Best Tens Machines Reviewed
Tired and achy muscles is a real problem for athletes who like to hit the trails or the gym on a regular basis. One way of combating muscle aches is to pop some over the counter pain killers, but frequent use of these can have some unwanted side effects. Investing in tens machines is a great way to ease pain in an all-natural way.
The ‘tens’ in tens machines stands for "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation". They work by sending electrical stimulators directly to your muscles, which in turn release endorphins. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relievers, so tens machines work by jump-starting this process.
In this guide, we have compiled a list of some of our favorite tens machines. Next time your muscles are upset with the intensity of your training, skip the over the counter meds and reach for an all-natural solution!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 6 hrs of research
Long Battery Life
Easy Display Readings
1. TENS 7000 2nd Edition
Long Battery Life
Easy Display Readings
We placed the TENS 7000 tens unit at the top of our list because it is easy to use and very effective. It has a digital interface that is easy to adjust to your specific pain level, and you can change up the pulse rate and strength with simple dials found along the top of the unit and buttons on the face. Included with purchase are a set of electrode wires that can support two electrode pads. Simply attach the wires to the base of the unit, and then remove two of the pads off of the plastic backing and adhere directly to your skin.
What we love about these portable tens machines is that changing settings is simple and easy. It has a basic black and gray screen that displays the amount of time left on the timer as well as the pulse rate. You can change up the pulse rate with the dials along the top so your muscles never get accustomed to the pulses.
If you are looking for something that is easy to use and effective, we feel that this is one of your best tens machines. Powered by a single 8-volt battery, it can run for 48 continuous hours before it needs to be replaced. Plus, it also comes with a hard plastic carrying case that makes it easy to pack into a suitcase to use when you work out on the go.
2. Massage Therapy Concepts
Easy to Use
12 Therapy Modes
USB Rechargeable Battery
Thumbnail Pictures for Therapy Choice
Low Intensity Too Strong
If you want an interface that is simple to read, these tens machines from Massage Therapy Concepts are a great choice. The interface is similar to that of an iPhone; it has mode settings that include thumbnail pictures to indicate the type of therapy that is provided.
To use this unit, simply attach the included electrode pads to the included electrode wires and surround the muscle that is giving you trouble. Select your specific mode from the list of 12 different settings, and then press the on button. You can also set a timer with a button located on the side of the tens unit.
On the top right corner of the device, there is a power level indicator that is similar to that on your cell phone. It tells you exactly how much juice is left in the rechargeable battery. When the battery level is low, simply plug it into any USB power source to give it a quick charge. One single charge lasts over 30 sessions before it needs to be recharged, making it one of the best tens machines on the market.
What we liked most about this tens unit from Massage Therapy Concepts is that it is incredibly easy to use. You simply need to click on the photo of the type of therapy session that you need, place the electrode pads, and you are ready to go!
3. HealthmateForever YK15AB
Many Muscle Settings
Two Areas Simultaneously
Pictures on Display
Battery Loses Intensity
Need a tens unit that provides all-over relief? This option from HealthmateForever has impressive four-electrode outputs that run on two separate channels. What this means for you is that if you have multiple problem areas, the HealthmateForever YK15AB can relieve pain in two different areas of your body at the same time!
One of the things that we liked most about these tens machines is that they have four different cables that run off of two different channels. This means you can trigger two different sets of muscles in one session. It has a backlit screen with a display that has an image of all of the different muscle groups. To target a specific muscle group, highlight that area on the display screen.
This tens unit runs off of only 3 AAA batteries. These batteries last for hours and hours of continuous use. The downside to this design, however, is that the unit loses a little bit of steam as the battery becomes weaker.
If you are in the market for tens machines that pack quite a punch and come with a lot of electrode pads for multiple areas, this design from HealthmateForever is a great choice! We liked that this tens unit comes with 8 pads that run off of two separate channels. It is also very small and compact that makes it easy to take with you on the go.
4. TechCare Massager
Unique Massage Settings
Different Massage Types
Screen Breaks Easily
Not Very Powerful
The thing that we liked most about these portable tens machines from TechCare Massager is that they have a ton of different massage modes. Whether you want something that is light and easy or really digs down deep, this is a great choice. Plus, it has a very slim frame that is smaller than a cell phone which makes it easy to take with you on the go.
Power settings are not just a series of numbers, but rather different types of massage. Settings include acupuncture, cupping, foot massage, tapping, reflexology, tai-chi, and deep tissue massage. Simply select the type of massage that you need from the 3.75-inch touch screen, and then set your timer via the buttons on the bottom of the unit.
