How to Choose the Best Tens Unit
We will cover everything you need to know about choosing the best tens unit in this article. TENS machines function by sending electrical impulses to block pain signals, and side effects of using these devices are quite rare. We will go over all of the important aspects of a tens unit and even mention specific tens machines which could be useful to you.
Everyone is different, and that is why one machine could be right for one person but may not be the best fit for you.
There are countless tens devices which can be found both online and offline in stores. A number of choices to consider can be overwhelming, and it can be even worse for those who are new to the concept of TENS.
This article will introduce you to every important concept regarding TENS units. It will also be helpful for those who are looking to upgrade from an old TENS unit, as the facts here still hold true and relevant.
To learn more about TENS therapy devices I suggest checking out our reviews on popular TENS unit brands.
|Our Picks For Best TENS Units For Different Price Ranges|
|Price Range||Best TENS Units|
|Between $50 - $100||
|Between $100 - $200||
Top Tens Units On the Market
Looking for the best TENS machine on the market? In this section, we will mention several of the most popular electro stimulation devices currently out there. As this is a highly individualized decision, we will organize these units based on price range, starting out high and going lower.
You can use many of these devices as a medical TENS unit. If you want to know more about any of these devices, just check out our reviews. We put together our product reviews in a way that is organized logically and broken down in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner.
Above $200 - Best Top of the Line TENS Unit
Although these units will be more expensive on the cost spectrum, when it comes to the value they provide the features which make them worthy of the price. You can expect these devices to offer you more perks and a better, streamlined experience than cheaper units. If you want a top-notch, high-quality unit here is some of the best picks.
HealthmateForever T24AB2 - Top Choice for Those who Want Every Feature
Top of the Line TENS Unit
T24AB2 Healthmateforever Tens Unit & Muscle Stimulator
With 24 modes, a touch screen, a backlit LCD display, and two independent channels, this digital TENS unit is one of the tops of the line devices in the TENS world. If you truly, genuinely want it all, and price isn't too big of an obstacle for you, this is our top recommendation.
Best TENS Machine Under $200
This FDA-cleared rechargeable TENS unit features 12 modes, two independent channels, an LCD backlit screen, and a battery level indicator. This unit also provides EMS. To learn more about this over the counter TENS unit check out our >pro-12ab review here.
Customer feedback for this unit seems to be very positive, which is one important criterion by which we measure the value of a product.
Top of the Line TENS Unit - Under $200
Healthmateforever PRO-12AB Tens Unit & Muscle Stimulator
Mid-Price Range - $50 - $100
If you are searching for a middle-of-the-road option when it comes to features as well as cost, there are still some great options to opt for.
These choices are great if you want an upgrade from the most inexpensive TENS units, but you don't want to deal with the price tag of the top-of-the-line machines. Here are our top picks for mid-price range.
Best Mid-Range TENS Units - $50 - $100
Zewa Spabuddy Sport Tens Pain Therapy
This TENS electronic pulse massager has 30 intensity levels, eight modes, two channels, and it is also FDA cleared.
One of my favorite things about this device is the screen, which is large and easy to read. This unit is customizable, user-friendly, and offers a pretty good price for the value it gives the owner. If you are interested in this unit, check out >our review on Zewa Spabuddy Sport.
InTENSity Twin Stim III by Current Solutions
You will be able to enjoy 3 EMS modes and 4 TENS modes with this unit, making it ideal for anyone who wants the benefit of TENS and EMS.
The device has a lot of great reviews and you can charge it with disposable batteries or an AC adapter. This device is the best TENS ems combo. For additional details see our InTENSity Twin Stim III review.
Under $50 - Cheap TENS Units
Best Affordable TENS Units - Under $50
Believe it or not, you can get an excellent, effective TENS machine that works without having to break the bank. You won't get as many fancy, streamlined features or advantages as the more expensive devices, but if your primary goal is pain relief, then here are some great choices.
Good Quality and Affordable Price TENS Units
These units offer an incredible value for their price and still provide you with everything you probably require in a TENS unit.
We think that this is one of the best units for the price, and you can learn more details on our review page for TENS 7000.
