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10 Best Portable TENS Units

by Amanda Ghosh May 20, 2017

Portable TENS UnitLooking for the best way to relieve chronic aches and pains, muscle spasms or inflammatory conditions like bursitis, you could benefit from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, a.k.a. TENS, a low-voltage electrical current for pain relief, proving to relax muscles & treat joint and bone problems as well. The best portable TENS unit is the one that addresses your unique needs, but making the right decision doesn't have to be difficult. We’ve listed our top 10 favorite styles to compare features & help you decide. Remember! it's imperative to consult with your doctor before beginning a TENS regimen

1. Wearable Pain Relief Starter Kit by Quell

Wearable Pain Relief Starter Kit by Quell

Amazon

This is a top pick because of its wearability. With the typical TENS unit, you are stuck with pads, electrodes, and wires that go all over the place. Not with this one. It fits like a brace but still delivers stimulation. Plus, it uses OptiTherapy technology to adjust the stimulation you receive to your optimal level. Wear it around your calf and it sends messages to your brain to release natural pain blockers. And if all that isn't enough, you can also connect it to your phone and wear it while you sleep.

Pros:
  • Connects to your phone so you can manage how this works in an extremely convenient and user-friendly way
  • Relieves pain without using drugs by tapping into your body's pain-reducing system (for those who like the natural way, this is it!)
  • Easily worn under loose fitting pants (nobody will know it is there!)
Cons:
  • Pads don't work well for very long

2. EMS and TENS Combo Device by Pure Enrichment

EMS and TENS Combo Device by Pure Enrichment

Amazon

This unit combines the benefits of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). We like it for its ability to reduce pain and increase blood flow. Plus, the EMS function can help to treat muscle spasms and even assist you in improving your range of motion.

Pros:
  • Cuts down the amount of time flare-ups last
  • The instructions are really easy to understand
  • Pads last a long time
Cons:
  • Stimulation levels might be weak for some

3. Pure Pulse Pro by Pure Enrichment

Pure Pulse Pro by Pure Enrichment

Amazon

This popular model has a clean and techie vibe. It almost looks like an iPhone accessory. We like this one for its sleek design and the fact that you have 8 different timers to choose from, ranging from 5 minutes to 60 minutes. Not to mention, it has a super long (2 year) warranty!

Pros:
  • Awesome at reducing pain in a variety of locations (including lower back)
  • Pads last through several uses without becoming too worn down
  • Has a lot of intensity level settings and you won’t need to go up to high to get the intensity achieved at your physical therapist’s office
Cons:
  • Can be a hassle to turn the pulse feature on and off

4. Electronic Pulse Massager by TruMedic

Electronic Pulse Massager by TruMedic

Amazon

This is a great pick due to how easy it is to use and how light weight it is. At only 5 ounces it is truly portable. Plus, it has an LCD display that tells you exactly what the unit is doing and where. All you have to do is look at the screen and press the buttons you want. Buttons are labeled with words like “shoulder,” “waist,” “wrist,” “massage,” and “knead.” This unit also gives you access to videos on pain management.

Pros:
  • Helps you to heal after accidents by reducing pain
  • 15-minute increments make it perfect for a few rounds of pain relief
  • Helps to cut down on costly chiropractor visits for this type of therapy
Cons:
  • Doesn’t fit well in the pocket of women’s jeans

5. TENS Massager Device by iRelieve

TENS Massager Device by iRelieve

Amazon

This unit allows you to use smaller pads on smaller parts of the body while using larger pads on larger parts of the body. This is a feature we like because it offers a certain amount of customization to your unique body pain. Plus, this particular product is physical therapist endorsed.

Pros:
  • You can add a wraparound belt for customizable additional pain relief
  • Hides well in pant pockets
  • Add minutes at any time during a session for longer intervals of pain relief
Cons:
  • Good for lying around the house, but adhesive doesn’t hold up well during serious movement

6. Rechargeable Pain Relief Machine by KEDSUM

Rechargeable Pain Relief Machine by KEDSUM

Amazon

This unit has A LOT of massage modes. If you are looking for a way to cut back on your acupuncture and massage bill this is a strong contender. It uses a technology that simulates traditional Chinese methods of pain relief and massage, including knocking, cupping, tapping, acupuncture, shiatsu, deep tissue, and more!

Pros:
  • Runs on a single charge for a really long time (3 days on one overnight charge)
  • Terrific relief for joggers or those suffering from shin splints
  • This little beast has a lot of power behind it so it’s great for those who need intense stimulation
Cons:
  • Power button is sensitive (can turn off accidentally and can be hard to turn on)

7. TENS 7000 by Roscoe Medical

TENS 7000 by Roscoe Medical

Amazon

This nice little pack comes with everything you’ll need from conductive spray to batteries. Its quick operation guide is easy to follow too! It packs a punch with prescription-grade pain relief for sore muscles. Best suited for those with lower back pain.

Pros:
  • Great for reducing pain associated with herniated discs
  • Totally fine to use every day for several months
  • Will effectively relax tension in the back muscles making it well suited for other back problems
Cons:
  • Lacks the massage features of other units

8. TENS Unit Device by United Surgical

TENS Unit Device by United Surgical

Amazon

We like this product for the ability to automatically time and record your sessions. You can record more than 900 hours. Plus, this unit comes complete with four electrodes, wires, battery and carrying case.