A great thing about this option is that it has a rechargeable battery that is powered from a USB cable. A battery indicator on the top left corner of the screen tells you how much juice is left in the tank. When the battery is drained, it only takes a quick 20-minute charging session before you are ready to go again!
If you are in the market for something that has a wide variety of massage options to deliver a little or a lot of intensity to painful and tired muscles, these tens machines are a great choice. We love the small screen that is a cinch to take on the go. Plus, the rechargeable battery lasts quite a long time and is quick to recharge.
5. Tenstim Muscle Stimulator
Different Electrode Pads Styles
Two Muscle Groups Simultaneously
18 Massage Settings
The appeal of these portable tens machines from Tenstim lies in their versatility. They provide more than one style of electrode pads that work for various muscle groups throughout the body. Included with the purchase are three different styles of electrode pads that are able to run off of two separate channels at the same time.
There are 18 different modes of muscle stimulation in these tens machines. These modes are clearly indicated on the home screen with corresponding pictures so that selecting your mode of massage is simple and easy. Plus, dual channels mean you can select two different modes at the same time for different muscle groups.
This tens unit is that it runs on a rechargeable battery. There is a battery level indicator at the top right of the screen, and when you need to charge it, simply hook the micro USB cable that is included into a power source.
This tens machine has quite an impressive battery life that lasts for hours and hours of continuous use. If you are in the market for something that has a wide variety of settings as well as different styles of electro pads, these portable tens machines from Tenstim are a great choice.
6. Belifu Dual Channel
Use Right Out the Box
24 Power Settings
Different Sized Pads
USB Rechargeable Battery
Two Muscle Groups Simultaneously
Intensity Drains with Use
These portable tens machines from Belifu have impressive 10 electrode pads that can all be used at the same time. This device sports an easy to use display screen that makes it incredibly simple to set your power level, and it has a timer that automatically shuts off when it is done.
Not only do these tens machines come with a set of 10 reusable electrode pads, but these pads come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well. There are 6 standard size pads, as well as 2 small pads and 2 large pads. The unit has dual channels as well to target 2 different muscles groups at various settings at the same time.
What is really impressive about this unit is that it offers 24 modes of muscle stimulation that range from mild to pretty intense. It uses a rechargeable battery that lasts for hours upon hours of continued use. When it is time to give it a charge, simply plug the included micro USB cable into your power source.
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to these tens machines from Belifu. It offers users a wide variety of power settings that range from mild to intense, and it has quite an impressive battery life. Plus, it is very easy to use right out of the box!
7. KEDSUM Rechargeable
Evenly Distributes Signals
Gel Layer for Flexibility
16 Massage Settings
Pads Not Sticky Enough
The most impressive feature we found with this tens unit from KEDSUM lies in the quality of the electrode pads. Many brands offer lower grade throw-away pads that can sometimes be a little bit uncomfortable. KEDSUM tens machines provide users with multi-layer electrode pads that work incredibly well in delivering signals to your muscles while still being incredibly comfortable.
This portable tens unit comes with a set of 6 high-quality pads. Each electrode pad is layered with a conductive material that evenly distributes signals. Is also has a layer of non-woven cloth, as well as a gel layer for ultimate comfort and flexibility. This flexibility is important when working on uneven areas such as feet and ankles.
It also offers up to 16 modes for massage and muscles stimulation. These modes are all displayed on the home screen with corresponding pictures so that you know exactly what each mode delivers. This little unit is able to achieve some pretty strong signals!
If you are in the market for something that is easy to use and effective, these tens machines are a great option. We love the high-quality electrode pads that are included with the purchase that make getting those hard to reach areas a little easier.
8. MEDVIVE Rechargeable
Easy to Use
For Large and Small Muscles
Weaker Than Expected
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it comes with a lot of electrode pads in a variety of sizes. If you are looking for something that is designed to work in a variety of different areas of your body, these tens machines from MEDVIVE are a great choice. Plus, it is incredibly easy to use.
Included with the purchase is a set of 8 pads of various sizes. There is a pair of smaller pads, 6 medium size pads, and two large pads. The smaller pads are used for areas such as feet, hands, and ankles, while the larger pads are for larger muscle groups such as back muscles and leg muscles.
It has 16 different power modes that range from weak to strong. There is no need to run to the drugstore for batteries because it runs off of a rechargeable lithium battery. One charge provides 10 hours of continuous use or 10 full-length 60-minute sessions. To recharge, simply plug the included USB charging cable into a power source.
