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If you’re always reaching for painkillers because you’ve got pain in your neck or back, or a chronic condition, a TENS unit might be what you need as part of your treatment plan.
There are many to choose from and they offer relief that you can manage yourself.
What’s a TENS unit?
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit sends electrical impulses through the skin, targeting painful areas in the body.
The unit is battery operated so it’s great for on-the-go pain relief.
One of the biggest benefits of using a TENS unit for your pain is that it controls pain signals in the body and releases endorphins.
Thus, you can get immediate relief after using the unit just once, which makes it a very useful item to own.
Here’s what you need to know about finding the best TENS unit: how to ease your pain becomes possible with five of the best TENS units on the market.
Best TENS Unit Reviews & Recommendations For 2019
Healthmate Forever YK15AB TENS Unit
This TENS unit is really easy to use, with its clear buttons and backlit screen that makes it easy to see in dim lighting.
It’s versatile and can be used in different ways depending on what you need.
This is a professional-looking TENS unit that offers 20 different levels of intensity, so you can really tailor it to your specific pain.
This is also beneficial because the pain might not always be of the same intensity from one day to the next.
It contains eight pads that you can use at the same time, which is great for chronic conditions that cause pain in several areas of the body simultaneously.
The Healthmate Forever TENS unit comes with a belt clip included so this portable tens unit can be used wherever you are.
It has an automatic shut-off feature, so you don’t have to worry about falling asleep with it on.
This product does come with a lifetime warranty.
However, people who’ve purchased the product state that you have to pay $19.99 to have it serviced if the device has a problem.
This TENS unit costs just under $30. For all its features, such as its belt clip and eight pads that can be used simultaneously, it’s really value for money if you suffer from regular pain.
Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit
This TENS unit is more than a standard one – it includes some extra nice touches that make it a worthwhile investment if you suffer from acute or chronic pain.
One of the biggest benefits of this TENS unit is that it has pads of different sizes.
You get two-inch electrodes for smaller areas like your knees and two-inch by four-inch pads that are good for larger areas, such as your back.
This makes it the best TENS unit for back pain as it helps you get relief from pain in hard-to-reach places of the body.
You can use two different intensities for different areas of your body, at the same time.
The unit’s pads have good self-stick ability that can give you up to 30 uses, which is quite good as some manufacturers state that you should change their unit’s pads after 15-20 uses.
The unit is rechargeable so it offers up to 10 hours of continuous use, and batteries are included in the package. Bonus! This feature makes it a nice wireless tens unit to own.
While this TENS unit has some good features, one problem with it is that it doesn’t have a clip so that you can attach it to your belt.
If you want to take it with you to work or somewhere else, you have to carry it with you.
But that’s really a small point to consider which is overshadowed by its many benefits.
This TENS unit costs under $40, which is a bit pricier than the Healthmate Forever unit, but it does come with some convenient and useful features that make it worth it.
AUVON Dual Channel TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator
This is a family pack TENS unit that comes with 24 pads instead of the standard eight.
One of the best things about this unit is that if you have to use it regularly, you won’t have to worry about not having enough pads at your disposal!
Just like with the other AUVON TENS unit featured in this buying guide, you get pads of different sizes in the pack: two-inch electrodes for smaller areas on your body and two by four-inch reusable patches for larger areas.
This model has 20 modes and 12 different pulsating patterns, so you can choose how intense you want it to feel depending on the type of pain or stiffness you’re experiencing.
This TENS unit is really easy to set up, taking only a few minutes before you can start using it.
This unit doesn’t come with a clip for easier carrying around, but it is small enough to carry in your pocket.
This AUVON TENS unit only costs just under $50. Its extra pads that come in different sizes to suit your needs are enough to make buying it worth your money.
Easy@Home Professional Grade Rechargeable TENS Unit
Want a TENS unit that makes you feel like you’re getting a massage at a five-star spa?
The Easy@Home Professional TENS unit is something you’ll love as it has various massage settings.
Let’s take a look at its benefits and drawbacks in greater detail.
This TENS unit has five automated massage programs to choose from, as well as three traditional massage modes.
It’s also a rechargeable TENS unit like the AUVON model, which offers greater convenience.
It has a large backlit LCD screen for easier navigation through programs.
This is especially useful if you’re using it in a dark room, such as late at night when you need pain relief.
It comes with a leather storage bag that’s included, which is a nice touch.
This Easy@Home TENS unit only comes with four pads, which does seem like less for the price you have to pay, especially if you consider that many TENS units contain at least eight pads.
The Easy@Home TENS unit costs under $100. While that is quite a steep price when compared to other models listed in these tens machine reviews, it is a professional and easy-to-use unit.
It’s probably best for you if you don’t need many pads and like to stick to treating just one area of your body where you experience pain.
KEDSUM Rechargeable 16 Modes Tens Unit
Sometimes you want lots of cool features in a TENS unit without having to pay through your pocket. That’s where the Kedsum unit comes in!
You get to choose from 16 different modes and 20 different intensity levels with this unit, so you’ll never run out of options. It’s one of the most powerful TENS units on this list.
Best of all, the unit can deliver a massage that feels like many other therapies, thanks to simulation.
These include knocking, cupping, Shiatsu deep massage, and even acupuncture, so you’ll feel like you’re at a spa.
This is also a useful feature if you don’t have chronic pain but just want something to treat sore muscles from time to time.
The pads are 1mm thicker than regular ones which helps them to stick to your skin a bit better.
In addition, they come pre-gelled. All you need to do is add a bit of water on them to make them last longer.
The manual that comes with the product isn’t very helpful, so it might be tricky to get used to this unit’s functions.
At just under $30, this professional TENS unit is seriously value for money, with all the great features you need for pain relief in one place.
