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If you frequently find yourself reaching for painkillers for your chronic neck or back pain, a TENS unit might be a helpful part of your treatment plan.
There are many to choose from and they offer relief that allows you to manage your own pain and other symptoms. The ability to have some control over your symptoms has been found to be very helpful for patients with chronic pain.
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 is that it controls pain signals by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are hormones secreted within the brain and throughout the nervous system that activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic or pain relieving effect.
This causes an effect similar to taking an opioid or narcotic medication.
Thus, you can get immediate relief after using the unit just once, making it a very useful tool for pain relief.
Here’s what you need to know about finding the best TENS unit:
Easing your pain becomes possible by choosing one 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, it makes it easy to see in dim lighting.
It’s versatile and can be used in variable modes.
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 beneficial because your pain might not always be of the same intensity from one day to the next. This TENS unit allows you to adjust to your symptoms.
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 the unit is portable and 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.
Although the product come with a lifetime warranty some who have 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 provides real value for the money if you suffer from regular pain.
Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit
This TENS unit provides more than just standard features– it includes some extra nice touches that make it a worthwhile investment if you suffer from chronic pain.
One of the biggest benefits of this TENS unit is that it has different size pads.
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 this 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 also set the unit to simultaneously provide two different intensities for different areas of your body.
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 also included in the package. This feature makes it a nice wireless unit to own.
While this TENS unit has some positive 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.
But that’s a small drawback compared to its 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 may be worth it, particularly if you have pain in areas that are hard to reach such as the back.
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 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 very 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 costs just under $50. Its extra pads that come in different sizes are enough to make buying it worth your money if you have pain in many different places throughout your body.
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 is also a rechargeable TENS unit like the AUVON model, which offers greater convenience.
It has a large backlit LCD screen for easy 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 is 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 just under $100. While that is quite a steep price when compared to other models listed in these reviews, it is a professional and easy-to-use unit.
This unit is a reasonable choice if you don’t need many pads and are experiencing pain in just one part of your body.
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 turned 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 going through the spinal cord to the brain, thus decreasing the nervous system’s ability to send pain signals.
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, arthritis, and chronic muscle pain.
There are different frequencies that can be chosen on the TENS unit so you can adjust the number of electrical pulses per second.
Low frequency has pulses of one to 20 cycles per second and are used to alleviate chronic pain.
High frequency pulses, on the other hand, have a range of 80 to 120 cycles per second that makes them more efficient for treating 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.
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 almost constantly if you find that it gives you relief from your pain and discomfort, this should be avoided.
If used too much, you can actually become too used to the pain relief and “numb” to its benefits.
A study published in the journal Future Medicine 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 between low frequency and high frequency within and between sessions.
When it comes to how often you can use a TENS unit, the good news is that you can generally use it daily if you need pain relief. Of course you should always consult with your treating physician on how often and where to use your TENs unit.
Sessions should generally last for about half an hour, but again consult your physician.
It’s good to give your skin a break from the electrode pads at least 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 the 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 of using a TENS unit.
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 and skin irritation.
People who experience this side effect can use hypoallergenic pads as an alternative so that they can still use a TENS unit.
TENS units should be used with some 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.
People who have certain health conditions such as epilepsy, heart conditions, and anyone who has a pacemaker or any metal implant should avoid using TENS units.
In addition, pregnant women should only use a TENS units under the treatment of their obstetrician and should never apply pads to their abdomen or pelvic areas.
Can you sleep with a TENS machine on?
Using your TENS unit at night while asleep may sound very 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. It is generally not safe to use your unit for more than thirty minutes at a time.
Additionally the buzzing of the unit could interfere with your sleep and the electrodes could irritate your skin from prolonged use.
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.
You should always use your TENS unit when you are awake so you can be aware of sensations and changes in the machine.
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 to tissues can be very beneficial for muscle strains and pain because it brings more oxygen and nutrients to painful areas of the body which promotes healing.
Research published in the Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery found that TENS units change skin temperature and actually increase local blood flow.
The same research also suggests that TENS units boost wound healing and repair tendons. These units cause calcitonin gene-related peptides to be released leading to increased blood flow and faster tissue repair.
TENS unit that has different massage modes, such as the kneading massage that’s available in the Kedsum rechargeable TENS unit can improve blood flow even further.
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 each day, 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.
This obstructs pain signals and increases the body’s production of endorphin. Endorphins don’t just make you feel better but also have an anti-inflammatory effect to bring down swelling.
Whether you’re suffering from muscular pain after an injury or you’re battling with a chronic condition, a TENS unit is a reasonable treatment to try.
Because many of these models are small enough to carry around you can often use them whenever you feel the first sensations of pain.
Best of all, a TENS unit gives you greater control over your pain. Instead of having to book a session at a massage or physical therapist, you can give yourself therapy whenever you need it.
With the many extra perks available in TENS units these days, you might just feel like you’re having a session at a spa.
Review the higher rated TENS units from our buying guide and you’ll be able to find the right one for your specific needs.
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