Best Tens Machines Reviewed
Tired and achy muscles is a real problem for athletes that 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 pills, but frequent use of pain pills can have some unwanted side effects. Investing in a tens unit is a great way to ease pain in an all natural way.
The ‘tens’ in a tens unit 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 a tens unit works by jump-starting this process.
In this guide, we have compiled a list of some of our favorite tens units. Next time your muscles are upset with the intensity of your training, skip 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
- TENS 7000
- Massage Therapy Concepts
- TechCare Massager
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Tens Unit Reviews
1. TENS 7000
Long battery life
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.Read more
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 this portable tens unit 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 units. Powered from 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 workout on the go.
2. Massage Therapy Concepts
Easy to use
12 therapy modes
USB rechargeable battery
Low intensity too strong
If you want an interface that is simple to read, this is tens unit from Massage Therapy Concepts is 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.Read more
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 more 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!
Many muscle settings
Easy to use
Battery loses intensity
Need a tens unit that provides all over relief? This option from HealthmateForever has an 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 can relieve pain in two different areas of your body at the same time!Read more
One of the things that we liked most about this design is that it has 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. From what we have read from previous uses, these batteries late for hours and hours of continuous use. Many replace then at least once a month. 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 a tens machine that packs quite a punch and comes 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
Screen breaks easily
Not very powerful
The thing that we liked most about this portable tens unit from TechCare Massager is that it has 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.Read more
Power settings are just a series of numbers, but rather a type 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.
One thing that users really like 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, this tens machine is a great choice. Users 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.
Different electrode pads
18 massage settings
The thing that we liked most about this portable tens unit from Tenstim lies in its versatility. It provides more than one style of electrode pad that works for various muscle groups throughout the body. Included with purchase are three different styles of electrode pads that are able to run off of two separate channels at the same time.Read more
What users love about this tens unit is that there are 18 different modes of muscle stimulation. 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 2 different modes at the same time for different muscle groups.
One of the best features about this tens unit is that it runs off of a rechargeable battery. There is a battery level indicator at the top right of the screen that lets you know how much gas is left in the tank. When you need to charge it, simply hook the micro USB cable that is included with purchase into a power source.
According to previous users, 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, this portable tens unit from Tenstim is a great choice.
Easy to use
24 power settings
USB rechargeable battery
Intensity drains with use
What we liked most about this portable tens unit from Belifu is that it has an impressive 10 electrode pads that can all be used at the same time. It sports an easy to use display screen that makes it incredibly easy to set your power level, and it has a timer that automatically shuts off when it is done.Read more
Not only does this tens machine come with a set of 10 reusable electrode pads, but these pads come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are 6 standard size pads, as well as 2 smaller pads and 2 large pads. It 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 offered 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 this tens unit 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, users found that it is very easy to use right out of the box!
Easy to use
Pads aren’t sticky
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 provides users with multi-layer electrode pads that work incredibly well as delivering signals to your muscles while still being incredibly comfortable.Read more
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. Previous users feel that 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, this tens machine is a great option. We love the high-quality electrode pads that are included with purchase that makes getting those hard to reach areas a little easier.
Easy to use
Many size pads
Weaker than expected
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is that it comes with a lot of electrode pads that come 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, this tens unit is a great choice. Plus, users find that it is incredibly easy to use.Read more
Included with purchase is a set of 8 pads of various sizes. It as 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. The larger pads are for larger muscle groups such as back muscles and larger 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 users that want something that is made to hit every muscle group in your body, this tens machine from MEDVIVE is 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.
8 electrode pads
Easy to use
What we liked about this tens unit from TENKER is that it 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.Read more
This portable tens machine comes 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. Users find 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 you are more than one muscle group that you want to trigger, this is one of your better options. Users love that the electrode pads come in all different shapes and sizes, and they are a lot more sticky than some of the other brands out there on the market. With 16 different modes to select from, this tens unit is a great way to alleviate muscle pain.
Easy to use
Small and compact
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. What we loved about this tens unit is that it is simple, easy to use, and portable. If you are in the market for something that doesn’t have a lot of complicated settings, this tens unit is worth a look.Read more
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 off of 2 batteries, users found that it was able to produce some pretty strong signals from such a small little device. The bad news here is that some users found that the batteries died down pretty quickly.
If you are in the market for a design from a trusted brand in the industry, 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 units 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!
Display: One of the very first things that we looked at when considering a tens unit was the display. Almost all of the displays out there on the market come with a digital display to show you the battery life, strength level, and timer.
We personally loved devices that offered the different modes of use with a corresponding thumbnail photo. For instance, if you wanted to select the 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 means it is more complicated to use. We wanted to keep things simple and opt for devices that had very few buttons and knobs.
Ideally, we loved tens units 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.
Instruction manuals: 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 user had to say about each design to find those that had overly complicated 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 devices 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 a tens unit. Below, we have broken down some of the most important things that we looked at.
Brand recognition: We wanted to make sure that we really researched many of the brands out there on the market. Tens units are much more than simple electrical pulses, 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 of a device by also checking out who makes it.
Many of the more effective brands out there don’t have a lot of immediate brand recognition because they only manufacture tens units. 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 units. This means that they dump all of their research into this particular product- which benefits the user in the end.
User reviews: One of the best tools that we use is reading user reviews. In the instance of tens units, 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 users 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 down deep into 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 users that felt they did not benefit from their tens unit, we would move on to another product.
Using these devices in conjunction with Epsom salts, ice baths, and stretching is a great way to keep your muscles happy!
The battery life determined how long you can use it before it needs a charge.
From what we found during our research, these products 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.
Disposable batteries: The downside to disposable batteries goes without saying. At some point in your devices life cycle, you will need to take a trip to the drug 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, they typically only require 2-3 AAA batteries, which are relatively cheap.
Rechargeable batteries: The tens units that have a rechargeable lithium battery mean you will not have to make any trips to the drug 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 units on our list comes 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 devices are pretty straight forward, there were some added features that we felt made a product go above and beyond. Below, we have gone into a little bit of detail for our favorite extra features.
Carrying case: 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 carrying case.
Most designs cam 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 units 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 it up into your suitcase when you are on the go!
Belt buckle: 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 your tens unit 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 all 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 designs 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 larger muscle groups. That’s why we wanted to make sure that we selected 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 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
A tens unit basically offers users a natural alternative for pain relief. When your muscles are screaming at you from your last brutal workout, we suggest that you skin 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:
Effective stretching before and after working out
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 muscle happens 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 a tens unit comes 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 a tens machine?
One common mistake that users make when using their tens unit 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 user 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: Will it 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 feel any pain.
Many of these devices out there on the market run off of 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 raise 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 does it 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!
A tens unit works 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 units used for any other type of pain?
Absolutely! Our favorite way to use these devices is to help alleviate the pain that comes from your 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 Midol every month can lead to some pretty unpleasant side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and constipation. When used correctly and with caution, and tens unit as very limited side effects.
It is also used to help alleviate pain caused by arthritis, pain in the neck and shoulders brought on by stress, fibromyalgia, and sports-related injuries.