11 Best TENS Units in 2019 (Reviews & Complete Guide)

Whether you’re an athlete, someone who suffers from joint pain or arthritis, or you want to cut down on the amount of pain medications you take, a TENS unit can help you manage your pain relief system. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Basically, TENS units use small electrical signals, transferred through the skin, to reduce pain in a specific area. If you suffer from some kind of chronic pain and you’re finding that ordinary pain medications don’t work as well as they used to, a good TENS unit may be the best solution.

Finding the best TENS unit for you can be difficult, though; they’re complex pieces of technology, and there are a lot of options out there. How do you know which one is the best for shoulder pain, and which one is the best for migraines? Which are the most portable, and which are professional-grade? Which ones are the best for athletes and regular exercisers?

Not to worry — below you’ll find a list of TENS unit reviews for 11 of the top-rated units, highlighting each one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their best uses. We’ve also crafted an expert buying guide covering what TENS units are, how they work, how often you can use them, and more below.

Best TENS Units Reviews [Updated List]

TENS Units
  • 4.5 Customer Rating
  • iReliev TENS + EMS
  • Intensity Levels: 25
  • Color: White
  • Dimensions: N/A
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

TENS Units
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • HealthmateForever YK15AB
  • Intensity Levels: 20
  • Color: White
  • Dimensions: N/A
  • Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

TENS Units
  • 4 Customer Rating
  • HiDow TENS Unit
  • Intensity Levels: 20
  • Color: Black
  • Dimensions: N/A
  • Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

TENS Units
  • 4.5 Customer Rating
  • iStim EV-804
  • Intensity Levels: N/A
  • Color: Black
  • Dimensions: N/A
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

TENS Units
  • 4.5 Customer Rating
  • Omron PM3032
  • Intensity Levels: 15
  • Color: Black
  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 1 x 2 inches
  • Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Warranty: Manufacturers

iReliev TENS Plus EMS Combination Unit Muscle Stimulator

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for neck pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsWith this TENS unit, customers get a 2-in-1: regular TENS stimulation as well as Electrical Muscle Stimulation, or EMS. The iReliev has 7 TENS pain-relief modes, one TENS mode especially for arthritis, and 6 EMS modes. It’s small and portable, but also has 25 levels of 80 mA intensity. That means that even though this is a small, battery-powered unit for consumers and home treatment, you could potentially get an equal amount of pain relief as you would at the physical therapist’s office.

This unit is wired, so while it’s not quite as convenient as a wireless unit, it’s pretty close. It also doesn’t have a backlit screen. So, if using your TENS unit in the dark or having a wireless one is an absolute priority, you may want to look elsewhere. That said, this is one of the most highly-rated units out there, especially when it comes to muscle stimulation and back pain — so those tradeoffs may very well be worth it.

Key features:

  • EMS Stimulation with 6 different modes
  • 7 TENS modes
  • One TENS mode specifically for arthritis
  • 25 different intensity levels, up to 80 milliamps of power

Read More: iReliev TENS + EMS Combination Unit

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HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS Unit

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for neck pain; TENS unit for knee pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsAnother very popular option, the HealthmateForever YK15AB is also highly portable and easy to take anywhere, due to its small size and a belt clip for carrying around. This device may fit the bill for those who are worried about making mistakes while using a TENS device. It has buttons that are clearly labeled for each kind of pain, like “Neck,” “Shoulder,” “Back,” and more. Furthermore, depending on your type of pain, you can choose how many pads to use — no need to use all 8 outputs at the same time. The outputs on the HealthmateForever YK15AB are wired to the unit.

Key Features:

  • 20 different intensity levels
  • 9 pre-programmed, auto-stimulation programs
  • 6 massage settings
  • EMS stimulation
  • Backlit screen
  • Belt clip
  • Clearly labeled, easy-to-use buttons

Read More: HealthmateForever YK15AB TENS Unit

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HiDow XPD 12 TENS unit

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for plantar fasciitis; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for neck pain; TENS unit for knee pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsFeaturing 12 massage modes and 20 different settings for stimulation intensity, the HiDow XPD 12 is quite versatile. Dual-channel outputs mean that you can treat 2 different parts of your body at the same time, if you so prefer. Unlike some of the other units we’ve reviewed here, which use common AA or AAA batteries, this HiDow TENS unit uses a built-in, rechargeable lithium battery. It also does both TENS and EMS stimulation. Whether you’re an athlete who regularly uses EMS stimulation to combat muscle soreness and prevent injury, or someone who needs to manage a chronic pain issue, the HiDow XPD 12 can help.