Portable and Customizable TENS Unit
TENS 7000 is one of the best portable TENS units which has withstood the tests of time, and that is definitely saying something. This device provides customizability and a number of options so you can fine-tune your therapy session.
There are a lot of very similar models on the market, as we explain in other articles.
TruMedic PL-009 has 5 Auto Stimulation Programs and three Selectable Massage Settings. If you are new to TENS units, this is one of our recommended choices. Check out our TruMedic PL-009 review to learn more about this great cheap TENS unit.
Omron Pain Relief Pro
This unit has eight preset modes and 10 intensity levels. Some of its settings are made specifically for different body parts; this makes the unit a little different than most others.
For more information check out the product review page and see more about why this is one of the top rated TENS units.
How to Choose the Best Tens Unit
There are two critical keys which will help you to pick the best TENS unit for you.
- First, you must understand the basics of what a TENS unit is and how it works.
- Secondly, you must ask yourself a series of questions and address your individual needs.
We will talk about how to assess and evaluate a TENS unit; then you can choose the best TENS Unit for your personal needs.
Consider the most important aspects to you in a TENS device.
- Is it important that the unit can be used on multiple areas (via a large number of pads or dual isolated channels)?
- Do you need a device that is rechargeable and portable?
These types of questions will help you to select a list of devices which cater to your unique requirements.
What is Your Budget Like?
Of course, the budget will be the next thing to factor into your list. Your budget will determine which devices are available to you and hopefully, help you to narrow things down.
You don't want to waste your energy and time looking at TENS devices that you can't afford or don't want to pay for.
Select and Compare
Select a few units that are closest to your requirements and compare them side-by-side to see which one best stands up to your needs.
Take the most important aspects into consideration when you are weighing the value of each device.
Finally you are ready to make the ultimate decision, and you have found the best TENS unit for you.
Breaking Down the Basics of Tens Units
Before you can make an educated decision about the best TENS device for you, you need to understand technical specifications, features, and other criteria. We will now go over essential elements for you to figure out regarding TENS machines.
Programs and Modes
The terms modes and programs are usually interchangeable and in most cases mean the same thing. Usually, the programs on a unit are preset for easy use. This means that pulse width and frequency are (in most cases) a set and can't be adjusted for each individual program.
Best If You Prefer Ready-to-Use TENS Units
If you are new to owning a TENS unit, this will probably make things simpler for you when operating the device. You won't have to spend as much time fine-tuning the unit.
Best If You Want More Control On Your TENS Device
Other devices like TENS 7000 may have fewer modes to pick from but give you the option to adjust more settings.
When looking at a possible TENS machine, you will want to inspect the modes it offers and see if they will be useful for you. For some people having a lot of variety is important.
You may also actually want to have more choices for fine-tuning your therapy session, which is perfectly fine too. This is the case for many people. Search out devices which allow you to control pulse width and frequency, as this will give you a much more customizable experience.
How Many Channels
When looking at a TENS unit there are three options: single channel, dual channel, or isolated dual channel. Dual channels are the most common, with single channel units and isolated dual channel units being a little rarer.
Dual Channel TENS Units
The majority of dual channel units out there allow you to control the intensity level separately for each individual channel. They don't, on the other hand, allow you to use different modes for the different channels.
Single Channel TENS Units
Single channel units only have one channel on which you can control the mode and intensity level.
Isolated Dual Channel TENS Units
This is not generally the case with dual isolated channels, which give you total control of each channel—so the consensus is that they are the best choice if you are suffering pain in different body parts.
Which One Should I Choose?
At first, you may think that having only one channel will suffice, but many people get great benefit out of dual channels. Dual channels allow you to target two areas at once, which is important if you are treating two different parts of your body that are experiencing pain.
Obviously, isolated dual channels give you even greater customizability and more options. This is partly why isolated dual channels will be seen on high-quality TENS machines.
On first glance, you may think that the intensity levels that a machine has directly correlated to the unit's power. However, this is not the case. An intensity level is an adjustable setting that allows you to change the increment of power you receive in your treatment.
More Control on Adjusting the Power
The more intensity levels, the more you will probably be able to find a comfortable balance that is neither too strong nor too weak for you.
