes with 8 modes, 989+ reviews and a 4.5 star rating. This unit has been able to help people with back pain, knee pain and even tennis elbow find relief from pain that simply won’t go away.

The Healthmate comes with:

  • 4 gel adhesive pads
  • 20 levels of strength
  • Targeting for 4 pain points at once
  • 8 massage modes
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • LCD screen

This product is highly durable and is medical-grade. The reason for being lower on the list is that this unit is more expensive, but the price is well worth the quality that you receive.

If you are looking for a long-term solution to pain, this is one of the most durable units on the market today.

What we like

  • 10 preprogrammed massage like modes
  • 20 levels of adjustable intensity (strength)
  • 100 percent drug-free; Safe and effective for home use (FDA cleared)
  • Over 989+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

12. Omron Pain Relief Pro

Omron Pain Relief Pro
561 Reviews
Omron Pain Relief Pro
  • Utilizes Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) technology used by physical therapists and medical professionals for more than 30 years
  • 100 percent drug free, it is safe and effective for home use (FDA cleared)
  • Easy to read LCD screen with large buttons allows for simple operation

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 561+ REVIEWS)

The Omron Pain Relief Pro is small, sleek and powerful. The best part about this unit is that it has settings for the most common areas that experience pain, and it is so easy to use that you will be able to achieve pain relief within minutes of unboxing the unit.

Omron Pain Relief Pro comes with:

  • An LCD screen
  • Large, easy to read buttons
  • 10 intensity levels
  • 8 preset modes

There are 3 massage modes: tap, knead and rub. Pain modes are also present with 5 options, including: arm, lower back, leg, foot and joint modes.

The Pro is the perfect starter unit and is reasonably priced.

What we like

  • 5 pain modes and 3 massage-like modes
  • 100% drug free, it is safe and effective for home use (FDA cleared)
  • Powerful with 10 intensity levels makes it easier to customize your therapy
  • Over 561+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

13. HealthmateForever Hands-free RECHARGEABLE Tens

[2nd Edition with Wireless Access] TENS Unit 8 Modes Professional Digital Palm Device Best Pain...
1,361 Reviews
[2nd Edition with Wireless Access] TENS Unit 8 Modes Professional Digital Palm Device Best Pain...
  • WHAT IS IT? – HealthmateForever HM8GL tens unit is not only the best PAIN RELIEF device by blocking the pain signal from nerves, but also can help...
  • FEATURES - 8 preprogrammed massage like modes in a rectangle design: Tuina (Push & Pull), Acupuncture, Tapping, Guasha (Scraping), Cupping, Body...
  • FEATURES - Simultaneous dual output design, allows 4 pads to be applied to the two different targeted areas at the same time. Easy to read animated...

Last update on 2020-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

(CHECK PRICE & 1277+ REVIEWS)

Another HealthmateForever model that comes with many of the same features, but this model has a lower price and a sleeker look.

Looking more like an MP3 player or a phone with its blue exterior, this model has 1277+, 4.5 reviews and seems to be really popular.

This unit features:

  • LCD display
  • Battery indicator
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Reference book for proper use
  • Timer
  • 6  pain relief modes

Rechargeable batteries is a major selling point for this model, but there are many great features. Not only is this model easy to use, it is very lightweight and comes with 6 pain relief modes which can be chosen by tapping the LCD screen.

The timer is a nice addition as well as the battery indicator.

What we like

  • 20 levels of adjustable intensity (strength)
  • 8 preprogrammed massage like modes
  • Rechargeable internal lithium battery – up to 10 hours of continuous use
  • Over 1277+ customer reviews

What we don’t like

  • No information on money back guarantee

Check Price & Reviews Here ►

The Complete Guide to TENS Units

If you’re looking for a non-invasive, drug-free way to treat pain, a TENS unit is a smart choice. A TENS unit is a small, battery-operated machine that transmits electrical pulses to the body.

Electrodes connect the machine to your body through small self-adhesive pads. These small pads allow you to direct the electrical impulses directly to the affected area of the body.

TENS units are typically used to treat pain, including:

  • Back pain
  • Knee pain
  • Neck pain
  • Arthritis

Although less common, these machines may be used to help treat period pain, migraines, sports injuries and early labor pain. TENS machines may be used as a singular form of treatment, or they may be combined with other treatments.

Some people are able to reduce the amount of pain medication they take after using these machines, but these results are not experienced by everyone. Before you reduce or stop taking your pain medication, consult with your doctor for guidance and advice.

While these machines may not work for everyone, most patients reduce or eliminate their pain after using a TENS machine. Many people are able to resume their normal daily activities quicker than they would using conventional forms of pain therapy.

Because these machines are small, lightweight and portable, they can be used at work or on the go. The pads are small and discreet, so they can easily be hidden underneath clothing. The unit itself is small enough to fit in your pocket.

At one time, portable TENS units were only available with a prescription and were very expensive. Today, you can purchase machines over the counter, but some machines are still pricey.

How Does a TENS Unit Work?

Omron electroTHERAPY Pain Relief Device PM3030TENS units are believed to work in two different ways, depending on how high you set the pulse rate.

On the normal setting (90-130 Hz), the electrical impulses generated by the unit are believed to block the pain messages being sent to the brain. This belief is based on the “gate theory.”

The Gate Theory

This theory suggests that the central nervous system has a gate mechanism built into it. When the gate is open, pain signals are able to pass through to the brain and we feel pain as a result. If the gate is closed, the pain messages are effectively blocked and we do not feel any pain.