If you like the idea of a convenient unit that you can charge on its own, then this would be a good choice.

Key Features:

  • Built-in, rechargeable battery
  • Dual-channel outputs for treating 2 different areas at the same time
  • EMS stimulation
  • 12 massage modes
  • 20 different stimulation intensity levels

Read More: HiDow XPD 12 TENS Unit

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iStim EV-804 TENS EMS Unit

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for neck pain; TENS unit for knee pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsLike the HiDow unit covered above, the iStim EV-804 is also rechargeable, which means you don’t need to spend any additional money to occasionally replace batteries. It functions as both a TENS unit and an EMS unit, with 5 TENS modes, 2 EMS modes, and 24 preset programs that tackle different types of chronic pain and different areas of the body.

In addition, it also has a backlit LCD screen and you can adjust the intensity of treatment without even looking at the device. There are physical adjustment knobs on the top (covered by a protective plate so they won’t activate while in your pocket). That makes this unit a good choice for anybody who prioritizes using it at night/in the dark. The iStim doesn’t have quite as many clearly-labeled buttons on the outside as some of the other units on this list, but it is light and portable.

Key Features:

  • EMS stimulation
  • 5 TENS modes
  • 2 EMS modes
  • 24 preset programs for different areas of the body/types of pain
  • Backlit LCD screen
  • Physical adjustment knobs for use in the dark
  • Protective top plate for carrying in your pocket or bag

Read More: iStim EV-804 TENS/EMS Combo Machine

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Omron Max Power Relief TENS Unit

Type: Most powerful TENS unit; Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsAccording to Omron’s product description, this TENS unit is actually twice as powerful as a normal one. With 15 different levels of intensity, finding the appropriate intensity level should be easy. Furthermore, the Omron comes with 9 preset modes, 6 different pain modes (Shoulder, Lower Back, Arm, Foot, Legs, Joint), and 3 separate massage modes (Rub, Tap, Knead). This one is also a very simple device in comparison with some of the other TENS units on this list, despite its power; it only has a few large, clearly labeled buttons and a large screen displaying all the necessary information.

Key Features:

  • Smartphone-sized for portability
  • Comes with a belt clip
  • Has a large, easy-to read screen
  • Big, clearly labeled buttons
  • 15 levels of intensity
  • 9 preset modes
  • 6 pain modes
  • 3 massage modes
  • Pads are reusable up to 150 times and washable up to 10 times

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NURSAL TENS Unit Rechargeable Electronic Pain Relief Massager

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for knee pain; TENS unit for plantar fasciitis; TENS unit for menstrual cramps; TENS unit for hip pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsThis NURSAL TENS unit has a very modern design, especially when viewed along with some of the other units on this list. It features a large, backlit LCD screen and a single navigation wheel, almost like an iPod.

One thing to look out for is that this unit can’t be used at all while it’s charging. So, if having 24/7 access to your TENS unit is important to you, or you just don’t like waiting for devices to charge, then a unit that uses replaceable batteries may be a better fit for your needs.

Key Features:

  • Pocket sized
  • Dual-output design
  • 8 different pads that can be applied to 2 different areas at the same time
  • Built in timer with an automatic shutoff that ranges from 10 to 60 minutes
  • Built-in, rechargeable lithium battery that can be charged via wall unit or USB
  • Up to 10 hours of continuous use

Read More: NURSAL TENS Unit

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TechCare Massager TENS Unit Plus 24

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for knee pain; TENS unit for plantar fasciitis; TENS unit for hip pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsThe TechCare Massager Plus 24 is an incredibly versatile unit. It doesn’t just do TENS or EMS stimulation; instead, it does all that and more. It can also simulate acupuncture, cupping, tapping, and deep tissue massages. While it’s not the most high-powered unit on this list, or the most clearly-labeled/accessible, it does have a wide range of available modes, all packaged within a very modern design. It does only come with 4 electrode pads, in comparison to the 6 or 8 that most other units have, but that arguably makes the TechCare Massager even more portable.