When looking for a quality TENS device, the number of intensity levels is definitely important to keep in mind.
How powerful is my TENS unit?
The strength of a device is indicated in mA rather than intensity levels. It isn't always easy to determine the strongest TENS unit, but look for “mA” and compare with other devices to see which is the most powerful TENS unit. You may not always be able to find the mA, and in this case, the next best option is to look at the reviews for information about the power of the product.
Power vs Intensity Level
More insensity doesn't mean more power.
TENS and EMS
While TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, EMS stands for electronic muscle stimulator. TENS is primarily used for pain and deals with the nerves, but EMS is used to tone and strengthen muscles. Some devices include both TENS and EMS.
Both devices operate via electrical currents, but they have very different uses.
|TENS vs EMS|
|TENS is used for:||EMS is used for:|
|Carpal tunnel syndrome||Muscle toning|
|Labor pain||Increasing blood circulation|
|Foot pain||Rehabilitation purposes|
|Back Pain||Preventing muscle atrophy|
Although you are probably mainly focused on a TENS unit, you may find that EMS could be useful for you too. If so, this may play a factor in the search for the best TENS unit for you.
Ease of Use and Mobility
This is another important thing to consider, especially if you are going to be moving from one place to another and you want to take your pain relief with you. You will want to consider the size and weight of a unit along with other factors.
Wireless units like AccuRelief Wireless Remote Control TENS have their advantages and disadvantages. The major drawback is that many wireless units are charged with disposable batteries that you must buy.
If you are asking what is the best TENS unit for home use, mobility may not be that big of concern for you.
If, however, you want to take your unit with you when you leave home to your job or on the road, you may think about size and portability factors. Consider whether or not it is wireless and has a carrying case.
If Mobility is Important to You
Prefer a TENS Unit smaller in size (like TENS 7000 or Healthmateforever PRO12AB) instead of a bigger sized TENS unit (like TruMedic PL-009).
Ease of use is another important thing to consider. Check out reviews to see if a certain unit is easy to use or not. Usually, the fewer and larger buttons it has, the easier it is to use. You may also want to consider screen size and having a good operating manual.
Before you settle on a TENS unit, check out the warranty. These are important to have in case you ever have to deal with a malfunction.
The standard warranties usually last at least a year, but some are even longer, and some are shorter. For example, all products from HealthmateForever have lifetime limited warranties.
I often don't think about a warranty unless I need one. This is an important subject to remember when buying a device so that you don't get stuck with a bad warranty (or no warranty) right when you need it.
|Warranty Periods for Different TENS Unit Brands|
|Warranty Period||TENS Unit Models|
Tens Unit Cost - Ongoing Cost of TENS Unit Usage
The initial price of a TENS unit varies significantly, but after you own one you will have to purchase both batteries and electrode pads at regular intervals.
Of course this isn't the case if you have a rechargeable lithium battery and not disposable batteries—but generally the units which have rechargeable batteries are a little more expensive.
If you have a unit which requires AAA or 8V batteries you may want to look into the battery life to see how often you will need to change batteries, and how much it will end up costing you. Customer reviews are generally a reliable place to learn about battery life.
Rechargeable Lithium Battery
If you are not tight on budget, I recommend that you buy a TENS unit with a rechargeable battery.
One way or another, however, you will have to purchase electrode pads eventually; all TENS units have electrode pads. You must replace them because they lose their stickiness over time.
You can either purchase the pin-in type of electrode, or the snap-type. These are the two options available.
Why Should You Prefer Standard Pin Type Connectors?
Pin type connectors give you more options when it comes to third party electrode pad vendors, who provide competitive prices. This type of electrode also works with many brands, including Prospera and Santamedical.
Many people enjoy using a touch screen, but most brands don't provide a touch screen on their TENS units. A few models from Healthmateforever have touch screens, and these are the T24AB, T12AB2, and the T12AB devices. You can find more about these units from our product reviews.
Touch screens are nice because you don't have to learn a bunch of keys on a little device. I like touch screens because they are technologically current and easy to navigate.
If a touch screen is really important to you, then you will have to be prepared to pay more money, as they are usually only present in the more costly TENS units. For most TENS devices, a touch screen is not implemented nor entirely necessary.