For those that want something that is made to hit every muscle group in your body, these tens machines from MEDVIVE are worth checking out. We love that the rechargeable battery lasts quite some time without losing intensity, and it is really easy to plug in and charge back up.
9. TENKER Tens Unit
8 Electrode Pads
Different Sized Pads
Special Pad Holder
This tens unit from TENKER comes with a lot of different pad sizes and power modes to really alleviate muscle pain. Different sizes of pads are designed specifically for specific muscle groups and are made to fit comfortably. Plus, it has a very easy to read display to get you up and running in no time.
These portable tens machines come with 8 pads. There are 2 small pads, 4 medium size pads, and 2 large pads. TENKER also includes a special pad holder so that you can keep them all in one place which makes storage and travel just a little easier. The pads are very sticky and stay firmly in place while in use.
The backlit display makes finding your perfect intensity easy. It has 16 different modes that you can select from. Each mode is labeled on this backlit display with a coordinated thumbnail picture. You can also adjust the intensity of each mode with the strength button that is found on the bottom of the unit.
If there is more than one muscle group that you want to trigger, this is one of your better options. The electrode pads come in all different shapes and sizes, and they are a lot more sticky than some of the other tens machines out there on the market. With 16 different modes to select from, this tens unit is a great way to alleviate muscle pain.
10. Omron Max Power Relief
Use Right Out the Box
Small and Compact
15 Intensity Levels
Batteries Die Quickly
Omron is a brand that has been producing high-quality medical equipment since 1933, so you know they are a brand that you can trust. Their tens machines are simple, easy to use, and portable. If you are in the market for something that doesn’t have a lot of complicated settings, this unit is worth a look.
This design only comes with one set of electrode pads that plug into the interface via one simple wire. The pads are designed to be used over and over again, so you will not have to worry about replacing them with continued use. While it doesn’t offer a different style of use like acupuncture or deep tissue massage, you will have the option to adjust the intensity up to 15 times.
To power this tens unit up, simply load 2 AAA batteries into the back of the interface. Even though it only runs on 2 batteries, it is able to produce some pretty strong signals from such a small device. The bad news here is that the batteries can die down pretty quickly.
If you are in the market for a design from a trusted brand of tens machines, this is one of your better options. It is very simple to use and doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of different settings that can be difficult to learn. If you need something that you can use right out of the box, this tens unit from Omron if a great choice!
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Ease of Use
No one likes complicated devices, especially when you are in pain!
That’s why we wanted to make sure that we selected tens machines that were fairly easy to use right out of the box. There were a few things that we looked for to ensure that you are able to get up and running in no time!
One of the very first things we looked at when considering tens machines was the display. Almost all of the displays on the market come with a digital display to show you the battery life, strength level, and timer.
We personally loved devices that offered different modes of use with a corresponding thumbnail photo. For instance, if you wanted to select a mode that is designed to target your upper back muscles, you simply press the thumbnail with the photo of the upper back.
Other devices use a photo of the human body that you toggle through to reach your desired muscle group. We found that this method of use was much easier than consulting a user manual to determine which numbered setting targeted which muscle group.
Dials and Buttons
The more buttons and dials the tens machines have, the more complicated they are to use. We wanted to keep things simple and opt for devices that had very few buttons and knobs.
Ideally, we loved tens machines that offered a touch screen. This would allow users to simply touch the area of their body that they want to target, and then adjust the intensity with an up/down button on the base.
We want you to be able to get up and running right out of the box, and a simple-to-read instruction manual will help you get there. We consulted with what the previous users had to say about each design to find what they had to say about the instruction manuals.
If we discovered that there were too many users that complained about how confusing the instruction manual was to read, we would move on to the next product. It is important to note, however, that complicated instructions are often a necessity when it comes to tens machines that have a lot of different settings and power modes.
One of the biggest things that we took into consideration was whether or not a device actually worked!
There were a few things that we considered when judging the effectiveness of tens machines. Below, we have broken down some of the most important things that we looked at.
We wanted to make sure that we researched many of the brands currently on the market. Tens machines are much more than simple electrical pulses, and there is a lot of science and research that needs to go into each product. Even if we found that a design had a lot for positive feedback, we also supplemented our research by checking out who made it.
Many of the more effective brands don’t have a lot of immediate brand recognition because they only manufacture tens machines. TENS 7000, for instance, doesn’t have immediate brand recognition, but they are a powerhouse in their field. They were founded in 1992, and they only manufacture tens machines. This means that they dump all of their research into this particular product- which benefits the user in the end.