Key Features:

  • 24 preprogrammed massage modes
  • Adjustable timer from 10 to 60 minutes
  • Rechargeable, built-in lithium battery that offers up to 20 hours of continuous use
  • A-B dual channel output, allowing you to treat either 2 areas or 2 people at the same time
  • Included belt clip for maximum portability

Read More: TechCare Massager TENS Unit Plus 24

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Ulaif Tens Unit + Massager Combination

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for knee pain; TENS unit for plantar fasciitis; TENS unit for hip pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsThis TENS unit and massager from ULAIF also has a sleek, modern design. Packaged in black, white, and orange, it features a large LCD screen and separate buttons to control each channel of output. The Ulaif comes with 2 different wires for 2-channel and 4-channel output respectively, meaning you can focus either on more pads and more area, or on less pads and more power. This TENS unit uses replaceable, everyday batteries to make gains on battery life and convenience. This is a good choice for users who don’t care much about EMS function, but who want to prioritize both TENS therapy and massages.

Key Features:

  • 8 electrode pads
  • 21 preprogrammed treatment modes, including shiatsu massage, tapping, and acupuncture
  • 18 TENS modes and 3 massage-focused modes
  • Adjustable intensity levels with up to 60mA of output power
  • Battery life up to 40 hours, depending on intensity level

Read More: Ulaif TENS Unit + Massager Combination

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Massage Therapy Concepts TENS Unit and EMS Combination Muscle Stimulator

Type: Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for knee pain; TENS unit for plantar fasciitis; TENS unit for hip pain.

Best TENS Units ReviewsThis Massage Therapy Concepts TENS unit is a perfect choice for athletes, because it focuses mainly on joint and muscle rehabilitation and comes not only with pain management modes, but also with tailored EMS settings. In addition, it has a very large LCD screen. So if you’re looking for a unit that’ll be easy to read while at the gym, this could be a good fit. Finally, this specific TENS unit is very portable and features a 60-minute timer with automatic shutoff, so you can use it anytime and anywhere for TENS or EMS therapy.

Key Features:

  • Large, easy-to-read LCD display
  • Lock function for use in a pocket or on a belt
  • Compact design, perfect for travelers
  • Dual-channel design that can be adjusted independently
  • An adjustable, 10 to 60-minute timer with automatic shutoff
  • 12 modes and 20 intensity levels

Read More: Massage Therapy Concepts TENS Unit

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Easy@Home Professional-Grade TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager

Type: Professional TENS unit; Portable TENS unit; TENS unit for shoulder pain; TENS unit for back pain; TENS unit for knee pain; TENS unit for plantar fascitis; TENS unit for hip pain; TENS unit for menstrual cramps.

Best TENS Units ReviewsThis Easy@Home EHE012PRO TENS unit will satisfy customers who want a premium device that can work in a wide variety of situations, either for pain relief or for muscle stimulation. This TENS unit is suitable for athletes or those who exercise regularly as well as average users who are looking for pain relief.

Key Features:

  • 20 different intensity levels, ranging from mild to very powerful
  • 5 automated massage program options
  • 3 traditional massage modes
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery that uses either DC current or a USB input
  • Can be used multiple times per day, for up to 120 minutes per session
  • Backlit LCD screen
  • 4 electrode pads
  • Includes leather storage bag for travel
  • Dual channel output

Read More: Easy@Home Professional-Grade TENS Unit

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TENS 7000 Second Edition TENS Unit

Type: Professional TENS unit.

Best TENS Units ReviewsThe TENS 7000 is a bit bigger and less portable than some of the other units on this list. It also doesn’t have as many bells and whistles: the LCD isn’t backlit, it’s not wireless, it uses 9-volt batteries, and it doesn’t come with a plethora of flashy modes. The upside is that with the TENS 7000, you’re trading a lot of those unnecessary extras for a hardworking TENS device.

If you’re in serious pain and you really need the same level of relief that you get from pills or other therapies, the TENS 7000 is used by both medical professionals and by consumers, so it should fit the bill. It can record up to 999 hours and 60 operation records, so you can track your treatment as well. Finally, this electrotherapy machine also comes with a Modulation Pulse Massager mode, in case you need more than just basic TENS therapy.