TENS Unit FAQ
How does a TENS unit work?
A TENS unit has electrodes with adhesive pads that attach to the person’s skin.
When it’s switched on, these pads send electrical impulses into the person’s skin that enter the nervous system.
When these impulses reach the nervous system, they inhibit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain, thus decreasing the nervous system’s ability to send those signals out into the body, as Medical News Today reports.
This is why you get pain relief from TENS units.
There’s an added benefit to those electrical impulses, though. They boost the body’s production of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
This is why TENS units are used for a variety of health conditions, including neck and back pain, menstrual pain, arthritis, and spinal cord injury, making them a valuable medical grade TENS unit to own.
There are different frequencies that can be chosen on the TENS unit so that it can emit a certain number of electrical pulses per second.
Low frequency has pulses of one to 20 cycles every second and are used to alleviate chronic pain.
High frequency pulses, on the other hand, have a range of 80 to 120 cycles every second that makes them efficient for eliminating with acute pain.
The great thing about TENS units is that they help you take better control of your pain.
They’re small and easy to carry around, especially when they contain a belt clip as is the case with the Healthmate Forever YK15AB TENS Unit.
This enables you to get pain relief wherever you are without having to get back home first.
How often should you use a TENS unit?
While it might be tempting to want to use a TENS unit all the time if you find that it gives you relief from your pain and discomfort, this should be avoided.
If used too much, people can actually become too used to the pain relief or “numb” to its benefits.
A study published in Future Medicine journal found that people who use a TENS unit with the same intensity and frequency every day can become tolerant to its effects, which means that they don’t get the same relief from pain that they used to.
So, to prevent that from happening to you, it’s a good idea to switch from low frequency and high frequency within sessions.
When it comes to how often you can use a TENS unit, the good news is that you can use it daily if you need pain relief, and you could even use it many times in the day.
The session duration is really what matters, though. You should make a session last for about half an hour, no more.
It’s good to give your skin a break from the electrode pads every half an hour to avoid skin irritation.
If you’ve been using your TENS unit and it’s no longer giving you the relief you want, then that’s a sign you should take a break for a day or so to give your nerves the chance to settle down.
In future, stick to the maximum session duration of 30 minutes.
What are the side effects of using a TENS unit?
As with any therapy or medication, you have to consider the possible side effects.
While TENS units are safe for most people to use, they do create sensations of buzzing, prickling and tingling, which could be uncomfortable for some people.
In addition, the adhesive pads that stick to the skin can cause an allergic reaction, causing skin irritation.
However, people who experience this side effect can use hypoallergenic pads as an alternative so that they can still use a TENS unit.
While it’s clear that there aren’t really side effects to watch out for, TENS units should be used with precautions in mind.
You should never put the electrodes on the front of your neck as this can cause neck spasms as well as lower your blood pressure, as Medical News Today reports, so that’s something to bear in mind if you want to use a TENS unit for neck pain.
People who have certain health conditions should avoid using TENS units. These include epilepsy, heart conditions, and anyone who has a pacemaker or any metal implant.
In addition, pregnant women who use TENS units shouldn’t apply them to their stomach or pelvic areas.
Can you sleep with a TENS machine on?
Seeing as though a TENS unit is safe to use, you might want to use it while you sleep.
This probably sounds most appealing if your pain gets worse at night and interrupts your rest.
However, using a TENS unit while you sleep is not a good idea for various reasons. For starters, the buzzing of the unit could interfere with your sleep.
Second, electrodes that are stuck to your skin could irritate it if they press too much into it, as Pain Doctor reports.
You might even turn over in your sleep and end up with the TENS unit in an awkward or unsafe position, and you don’t want to risk that.
Finally, one of the electrode patches might come off, which could mean that you’re not even getting the benefits from the unit, so it’s all going to waste.
You should always use your TENS unit when you are awake so you can be aware of sensations and changes in the machine.
In addition, as mentioned earlier, to reap the most benefit you should avoid using your TENS unit for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
If you’re at risk of falling asleep with your TENS unit on, it’s a good idea to purchase a TENS unit that has an automatic shut-off feature, such as the Healthmate Forever TENS unit featured in our tens unit reviews.
Does a TENS unit help with inflammation?
Increased blood flow can be very beneficial for muscle strains and pain because it brings more oxygen and nutrients to the painful area of the body, helping it to heal.
Research that was published in the Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery mentions studies that have found that TENS units change skin temperature and increase one’s local blood flow.
The same research also suggests that TENS units are able to boost wound healing and repair tendons, and this can be as a result of how they release P and calcitonin gene-related peptides that are responsible for increasing blood flow. This is said to speed up tissue repair.
To really boost blood circulation, consider a TENS unit that has different massage modes, such as the kneading massage that’s available in the Kedsum rechargeable TENS unit that’s featured in this buying guide.
If you suffer from pain and want some temporary relief without reaching for painkillers, or you’re worried about how many pain pills you’ve been taking daily, a TENS unit can be just what you need to get relief from your discomfort.
A TENS unit works with different frequencies to release electric impulses into the body.
By obstructing pain signals, this reduces pain and increases the body’s production of endorphins that aren’t just feel-good chemicals but also work as anti-inflammatories.
Whether you’re suffering from muscular pain after an injury or you’re battling with a chronic condition, a TENS unit is a good therapy to try, and best of all you can use it whenever you feel the first sensations of pain thanks to how it’s small enough to carry around with you.
Best of all, a TENS unit gives you greater control over your pain. Instead of having to book a session at a massage therapist, you can give yourself therapy whenever you need it.
By choosing one of the best TENS units from our buying guide, you’ll be able to find the right one for your specific needs.
In addition, with so many extra perks that can be found in TENS units these days, you might just feel like you’re having a session at a spa. Pain, be gone!
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