Since many years, TENS units are considered to be non-addictive, most effective and drug free solutions for getting relief from nerve pain (anywhere in the body).
What is a TENS Unit?
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit is a simple machine that provides relief from pain by sending small electrical pulses to the affected/targeted areas.
Previously, TENS units were inconvenient as they has to be attached cables to electrodes and then plug them to a machines. However, with the new technology – TENS units have become wireless. So, you no longer have to struggle with wires and pull them out by accident.
They are even more fun to use as they are completely discreet – No one will know you are wearing it underneath the clothing or see wires popping out of your pockets.
But with so many options and difficult technical terms, choosing the right can become a nightmare. If you don’t know how to choose wireless tens then read our buying guide.
To know the best 5 wireless tens units picked up by our team with the guidance of chiropractor, see the below list.
Best Wireless TENS Units For Back Pain
|Wireless Tens Unit||Intensity Levels||Buy Now|
|Healthmate Forever||20||Check the Price|
|iReliev PlayMakar||25||Check the Price|
|Aleve Direct Therapy||15||Check the Price|
|Icy Hot Smart Relief||63||Check the Price|
|iTENS Electrotherapy||20||Check the Price|
When it comes to TENS unit, one brand that really stands out in the crowd is – Healthmate Forever. That is why it has topped our list. Apart from having high quality and excellent features, it is quite affordable too.
Detailed Evaluation of Each TENS unit
This brand has taken the first position in our list because it is very well-known in the market for its super stimulators. Among their products, HM8ML model has been very popular due to its ability in relieving the pain.
The size and thickness of this device is similar to a cellphone so you can carry it around in your pockets or handbags. This model has provides more attachments than any other brand in the market.
This device uses a combination of 2 medical practices: TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) and Western medical technology for proving quick relief from the lower back pain. The manufacturer has designed such that it has both PMS and TENS technologies in one.
It will block pain receptors in the central nervous system which helps in managing pain and strengthening the muscles via involuntary muscle contractions. It is known to increase the body’s ability of healing and recovering.
It contains 8 pre-programmed massage modes that include cupping, tuina, acupuncture, foot, back, tapping, leg and combination. All these massage modes have 20 intensity levels which are displayed on the control panel as a graph/waves.
4 pads are provided which concentrate to treat pain in different areas at a time. You can either use 2 or 4 pads at a time. The self-adhesive conductive pads are flexible enough to place on ankle, knees and elbows.
The kit of Healthmate forever includes 4-piece self-adhesive conductive reusable gel pads, one HM8ML device, operating manual, 1 pad holder, 1 USB charger and 2 sets of electrode wires. The unit is about the size of an iPod which can be placed in pocket and continue the therapy while working or travelling. It is nice and sleek so it will not show-through what you wear.
This unit comes with a rechargeable in-built lithium battery which has the capacity to run for 10 – 12 hours continuously. It has adjustable 10 – 60 minute timer and 20 levels of adjustable strength or intensity. This device also has a pause button which is very helpful when you want to stop the therapy temporarily. It has easy to read LCD display which is helpful to read the instructions even if the light is very low.
Healthmate Forever is Class II FDA certified device. It doesn’t require Wi-Fi to work so you can use it anywhere you want. This device is best suited for cramps, aches, sciatica, muscle stiffness, muscle knots, and many others.
Note: Avoid using this device if you have a cardiac condition, cardiac pacemaker, implanted metal devices or screws in any part of your body. Also if you are pregnancy or suffering from epilepsy then stay away from wireless tens unit.
Things We Liked:
- 8 pre-programmed massage nodes.
- 20 levels of adjustable intensity.
- Combines body modes and therapeutic modes.
- Both TENS and PMS qualities.
- Combines TCM and Western Technology.
- Self-adhesive and conductive pads.
- Made of non-woven material.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- You may have to change the pads when they are no longer sticky.