Read More: Roscoe Medical TENS 7000 2nd Edition

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TENS Units Comparison Chart

ItemIntensity LevelsColorWeight
iReliev TENS + EMS25White13.6 ounces
HealthmateForever YK15AB20White9.6 ounces
HiDow TENS Unit20Black14.1 ounces
iStim EV-804N/ABlack1.2 pounds
Omron PM303215Black6.4 ounces
NURSAL TENS UnitN/AWhite10.4 ounces
TechCareN/ABlack1.4 pounds
Ulaif N/AWhite4.8 ounces
Massage Therapy Concepts20Gray14.2 ounces

TENS Unit Buying Guide

Best TENS Units ReviewsWhat is a TENS Unit?

Hopefully, by now you’re clear on what exactly a TENS unit is, especially if you need one to treat chronic pain or sore muscles. If not, don’t stress out too much! That’s exactly what this guide is for. Read on for the answers you need. (Furthermore, if you have any questions about TENS treatments that you don’t see answered here, feel free to ask or leave a comment below!)

The world of TENS units can be a confusing one. It’s full of competing models and companies, all trying to prove that their iteration is the best. That’s why this article is here to make the whole thing just a little bit simpler. Keep reading for a little more information on what TENS units are, how they affect your body, the kinds of conditions they treat, the kind of people who can benefit from TENS therapy, and the potential side effects of TENS treatment.

Just in case you don’t understand what the word “TENS” stands for, then here’s a quick definition: TENS is short for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. This basically means using small, non-painful electrical impulses, transferred through pads that you place on your skin, to stimulate the nerves in your muscles and joints. It’s local, and doesn’t affect your entire body — just a small area of your choosing.

It might sound scary, but it really isn’t. TENS units are nothing like the electroshock therapies you might be thinking of from horror movies, history books,or the like. The most you’ll feel while engaging in a TENS treatment is a slight buzzing or tingling sensation across the skin. They’re perfectly safe to use. Even at the highest levels, TENS units don’t carry enough shock to injure anybody.

Why Use a TENS Unit?

Is it only for old people suffering from arthritis, or the infirm who can’t use other kinds of pain treatment at all?

The answer is: no! TENS units are used to serve literally anyone. Everybody you can think of could probably benefit from a TENS unit in some way, even if they don’t legitimately need one.For people who suffer from chronic pain, or anybody who wants to prevent inflammation and injury to their muscles, TENS therapy is an important option. Young people in the prime of their youth use TENS units, as do octogenarians who need some relief from taxing, daily battles with arthritis. High performing athletes use TENS units to keep their muscles loose and relaxed, and couch potatoes use them in the wake of difficult surgeries.

But what makes TENS units so popular? You might think that something as specific as electrical stimulation to your nervous system would be a treatment only used in very select cases. That’s not true in the slightest. Because TENS units treat pain directly, and because they provide accessible treatment largely without any unpleasant side effects, they can be used to treat a wide variety of people.

Best TENS Units ReviewsTaking pain medications constantly, on an everyday basis, can lead to unpleasant side effects and long-term health consequences. For those who suffer chronic pain as a result of a more complex condition, taking painkillers regularly may not even be an option due to side effects and possible drug interactions. TENS units offer a way to manage otherwise debilitating pain — without using drugs.

The TENS unit itself is a machine that you use to administer the therapy. Many are available for over-the-counter use to consumers who want to treat themselves. Some professional units can even be bought online or in stores, meaning you can self-administer the same treatment at home that you’d usually have to go to a physical therapist or an athletic trainer for. There is a whole range of different TENS units out on the market from competing medical equipment manufacturers, so finding one to suit your needs is not the hardest task.

In general, TENS units are small enough to be handheld and they’re connected to adhesive pads, either through a set of wires or through a wireless connection. Many also have EMS (or Electrical Muscle Stimulation) modes as well as massage functions, so you can address different types of muscular needs. TENS units aren’t singularly electrical therapy machines. They’re more like multi-purpose devices that are used to treat a wide variety of different symptoms concerning muscles, joints, and musculoskeletal pain in general.

How Does a TENS Unit Work?