Pros:
  • This has exactly the right amount of power behind it and is the second edition of this product
  • Really helpful for those with MS or nerve pain
  • Is perfect for wearing while you are on the computer or watching TV
Cons:
  • Some of the modes have a tendency to stop working after many uses

9. Smart Electro Pain Relief Device by HealthmateForever

Smart Electro Pain Relief Device by HealthmateForever

Amazon

This unit combines the benefits of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations (TENS) with powered muscle stimulation (PMS). It also offers a variety of massage modes as well as an acupuncture mode and cupping and tapping modes.  This is ideal for those looking to manage pain naturally.

Pros:
  • Pads adhere really well to your skin
  • Fantastic pain relief for carpal tunnel
  • Charge lasts a long time (and you can even charge it from your computer!)
Cons:
  • Small size and some may find they prefer more power than this unit offers

10. TENS Device by Vive

TENS Device by Vive

Amazon

This product offers a phenomenal value. It competes with other devices by offering 16 massage modes, an easy to read LCD screen, plenty of electrode pads and cables, and a rechargeable lithium battery that gives up to 10 hours of continuous use. For the price, it can’t be beat.

Pros:
  • Functions flawlessly, no hiccups with use despite the substantially cheaper price
  • Perfect for use after lifting or sports to help with recovery
  • Multiple settings offer something for everyone
Cons:
  • Pads could benefit from being more adhesive

How Does TENS Relieve Pain?

TENS is a type of therapy that uses electrical currents to relieve pain. A TENS session involves the use of a portable machine such as the ten units we’ve picked out in this article. Electrodes are connected to this machine and they conduct electricity from the machine to your skin.

The machines generally come with pads that are applied to your skin and connected to the electrodes. The pads are placed on areas of the body that are in pain. Sometimes, people will place the pads on pressure points. Either way, once the current is delivered, pain relief begins. Most of the units we picked outcome with pads. However, some people find that they prefer to buy pads separately.

There are different theories behind the success of TENS in managing pain. For the purposes of this article, we highlight two of them.

  • Nerves stimulated by the electrodes send signals to the brain that interfere with pain signals
  • Electrical stimulation of nerves prompts a release of endorphins, the body’s natural antidote to pain

TENS Safety Tips

If this is your first time using a TENS unit, it is normal to be a little wary. However, this type of therapy is completely safe. And, it is a therapy that physical therapists and chiropractors use in their practices. Nevertheless, here are a few tips on how to get started safely.

  • Have your settings determined by your healthcare professional. Your physician will tell you how long to use a TENS unit for and at what setting you should set the therapy
  • Don’t overuse the therapy - consider wearing a back brace for back pain when not utilizing your portable TENS unit. Consider these top 10 back brace choices.
  • Turn the control knobs or buttons slowly to the correct setting. We don’t want surprises! You will feel a tingling feeling
  • Clean the skin with rubbing alcohol and let it dry before applying the pads
  • If the pads have a hard time sticking to the skin, cover them with medical tape
  • Read any instruction manual or user guide carefully before starting. Follow the steps they set for you
  • Do not go near water when the electrodes are on and on your skin
  • Don’t fall asleep using a TENS unit
  • Place the pads in different spots on your skin so that you’re not overusing an area and irritating the skin in that spot

Using a TENS Unit - FAQ

Q. How do I know what settings to use?

Each portable tens unit comes with a variety of settings. Machines can be set at different frequencies, different intensities, and even at different massage levels. Your doctor should determine the settings you use.

Q. What if my muscles start to twitch while I am using the TENS unit?

You want to communicate with your doctor regarding your therapy. If your muscles start to twitch, this may be a sign that the TENS signals are too strong or too fast.

Q. I don’t feel any tingling. Am I doing this right?

This may indicate that the signal is too low or too slow. Speak with your doctor about changing the settings of your therapy.

Q. How do I take care of my TENS unit so it lasts a long time?

You should follow the instructions that come with the unit closely. However, you may also want to consider removing the electrodes at least once if you are going to use it for the entire day.

Finding the Best Portable TENS Unit

Healthcare professionals have been using TENS therapy for years. Now, you can use that same therapy at home. While it is important to take your time and research these units to find the best one for you, they effectively relieve pain associated with a variety of conditions. So, there is no sense in wasting time when you can lessen your pain. We’ve found 10 really amazing units and highlighted the features that we like about each one. You won’t go wrong with any of these, so take your time and figure out which one is right for you. We hope this article was helpful and that you stop back again soon!

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/tc/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens-topic-overview

https://www.drugs.com/cg/how-to-use-a-tens-unit.html

Amanda Ghosh
Amanda Ghosh

Amanda has a Masters of Science in Nutrition from Syracuse University which equipped her with courses applied to licensure as a dietitian. She also worked as a Program Director for the Wellness and Fitness Department for the YMCA. She is well versed in physical fitness, with a certificate from the National Academy of Sports Medicine in physical fitness training. She has taught numerous fitness classes, including college courses in the Athletic Department, as an adjunct instructor, at the SUNY University at Buffalo. She currently resides with her husband in the NYC area, and loves to put her knowledge of anatomy and physiology to use by being active. Both her and her husband are self-declared "foodies."


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