One of the best tools that we use is reading user reviews. In the instance of tens machines, these reviews are as good as gold. We combed through hundreds of users reviews to determine how well a product performed.
We kept our eyes open for those that reported back that their pain was relieved by the use of their tens unit. We also wanted to make sure that the strength level was able to go high enough to really dig deep into the muscles.
If a product was a little on the weak side, users are the first to report that the device did not really help them at all. If we found that there were a lot of people that felt they did not benefit from their tens unit, we would move on to another product.
Using these tens machines in conjunction with Epsom salts, ice baths, and stretching is a great way to keep your muscles happy!
The battery life determines how long you can use the tens machine before it needs a charge.
From what we found during our research, tens machines typically fall into two different camps. The first camp is those that use disposable batteries, and the second is those that use rechargeable batteries.
Below, we have broken down all of the advantages and disadvantages of using devices that require disposable and rechargeable batteries.
The downside to disposable batteries goes without saying. At some point in your device's life cycle, you will need to take a trip to the store to buy more batteries - and no one likes that!
The good news when it comes to disposable batteries is that they typically hold a charge for a lot longer than their rechargeable counterparts. Plus, these tens machines typically only require 2-3 AAA batteries, which are relatively cheap.
The tens machines that have a rechargeable lithium battery mean you will not have to make any trips to the store for replacement batteries. However, it also means that the battery will lose a charge more quickly, and you will have to charge it more often.
The good news, however, is that charging these devices doesn’t take all that much time. All of the tens machines on our list come with an included charging cable. In most cases, it only takes a quick 20 minutes to go from completely dead to fully charged!
However, rechargeable batteries only have so many times that you can recharge them. As the battery begins to age, it will not hold a charge as long. When this happens, you will need to buy a new battery - which often isn’t very affordable.
We love when products come with extra features to help you get the most out of your recovery routine.
While many of these tens machines are pretty straight forward, there are some added features that we feel make a product go above and beyond. Below, we have gone into a little bit of detail of our favorite extra features.
For busy folks, sometimes you just don’t have the time to kick back in your favorite chair for a 60-minute massage. That’s why we were drawn to options that come with some type of a carrying case.
Most designs come with a soft drawstring bag to hold all of your essential tools. These bags are incredibly helpful to keep all of the extra accessories together in one place. Tens machines can be a bit of a mess of various electrode cables and electrode pads. If you don’t keep them securely in one place, you run the risk of losing some of the important components.
We really loved designs that came with a hard carrying case. Not only do the hard cases make organizing your wires and pads easy, but it is very easy to pack everything up into your suitcase when you are on the go!
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes you need some relief when you are on the go. If you don’t have time to lay back in a chair, why not get some relief as you drive to work? With a belt buckle clip, you can mount the device to your pants and place the electrode pads to your skin before jumping in the car. This method allows you to get targeted pain relief at any point in the day.
The idea of electrical stimulation sounds intimidating, so we wanted to keep things as comfortable as possible.
The best place to start when it comes to staying comfortable when using tens machines lies solely in the electrode pads. A few key design features ensure that you will be coming back for more.
First of all, you want the electrode pads to be sticky - but not too sticky. If they are too sticky, when you take them off it will be like ripping off a bandaid (ouch!). This also means that the next time you go to use them, the sticky parts will be covered in skin cells and hair, which means they won’t stick as well.
We made sure to read what previous users had to say about just how sticky each design fit on their skin. It was important that we walked that fine line between sticky but not too sticky.
We also wanted to make sure that we selected tens machines that gave you size options. If you want some relief in your feet, smaller pads are a necessity. It is important that the pad fits snuggly on your skin, and all of the bones in your feet make that difficult when dealing with larger pads.
If you want to target larger portions of your body such as your back or hamstrings, larger pads will really help activate those muscle groups. That’s why we wanted to make sure that we selected tens machines with electrode pad options that would work for your entire body.
Larger pads are also ideal for those that work large muscle ground when engaging in compound movements such as pull-ups and deadlifts. It is important that you get the right size pad to really activate every size and shape of your muscle groups.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
While the modern tens unit dates back to about the 1970’s, the ideology behind it is a not-so-recent invention. In fact, ancient Egyptians utilized this method of pain management by harnessing the shock that was given by electric eels!
Over the counter pain relievers work great at managing muscle pain, but your body already has a built-in pain reliever! Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever, and they are released in ample supply whenever you flood your system with electric shocks that come from a tens unit.
The ‘tens’ in tens unit stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. The word transcutaneous breaks down to basically means ‘though the skin’. Basically, it means stimulating your muscles via your skin.