Unsurprisingly, the process of using electrical signals to stimulate your nervous system is kind of complicated. When you put those 2 electrode pads on your skin and switch on the little handheld device, a lot happens. That buzzing or tingling sensation on your skin means a couple different things are happening all at once. The good news is, all of those processes are directed at relieving pain, loosening muscles, and making life a little easier to live.

First, as the electrical signals travel through your body, they theoretically are “disrupting” any pain signals that are being sent to your brain. Your nervous system works by sending electrical signals from parts of your body back to the brain to be analyzed, which is exactly what happens when you feel pain. When you partake in TENS therapy, the current simply interrupts whatever signals are currently being sent for a short period of time. The electricity from the TENS machine immediately floods your nerves with an abundance of electrical signals (that’s the buzzing sensation that you feel).

In theory, that flood creates a lot of electrical noise that prevents your brain from correctly picking out and analyzing the signals that say, “this leg/wrist/shoulder/etc. hurts right now.” It’s like your brain has to try and pick out a single conversation in a crowded room. This leads to pain relief in whichever area of the body is being treated. It’s not that the area necessarily stopped hurting. It’s more accurate to say that your brain just stops processing the pain in the same way it normally does.

Because TENS units work by passing current between the electrode pads, it’s also very non-invasive. Using a TENS machine is very, very low-risk in comparison with other electroshock therapies, partly because it’s so localized. Using a TENS unit doesn’t put you at any risk of messing up nerves in your spine or brain (or anywhere in your body, in fact).

The theory that most supports the benefit of TENS units is the gate control theory of pain, which was first theorized in 1965. What follows is a simplified version of this theory (trust us, this explanation could have been a lot more complicated).

According to gate control theory, nerve fibers carry sensations of pain, touch, and other signals to the end of the spinal cord. Once they arrive, those signals are then transmitted all the way up the spinal cord to the brain. What’s important is that some of these signals have to pass through the same gateway or choke point on their way up to the brain. If you can stimulate a painful area with a totally different kind of sensation (think of the way people tend to instinctually rub or touch a body part that they’ve just hurt) then the overabundance of electrical signals will ‘close’ the gate that those nerve signals pass through in the spinal cord. Therefore, your brain will receive less pain signals overall, and that lessens the painful sensation you feel.

Even though this theory was proposed more than fifty years ago, it’s remained relatively unchanged since — and is still a viable answer to the question of how and why we feel pain. Besides that, gate control theory presents a solid explanation for why TENS therapy doesn’t seem to do anything on the surface, but can relieve types of pain that otherwise aren’t easily treated. It bypasses any kind of chemical reactions and just targets the nerves in the affected body part.

Best TENS Units ReviewsSecond, TENS stimulation also stimulates your brain to produce endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers. They’re a group of hormones that lessen pain and provide happiness. Normally, you can trigger endorphins through rigorous exercise; they’re the source of the so-called “runner’s high.” TENS theory is an alternative way to increase endorphin production. On top of disrupting your body’s pain signals, a TENS unit will hopefully have an analgesic effect through manufacturing an increase in endorphins.

Finally, EMS-capable TENS units can be used to stimulate muscle contractions, helping to work out any knots or sore spots from overwork, rigorous exercise and the like. When you put these 3 different effects together, what you get is effective pain relief for a wide variety of overarching conditions, from just plain muscle fatigue to lower back pain after a complicated surgery to even something as mundane as bad posture.

It’s important to remember that TENS therapy doesn’t actually treat the underlying condition that’s causing your pain; it won’t magically rearrange your muscles or change the structure of your nervous system. It merely provides a way to alleviate pain. It’s not some magical cure for deep-rooted illnesses, and it won’t completely eradicate any condition a patient might be suffering from. Don’t let that discourage you; TENS units really can improve your quality-of-life if they help you manage pain that’s otherwise unmanageable and relatively constant.

What Does a TENS Unit do?

