Best TENS unit

Massage & Relaxation

Some TENS units are small enough to be worn on a belt or underneath clothing to allow mild stimulation while on the go.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which TENS units are best?

There are many options available for pain control and relief. While pain pills, supplements, massage and other medical interventions may be helpful, many people are trying transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy. TENS is based on the idea that low electrical currents sent to the nerves in areas where pain is present will lead to the creation of endorphins and convince the brain to detect less pain in that area.

Developed in the 1970s, TENS therapy is used around the world by health care professionals and individuals looking for fast, temporary pain relief. Portable, home-based units provide a convenient and safe method for applying TENS to your pain areas. For multiple operating modes and reusable electrode pads, the iReliev Premium TENS + EMS Pain Relief & Recovery is the top choice.

What to know before you buy a TENS unit

Which treatment mode is best for you?

Each person responds differently to TENS therapy. Variables include the part of the body being treated, your own sensitivity to nerve stimulation, and the type of pain that you are experiencing. Many TENS units have multiple treatment modes that focus on the neck, back, abdomen, feet or arms. They also deliver different types of impulses such as shiatsu, kneading, cupping and acupuncture. It will take some experimenting before you find the right mode for your particular pain and specific area of the body. 

Which intensity level is best for you?

Most TENS units have multiple levels of impulse intensity that you control. Some have as many as 20 levels or higher. Each individual responds differently to impulse strength so you will need to start low and work your way up to a therapeutic level. Look for TENS units with digital controls that require you to adjust by pushing a button versus those with dial controls. Digital controls are more specific and prevent you from accidentally bumping a dial.

Who shouldn’t use a TENS unit?

People with pacemakers, and pregnant women should not use TENS units. People with skin sensitivities wishing to use TENS units should take extra precautions to limit skin discomfort. Anyone with other significant conditions like heart disease, infectious diseases or diabetes should consult their health care professional before using a TENS unit.

What to look for in a quality TENS unit

Timer

Most TENS units come with a timer function that runs from 5-60 minutes. Look for TENS units with an automatic shut-off feature that ensures you don’t run the unit too long if you fall asleep. Most experts recommend not using a TENS unit for more than one hour.

Dual channel

Some TENS units offer a dual channel feature that allows you to send different impulse levels to different areas of the body at the same time. Your lower back may require more stimulation than your upper back, but dual channel allows you to treat both simultaneously with different impulse intensity.

Electrode pads

One of the most important features of TENS units are the electrode pads that attach to the skin. Pads that stay in place will deliver a much better treatment experience. Since some people are sensitive to the adhesive, you may need to experiment with different types. There are also hypoallergenic pads for sale if your unit’s pads cause irritation. Always make sure that your skin is clean, dry and free of any lotions when applying the electrode pads.

How much you can expect to spend on a TENS unit

Basic one-modality TENS units cost between $20-$25, and midlevel units with digital controls and electrodes are priced between $25-$40. TENS units priced above $40 typically offer the most treatment options and have more electronic console features.

TENS unit FAQ

How often can I use my TENS unit?

A. You should limit your TENS sessions to a maximum of three per day. Over time, the body can develop a tolerance to the treatment if it is used too often. Always check with your health care professional if you have concerns.

Does it matter which direction the electrode pads are positioned?

A. There is no right or wrong way to position the electrode pads. Your manufacturer’s manual may have some suggestions. However, you will get different sensations by placing pads closer together or farther apart. You also will get a different sensation by placing the pads vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Over time, you will discover the best position for your body and pain level.

Are there side effects from using a TENS unit?

A. The most commonly reported side effect is skin irritation from where the electrode pads adhere to the body. There are hypoallergenic pads available for people with skin sensitivities.

What’s the best TENS unit to buy?

Top TENS unit

iReliev Premium TENS + EMS Pain Relief & Recovery

iReliev Premium TENS + EMS Pain Relief & Recovery

What you need to know: This unit combines both TENS and electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) therapies for a powerful two-in-one combination.

What you’ll love: There are 14 massage modes and 25 power levels for significant variety. An automatic timer shuts off after each session up to one hour. It includes eight reusable electrode pads.

What you should consider: Some users have reported concerns about the battery not holding a complete charge.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top TENS unit for the money

iReliev TENS Unit Pain Relief System

iReliev TENS Unit Pain Relief System

What you need to know: This great beginner TENS unit can reach small and large parts of the body simultaneously.

What you’ll love: The unit features eight preprogrammed modes with 25 intensity levels. Affordable and easy to use, this TENS unit offers a large digital screen and sessions up to 60 minutes. It comes with an autolock feature to keep your settings from changing.

What you should consider: This TENS unit requires three AAA batteries but is packaged with a starter set.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

TechCare Massager TENS Unit

TechCare Massager TENS Unit

What you need to know: This affordable TENS unit has a surprising number of options for therapy.

What you’ll love: There are six preprogrammed modes that each have four different options for a total of 24 different ways to receive TENS therapy. The timer runs from 10-60 minutes and has a large digital screen. The battery life runs up to 20 hours.

What you should consider: The electrical pulse occasionally delivers a slightly higher charge, which can be unexpected.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Steve Ganger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.