The impulses from the TENS machine actually stimulate non-pain-carrying nerves, effectively closing the “gate.” These signals move more quickly than the slower pain signals.

The brain becomes preoccupied with the quick impulses transmitted by the TENS machine and pain signals are unable to make their way through. This is why most people experience temporary pain relief when they rub or massage the painful area.

Stimulating Endorphin Production

On a lower setting (2-5 Hz), the pulse stimulates the body just enough to start producing endorphins. Endorphins are like your body’s own natural form of morphine. They block pain signals to provide you with some relief.

While most TENS units are basic in nature, you can also purchase more sophisticated, dual channel units. These emit a biphasic waveform and come with a range of different features that include:

  • Controls that allow you to select different frequencies
  • A timer
  • A convenient mode selector
  • Separate output controls to multiple leads
  • Pulse width adjustments

How to Use a TENS Unit to Relieve Muscle & Joint Pain

 

Every TENS unit will come with its own set of instructions that you need to read and follow carefully. While it is possible to purchase a unit online or over the counter, you should consult with your physician or physiologist before using a TENS machine.

Below is basic guide to using a TENS unit, but we must stress the importance of reading and following your machine’s individual instructions carefully.

  1. Clean the areas of the skin where the electrodes will be placed with rubbing alcohol. Make sure that the skin is dry before using the machine.
  2. Place a thin layer of gel onto the bottom of each electrode pad. This gel will help the signal get to the nerves that are underneath your skin.
  3. Attach the self-adhesive pads to either side of the affected area. The pads should be at least one inch apart. Make sure that the machine is turned off before positioning the adhesive pads.
  4. The machine will have a dial that allows you to control the strength of the electrical pulses. Before turning on the unit, adjust the dial so that the machine is on a low setting.
  5. When you turn the machine on, you may feel a slight tingling sensation. If need be, you can gradually increase the strength of the impulses until you feel a strong but comfortable sensation. Reduce the strength if you feel any discomfort or pain.
  6. Turn the TENS unit off once your session is complete. Remove the adhesive pads.

A typical session lasts 15-20 minutes, and you can use your machine several times per day.

To maximize the benefits of a TENS unit, you need to make sure that you place the electrodes in the right place. Otherwise, the pain may not be lessened, or it may make the pain even worse. If you’re still unsure of where to place the pads, consult with your doctor.

Note: Placing the electrodes on certain areas of the body can be unsafe and potentially dangerous. Please see the Safety Precautions section below for more information.

Possible Side Effects

Most people use TENS machines without experiencing any side effects. The most common side effect is not related to the machine itself, but the self-adhesive pads.

Some users experience skin reactions because of the pads. In most cases, this can be avoided or remedied by ensuring that you do not place the pads in the same exact location with each use.

If the pulse is too high or you use the TENS machine too often, the stimulation can cause pain or muscle twitching.

Aside from these two minor side effects, most users are able to use the unit safely and without any adverse reactions. However, there are certain individuals that should not use a TENS unit (see the section below for details).

Safety Precautions

Although TENS machines are generally safe, there are some individuals who should not use them.

Do Not Use a TENS Machine If:

  • You are pregnant – unless specifically advised by your doctor during labor
  • You have epilepsy
  • You have heart disease
  • You have a pacemaker
  • The cause of your pain is unknown or not diagnosed

Never use a TENS unit while driving or operating heavy machinery. Never use the unit in or near a bathtub or water.

While you can place the electrodes on most areas of the body, there are some areas that are unsafe:

  • The side or the front of your neck
  • Your eyes or your mouth
  • Your heart
  • Your temples
  • Areas of reduced sensation
  • Broken or damaged skin
  • Varicose veins

Some TENS units, particularly those purchased from unreliable sources, may offer pad placement guides that suggest placing the electrodes on your neck or chest area. Never place the electrodes on any of the areas listed above. Consult with your physiologist or physician if you have questions about where to place the electrodes.

2020 Best Selling TENS Units

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Further Resources

References & Studies

  1. Life Extension: Chronic Pain Overview
  2. The University of Iowa Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science Department: Using TENS for Pain Control – the State of the Evidence
  3. Effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) on Proinflammatory Cytokines: Protocol for Systematic Review
  4. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Reduces Chronic Hyperalgesia Induced by Muscle Inflammation
  5. Medscape: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation – An Overview
  6. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) A Possible Aid for Pain Relief in Developing Countries?
  7. Comparison of Neurofeedback and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Efficacy on Treatment of Primary Headaches: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial
  8. Effectiveness of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Treatment of Hyperalgesia and Pain
  9. Athletico: What Is A ‘Muscle Knot’ And How To Treat It
  10. The Combined Effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Stretching on Muscle Hardness and Pressure Pain Threshold
  11. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Reduces Pain, Fatigue, and Hyperalgesia While Restoring Central Inhibition in Primary Fibromyalgia
  12. Migraine Prevention Using Different Frequencies of Transcutaneous Occipital Nerve Stimulation: A Randomized Controlled Trial
  13. Non-invasive Transcutaneous Supraorbital Neurostimulation (tSNS) Using Cefaly® Device in Prevention of Primary Headaches
  14. Clinical Experience with Transcutaneous Supraorbital Nerve Stimulation in Patients with Refractory Migraine or with Migraine and Intolerance to Topiramate