Best TENS Units ReviewsTENS units can be used for a stunningly wide variety of different aches, pains, cramps, and conditions. Because they tackle pain directly within the nervous system, rather than treating underlying conditions 2 people suffering from vastly disparate medical conditions could benefit from exactly the same kind of pain relief while using a TENS unit. Here are a few of the most common problems you can treat with a TENS unit:

● Postoperative pain
● Chronic joint pain
● Arthritis
● Period pains
● Neck and back pain
● Sports injuries
● Sore muscles
● Fibromyalgia
● Endometriosis
● Labor pains

As you can see, there’s a huge spread in the seriousness, base causes, and solutions for each of these conditions, but a TENS unit could be a viable treatment for every single one of them. Some diseases, like fibromyalgia, don’t even have known cures at all — but TENS theory can still help in some cases. On the other hand, TENS can be used to treat sprained ankles, a cramping muscle, and any number of relatively trivial health issues.

One could argue that the biggest weakness of TENS therapy is that it doesn’t truly help anybody if it only treats the symptoms, and not the causes, of a given disease. At the same time, that aforementioned weakness is exactly what allows TENS treatment to be applied to such a wide variety of people with different medical needs.

One last note: again, if you’re thinking of using a TENS unit for the first time or if using one will drastically change your treatment plan, contacting your doctor or physical therapist about it first is always a good idea. Even if you’re not worried about side effects, your doctor could foresee something you didn’t think of due to a lack of medical training. They might know something you don’t, or have some recommendations for the perfect TENS unit for you. You may even be able to work with them to develop a new treatment plan based on TENS therapy — so don’t discount your doctor’s advice, no matter how badly you may want that shiny, exciting new TENS unit.

How Often Can You Use a TENS Unit?

Best TENS Units ReviewsDepending on the intensity of your pain, you can likely use a TENS unit as often as you want to. Many people use them on a weekly or even daily basis to relieve an area of their body that often flares up, or that they used to treat by taking pain medications. You should always be careful when starting a new course of treatment, and as stated previously, you should also always contact your doctor beforehand — but in general, there aren’t any serious or life-threatening side-effects related to regular usage of a TENS unit.

Even using one multiple times in the same day is completely safe. The level of electrical charge provided by TENS units is so small that there’s virtually no risk of injury. Whether you’re young or old, whether you’re treating arthritis or a sore muscle from weightlifting, TENS units provide a relatively stress-free treatment, even if you administer it yourself without any medical supervision.

If you start using your TENS unit at maximum intensity, especially multiple times a day, you may notice that your skin feels uncomfortable during usage. Many people experience TENS therapy as a buzzing, tingling, or vibrating sensation across the surface of their skin in between the pads. If that’s the case, then don’t worry; it’s not a sign that there’s anything wrong with you, or that you’re overusing your TENS unit to an unhealthy degree.

Don’t worry, you’re not hurting your body in any serious way. A little bit of discomfort is totally normal! Remember, you are basically shocking yourself with electricity, even if it’s in very small, controlled, totally safe doses. There’s bound to be an adjustment period to such treatment, even if you have a high pain threshold or you think you’re used to such stimulation.

Another possible result of high-intensity or very frequent TENS theory is some mild skin irritation, especially if you’re always placing the pads in the same place. This could be especially true if you have some allergies. If your skin becomes red and itchy after using a TENS unit, you may just be allergic to the adhesive pads. That inflammation can be easily solved with hypoallergenic TENS pads, which are widely available and easy to find. Once you switch over to pads that your skin isn’t allergic to, you should be able to use your TENS unit every day without developing any strange rashes or discoloration in the affected area.

What Are The Benefits of TENS Unit Therapy?

The most obvious benefit of TENS unit therapy is simply what most people use it for: pain reduction. If you use a TENS unit regularly, apply the pads in the correct spot, and use the right intensity/frequency for you and your body, you may find that any chronic pain you’re suffering from is greatly alleviated. Of course, this benefit varies from person to person, and may help more with certain people and conditions than it does with others.

You may also find that you need to use your TENS unit fairly regularly, on a daily or weekly basis, to keep pain at bay. The electrical signals provided by TENS units only stay in your nervous system for a short period of time. Despite any drawbacks or variance in effectiveness, the main benefit of buying a TENS unit is to relieve pain or discomfort.

What makes this pain relief so beneficial (which we’ll also tackle a little later in the section on side effects) is that it generally comes without the same drawbacks that typical pain medications have. Opioids and prescription painkillers, for example, are easily abused and can be addictive to the point of danger.