Other Factors to Consider
Tens machines basically offer users a natural alternative for pain relief. When your muscles are screaming at you from your last brutal workout, we suggest that you skip the traditional method of reaching for over the counter pain relievers.
Taking care of your muscles is important when you are training. Many natural methods of healing and pain management include:
- Ice baths
- Epsom salts
- Effective stretching before and after working out
- Heat therapy
- Tens machines
Nothing beats a good old fashioned massage, but many of us don’t have the time or the money to sit down for a little pampering at the end of every workout. Investing in a tens unit is like a deep tissue massage when you don’t have the time to make an appointment.
Plus, the electric pulses are capable of reaching much deeper into your muscles to promote healing and ease the pain so you can lace up your sneakers and hit the trails pain-free!
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why do I need a tens unit?
If you are training for a marathon, or just love hitting the gym a couple of times a week, your muscles will take a beating. Sore muscles happen when you use them in ways that they are not used to. The pain that you feel is actually very small tears that your body works overtime to try and repair. While it may feel terrible at first, it is actually a sign that you are getting stronger!
We know that sore muscles aren’t enough to keep you from lacing up your sneakers, but they will limit your performance a bit. There are a few tools that athletes use to help mitigate this specific type of pain.
The most common method is to pop a few OTC pain pills a few hours before hitting the gym. While pills may work, they can cause damage to other parts of your body if you use them on the regular. It is important that you seek out natural methods for pain relief if you are constantly challenging your body!
That’s where tens machines come in. These devices act to alleviate basic muscle pain in specific parts of your body without the use of chemicals. It feels like you are giving yourself a really great massage! In fact, these devices reach much deeper into the muscle tissue than your basic massage.
q: How do I use tens machines?
One common mistake that users make when using tens machines is that they place the pads directly onto the affected muscle. This is a big mistake! To get the most out of your recovery session, it is important that you surround the muscle with electrode pads. By surrounding the muscle, you will ensure that the entire muscle benefits from the signals that it receives, and not just a portion of the muscle.
Once the pads are in place, you next need to set the intensity. Each person is different and will respond to different levels of intensity. If your muscles contract too much when you turn your tens unit to the on position, that is an indication that it is set too high.
Another indication that it is set too high is if you feel a tingling sensation on your skin. If your skin becomes irritated as you use your tens unit, we suggest that you lower the intensity a little bit.
q: Do tens machines hurt?
We know, the idea of sticking something called an electrode pad to your body may seem a little intimidating! The good news though is that stimulation that is sent through the device is just too low of a current to cause any pain.
Many of these tens machines on the market run on very little power. Most only use 2 AAA batteries, which are not capable of summoning enough power to actually do you any harm.
If you are feeling apprehensive about using a tens unit (which we completely understand!), we suggest starting off at the lowest setting. Many of the low settings are so mild that you may not even feel it. Once you become comfortable with the sensation, slowly turn the dial up to a strength level that you are comfortable with.
After a while, you may find that you dial it all the way up to the max every time you fire it up for a massage session!
q: How do tens machines work?
The ‘tens’ in tens unit actually stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. To learn a little bit about how it works, we must first understand why we feel pain after a workout.
Pain is your body’s natural way of telling you, ‘hey, don’t do that!’. After a brutal workout, your muscles experience tiny tears in the fibers that your body translates as a bad thing. However, research in sports medicine determines that these tears are actually a good thing!
Tens machines work by flooding your central nervous system with signals. When your nervous system is overloaded with signals, it temporarily forgets about the pain in your affected muscle as it works overtime to react to the flood of signals.
As a natural response, your body creates an overload of natural pain fighting chemicals called endorphins. When you use a tens unit, not only does your body forget about your muscle pain, but it also works overtime in creating an overabundance of its own pain reliever!
Just like any over the counter pills, this isn’t a permanent solution. Over time, the endorphins wear off and the pain will settle in. However, muscle pain from a brutal workout gets better in just a few days, so in those instances, you are not looking for a permanent solution anyway!
q: Are tens machines used for any other type of pain?
Absolutely! One favorite way to use these devices is to help alleviate the pain that comes from the menstrual cycle. Do you suffer from terrible period cramps? A tens unit is an excellent natural way to tell those contracting muscles in your stomach to settle down, as well as releasing natural pain-fighting chemicals.
Popping painkillers every month can lead to some pretty unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and constipation. When used correctly and with caution, a tens unit has very limited side effects.
Tens machines are also used to help alleviate pain caused by arthritis, pain in the neck and shoulders brought on by stress, fibromyalgia, and sports-related injuries.