Second from the list comes iReliev playmakar which is a combination of TENS and EMS. This TENS unit is designed to excite nerve endings and prevent pain signals from getting into the brain. It also helps to increase the endorphin (natural painkiller) to relieve pain and reduce negative effect of stress. The EMS unit will stimulate the muscles.
iReliev TENS will produce low microamp rhythmic pulsations to skin in order to stimulate nerves blocking the pain. It contains 14 therapy modes that include 7 pain relief modes, 6 EMS muscle strength, 1 arthritis and recovery modes.
It is very beneficial for strength training, athletes after surgery and lower back pain. You can enjoy the therapy for up to 1 hour per session and 12 pre-timer settings that vary from 5 – 60 minutes. It features a lock function which prevents accidental intensity changes.
You can adjust intensity for left (ch1) or right (ch2) independently as per your convenience. It is highly portable for therapy on the go as you can wear on your waistband with included belt clip and holster.
Things We Liked:
- EMS muscle performance mode.
- Lock functionality.
- Dual channel versatility.
- TENS pain relief modes.
- 25 levels of intensity.
- Portable therapy.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- The manual provided by manufacturer mentions that electrode pads last only for 20 – 30 uses. So, remember that investment continues.
This product is developed and marketed by the brand Bayer. It is best suited for temporary relief of pain which is associated with sore and aching muscles. It also helps reduce strain from normal household works and exercise.
This wireless TENS device is specially designed to cover both sides of the lower back at the same time. The reusable gel pads stay comfortably in place without slouching and slipping. These gel pads are latex free so you don’t have to worry about skin irritation and allergies.
This FDA cleared device is discreet and practical, so you don’t have to worry about using it underneath the clothing. You can wear it while travelling or working without any interruption. The convenient and handheld remote is provided for easy operation. The battery of remote control usually lasts approximately for 6 months.
The flexible electrodes will perfectly fit into the natural curve of your lower back. It uses patented waveform technology to provide penetrating and deep relief from within. If you have medical metal implantation, cardiac pacemaker or implanted defibrillator then it is better to avoid using this TENS unit.
Things We Liked:
- Waveform-asymmetric biphasic square pulse.
- Easy-touch handheld remote control.
- Patented waveform technology.
- 15 adjustable intensity levels.
- Discreet, durable and flexible.
- Reusable gel pads.
- FDA regulated as Class II medical device.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- High intensity is not easy to handle.
This device is perfect for relieving chronic to moderate back pain. Just like any other TENS unit, it blocks the pain signals to the brain and increases endorphins (natural pain killer).
You have to snap the unit on the electrode pad, remove the adhesive strip and attach the pad on your back. Now, you have to press on/off button and select the intensity levels that is comfortable for you. Once you are finished, you can remove the unit. Each pad usually lasts up to 12 – 30 uses.
The same technology used by doctors for making this device. 63 intensity levels are provided in it which can be selected as per your convenience.
Things We Liked:
- Same technology used by Doctors.
- Prescription strength intensity.
- Reusable, wire-free and easy to use.
- Best suited for painful muscles and joints.
- FDA approved.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- If used at higher levels then you will go through a lot of batteries.
This device is a FDA cleared and revolutionary APP-controlled design which means that you can operate the wireless tens unit using your smartphone. It is ultra-thin, fully flexible and has multi-layer wing with laser printed silver conductive surface.
It contains several pre-programmed options and you can even customize manual program as per the problem like arthritis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, back pain and others.
A lithium ion battery is provided which ensures 24 hours power back with a single charge. The manufacturer also provides docking station (with USB cord) for charging up the device.
Things We Liked:
- Rechargeable and long lasting battery.
- APP-controlled design.
- FDA cleared.
- Customizable programs and settings.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Sometimes it disconnects itself.
What is the Working Principle of TENS Unit?
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit uses low-voltage electrical current for relieving pain. A TENS unit contains a small, battery operated machine which has the size of a pocket radio. Usually, the electrodes (most of them contains at least two) are placed on the areas where you experience pain or at pressure point. This creates electric pulse circuit which travels along the nerve fibers.
When the electrical impulses are provided, most of the people will experience less pain. Because the electricity generated from the electrodes will stimulate the nerves present in the affected area. This stimulation sends indication to the brain to block the pain signals.
There is another theory related to TENS unit working principle – the electrical nerve stimulation will encourage the production of endorphins (natural pain killers) which stops the pain perception.