Even household, over-the-counter, brand-name painkillers, like Aspirin and Tylenol, come with certain caveats. They might put more stress on your liver or act as blood thinners, which usually isn’t a problem but could be deadly under certain circumstances. Because TENS units accomplish pain relief through electricity rather than through chemical reactions, you can get similar results without having to worry to the same extent that you might with painkillers.

Other than pain relief, TENS therapy and EMS are sometimes used by athletes to keep their joints and muscles loose and either preemptively prevent or treat any injuries after the fact. Sore, tight, or stiff muscles aren’t just a problem for your average person — they’re even more threatening to athletes. When combined with consistent training and overtaxing competitions, such muscle issues could lead to permanent damage or, at the very least, repetitive injuries that could impact health as well as performance.

That’s why TENS therapy and EMS are widely used in physical therapy and athletic training. In situations where an athlete is recovering from a difficult injury or a surgery, the pain relief from TENS can help get them training and back to 100% more quickly than they would be able to otherwise.

EMS and TENS are also highly versatile when it comes to aiding athletic performance. Besides just relieving pain from any injuries, an EMS-capable TENS unit can be used to warm up muscles before a competition or practice, thereby reducing the risk of any injury occurring in the first place. They can also be used to relax muscles after an intense workout or competition. For athletes who want to avoid taking painkillers or other anti-inflammatories that could possibly affect performance, TENS units are a perfect solution.

Finally, there’s an implied mental health benefit to successful usage of a TENS unit as well. The relief of chronic pain, whether it’s in your joints or your muscles, can greatly improve your mental state and your quality of life. It may take a while to dial in a TENS treatment that works exactly the way you want it to for both you and your body, but once you do, you might find yourself wondering how you ever survived without it. Also make sure to read about the best portable massage table in this guide.

No matter how tough you are, chronic pain is a huge burden to carry in day-to-day life. Though it’s not a direct, physical benefit, the fact that a TENS unit can help with such mental burden is arguably one of the best reasons to use one. Whether you’re an athlete, someone recovering from surgery, or you have a medical condition that forces you to take painkillers, TENS units have a lot of benefits to offer, even above and beyond simple pain relief.

What Are The Side Effects of Using a TENS Unit?

Best TENS Units ReviewsAgain, there are more or less no serious side effects to using a TENS unit, even on a very regular basis.This is true even if you use a TENS unit 2, 3, or even more times per day. Plenty of people do so without any ill effects. That’s what makes TENS units so great in comparison to normal painkillers.

You don’t have to worry about low blood pressure, straining your kidneys or liver, or even about interactions with food, alcohol and other drugs. You’re not putting any additional chemicals in your body. You don’t have to worry about decreased athletic performance or feeling drowsy. Because you’re simply administering a small electric impulse that affects a select region of your nervous system, TENS therapy won’t impact your body’s larger homeostasis.

That electric impulse doesn’t last forever, and you might need to use your TENS unit on a regular basis, which might change your daily or weekly schedule. They’re not a perfect solution for everybody, and depending on your specific situation, TENS units may not be able to wholly replace your medication, but the tradeoff is that there are virtually no side effects! That’s pretty convenient, right?

Almost everybody can use a TENS unit safely, without any lingering impact on their health or well-being. That said, you may experience a tingling or buzzing sensation from the pads while the TENS unit is in use, especially in the area that’s currently being treated. That’s totally normal, but some people may find this far more uncomfortable than others. We would recommend giving your new treatment plan a bit of time. After sticking with TENS treatment for a few days or sessions in a row, you may realize that it’s not as uncomfortable or unsettling as it seemed at first blush.

And as stated above, if your skin develops a localized rash after using your TENS unit, you may just need to replace the adhesive pads with a hypoallergenic set. Doing so will prevent your skin from becoming irritated while you are using your TENS unit.

If replacing the pads does not help and your skin continues to look and feel irritated, or if you think that your condition is getting worse, contacting a doctor immediately is your best bet. That said, the number of people who have an adverse or allergic reaction to using a TENS unit is relatively small.

It’s important to note that there are certain groups of people who probably shouldn’t use TENS units at all due to possible complications. If you:

● are pregnant woman;
● suffer from epilepsy or seizures of any kind;
● have any kind of heart problem or a family history of heart problems;
● have a pacemaker or any other kind of implant that either is made of metal or runs on/uses batteries and electricity;

Then you may want to stay away from using a TENS unit.