Personal Tens Unit Reviews
Before you buy a TENS unit make sure that you check around for customer reviews. Reviews are often very revealing and will clue you into any big flaws that a particular machine may have.
If there are an overwhelming number of positive reviews, you can be more confident that the device will be what you want.
Customer reviews are one of the most trustworthy ways that you can find out valuable facts regarding a TENS unit and whether or not it is a good buy for you.
It may be wise to go to a website like Amazon for reviews, however, where you can be more confident about which reviews are authentic.
Check out the “verified purchase” indicator on a review to know if the buyer is legitimate.
What about Negative Reviews?
All products have some negative reviews, but a few negative reviews don't necessarily mean that the unit is bad. No matter how great a product may be there will always by the occasional issue, mistake, or picky reviewer. Look at the tone of most of the reviews instead of singling out one or two to base your decision.
Another important aspect of picking a TENS unit is the customer service provided by the company. Usually, reviews will mention customer service and whether or not the company was helpful and cooperative. You never know when you may need to contact customer service about a question or problem regarding the device.
Tools to Help You to Choose the Best Tens Unit
Now you know the different features and aspects of a Tens unit to look out for. You know the questions to ask yourself and what is important when searching out a potential TENS unit.
The next step is comparing these devices and learning about individual machines so you can apply the knowledge you have. These are tools which you can use in your search for the best TENS unit.
Compare All TENS Units
To see a comparison list of all TENS units, you can go here. This will give you a summary of more than 40 of the top TENS machines on the market.
Side by Side TENS Unit Comparison
Go here to select and compare as many as 7 different TENS units. This side-by-side comparison makes it easy for you to see which units may have advantages over other units.
With these tools, it will be significantly easier for you to determine the best unit for you without as much time or work on your end. As someone who has gone through the process of comparing TENS units, I can attest to this fact.
Where to Buy a Tens Machine
Don't start shopping for a TENS unit until you have decided the maximum amount which you would like to spend. The chances are that you will still be able to find a great device within your budget, but you may have to do a little searching through different offline and online stores.
You can find TENS units at a number of different places. There are local offline stores which you may want to stop by, especially if they are in your area.
You will definitely be able to find TENS machines online through store websites or other sources like Amazon. You can check out Walgreens, CVS, Target, and Walmart online to see what they offer.
My Personal Choice for Shopping
Amazon is one of the top resources for TENS machines because they offer most of the popular brands. Amazon also boasts competitive prices and usually has some of the better deals around.
Of course, before you settle on a vendor you want to buy from, make sure you shop around a little for the best price. Sometimes the same TENS device will have a lot of variability in price depending on where you go.
Don't forget that although you may be able to find better deals online; you may have to think about shipping expenses. Besides this, also consider the time it will take to receive the unit. If there is an element of urgency then it may be better to focus on local stores that are in your area.
What is the Best Tens Unit for Me?
There are many different factors involved in choosing the best TENS unit that is just right for you. You must consider:
- What is your budget?
- What features do you want?
- Do you want a touch screen?
- Is portability important to you?
- Do you need TENS and EMS?
- Do you want more/specific modes?
- Are more intensity levels important?
If you are looking for a TENS unit to treat a specific body part, like the pain, then this is another thing you want to think about. If back pain is the problem then you may get the most out of a unit like the TENS 7000 To Go Back Pain Relief System. To learn more about this unit check out the review here.
On the same note, there are also some units which can be connected to accessories, such as the devices from HealthmateForever. These accessories can help treat specific body areas. They provide conductive wraps for knee/elbow/ankle/wrist/leg support, massage shoes, socks, gloves, and belts.
Although these accessories cost extra they can be very useful for people who suffer pain in a specific location. They may also be helpful if standard electrodes don't stick well to a certain place.
Once you have asked yourself questions like these, you are ready to evaluate the TENS units available to you and make the most informed and intelligent decision you can.
The Best TENS Device for You
There is no “best TENS unit,” but there are a lot of great machines available, and there is one that is best for you.
Before you make a choice look at a TENS review of that specific device. The best TENS unit review will include information about intensity levels, modes, price, portability, ease of use, customer reviews, price, and warranty.