For those with medical conditions like epilepsy or cardiac issues, administering an electric shock with a TENS unit could trigger or worsen the medical conditions you’re already dealing with. It also might not have any effect at all, but it’s better to avoid potential triggers and stay safe rather than sorry.

For pregnant women, using a TENS unit could possibly have an adverse effect on your pregnancy. (It’s worth noting that TENS therapy has been used by pregnant women before without any serious side effects — it just isn’t the first choice for treatment, as there are probably safer, more established ways to deal with any pain you experience while pregnant.)

Best TENS Units ReviewsFinally, the same electrical impulse that disrupts your nervous system’s pain signals could also disrupt a pacemaker or any other implant with a piece of metal or an electronic component within. For people who depend on a pacemaker or similar device to keep their heart and cardiovascular system functioning regularly, playing around with electrical signals probably isn’t the best idea.

In all of these cases, even though using a TENS unit likely won’t lead to any dangerous or adverse side effects, it’s probably still best to abstain. If you feel absolutely sure that you need to continue using a TENS unit while you fall under any of the categories listed above, please contact your physician before doing so.

Altogether, these are the main possible side effects of TENS therapy. None of these outcomes are particularly life-threatening, but if you start using a TENS unit and you experience side effects or a change in health far beyond what’s mentioned here, contact a medical professional.

Does a TENS Unit Relax Muscles?

The answer is: YES!

As stated above, TENS units are regularly used by athletes to keep their muscles in working order. TENS therapy is also a mainstay of many physical therapy practices, giving physical therapists a tool to alleviate pain and stimulate muscles in a relaxing, stress-free way for those who are recovering from injury or a difficult surgery. In fact, there may actually be equal scientific evidence for TENS therapy as a way to release knots and relax muscles than there is for treating chronic pain deep in in the bones or the joints.

By stimulating the nerves and providing pain relief, TENS therapy can be used to loosen up any painfully tight muscles. Afterwards, these muscles can be stretched to totally eradicate any lingering knots. In addition, you may find that TENS and/or EMS therapy, especially when combined with a comprehensive stretching program, and regular exercise can increase range of motion and decrease pain in any formerly tight, cramped, immoveable muscles. You can also read our guide on how high quality handheld massager for back pain.

Many TENS units come with built-in massage and EMS modes made specifically to target tense and resistant muscles.  TENS units are categories as part of the self massage tools category that help reduce pain. Unlike the TENS modes, which target pain by working through your nervous system, EMS uses electrical signals to make muscles contract and relax. The electrical current mimics the signal from your nervous system that would ordinarily tell your muscles something like, “contract your bicep to bend your arm at the elbow.”

This forced contraction helps loosen muscles and work out any kinks or knots in the tissue. Aside from pain relief, muscle relaxation is probably the second-biggest reason to look into owning a TENS unit in the first place. If you’re an athlete or someone with abnormally tense muscles and relaxation is an important aspect of your treatment, TENS units that also offer EMS and massage therapy are likely a better purchase than units that only have TENS functionality.

Final Words

In short, using the best TENS unit for therapy is a healthy, uncomplicated way to relieve pain, treat chronic conditions, and loosen up sore or knotted muscles through sending localized electrical signals to a joint, muscle, or other area of the body. It comes mostly without side effects, which means that for most people, TENS therapy may even be safer than a traditional round of pain medications. When used in conjunction with exercise and stretching, TENS therapy can become a part of an active athlete’s training regimen. When used together with other pain treatments, TENS theory can seriously alleviate pain, without depending solely on drugs to do so.

Make sure to read the TENS unit review above to find the perfect TENS unit for you. Of course, TENS therapy isn’t for everybody. Pregnant women or people with pacemakers probably shouldn’t try it out for fear of complications. Furthermore, because it’s not as standardized as something like just taking an aspirin or two, different people may notice vastly different levels of effectiveness when it comes to TENS therapy. That said, if you’re tired of taking pain medicine every day, or if you’re searching for a way to deal with debilitating pain conveniently and without side effects, a new TENS unit may be just the answer you’re looking for.

Note: Always check with your relevant medical professional before dramatically changing your treatment plan or starting home therapy.