With a TENS unit, you can set the wavelength frequency, electrical current flow, and intensity based on your requirement. These settings are often prescribed by your doctor, chiropractor or acupuncturist.
How to Choose a Wireless TENS Unit
There are several factors which are important to consider while selecting a wireless tens unit. We are mentioned few of them below for your convenience.
1. How Many Therapy Modes or Programs it has?
This is the first important factor to consider while choosing a wireless tens unit. If you go with lower priced models then you may not get variety of modes you require. However, some of the expensive ones have too complex features which is not suitable for people who are tech-savvy or if you are looking for a simple unit.
Usually, most of the tens units present in the market provide different therapy modes programs that include cupping, hand pressure, fist, tapping and acupuncture. However, if the device doesn’t have pre-programmed modes like this then you may need an additional machine to manipulate the pulse rate and width for such experience. However, most of the modern tens units have only pre-programmed modes so you don’t have to shell out extra money on separate machines.
2. How Many Channels does it have?
Most of the tens units come with dual channels which states that – different intensity can be used on two different areas of the body. However, if you want to target more than 2 different areas then you should consider purchasing a device that has 4 channels.
The number of channels and pads are corresponded with each other. Usually, each pad has 2 channels. Dual channel represents 2 pads per sport which are four in total. In the same way, a quad channel means, 8 pads can be used simultaneously.
3. Do They Have Intensity Levels?
Just like pre-programmed modes, a tens unit has different intensity levels. Make sure the model you choose has enough intensity range – because some people find their devices to have too less or too high intensity. Having a wide range intensity level helps to customize it as per your requirement. Power is also a factor to check out if you want a good intensity range.
4. Is there a Timer Option?
If you like to run the device for a predetermined length of time this feature can be handy. The timer lengths usually vary depending on the brands. Some of the manufacturers have designed their devices with auto-shut off feature – which means that the device will automatically switch-off itself once the predetermined time is completed. This can be a beneficial feature for some but however some may feel it frustrating, especially if they want relief for a long time.
5. What About the Battery of the Device?
Before purchasing the tens unit, make sure what kind of batteries it rely on. If it is standard ones then they can be easily replaced. Some devices can consume a lot of power – so it is better to stock a pile of the batteries handy. Alternative of standard battery is rechargeable ones. They are more convenient if you have to use the tens unit daily. Most of the modern devices (but not all) have rechargeable
6. What is the Ideal Size?
If the size really matters for you – example – if you want to take it to office, tours, meetings or outings then this feature is very important to consider. The sizes of the devices present in the market vary widely – choose the one which is perfect for your requirement. Some of them are so small and discreet that they fit easily into your handbags.
7. Is the Screen Appropriate?
Though some people find it not so important, but having an appropriate screen space that has good clarity and readability is very important. Some come with button controls and some with touch screen options – choose the one that you are comfortable with. Because it can be too frustrating to have a device that you cannot operate.
8. Does it Have Interferential?
The interferential therapy is only available in some handful of tens units. The working principle of this therapy is that – 2 different electric pulse levels are sent to the affected area which will confuse/interrupt the pain signals that are being sent to the brain. Thus you will get good relief from the pain quickly.
9. Does the Device Also Have EMS?
EMS stands for electrical muscle stimulation. To be precise, TENS will provide pain relief by blocking the pain signals. However, an EMS works by contracting the muscle to provide the same. Devices with EMS are best suited for sport-enthusiasts as they have to manage pain without reducing the strength level.
10. Is the Manufacturer Providing any Accessories?
Before purchasing, check out if the device comes with any extra accessories like car charger, additional pads or conductive gel. Though this seems to be very small consideration but buying them separately can an additional cost. So, having them along with the device makes it more affordable.
Who Should Use a TENS Unit?
TENS unit is very helpful in treating different conditions that lead to chronic or acute pains. We have mentioned some of them below…
1. Menstrual Cramps
Many clinical studies proved that TENS unit is effective in reducing menstrual cramps. If this is your priority then choose a tens unit that is specially designed for this purpose.
Sciatica nerve (longest nerve in the body) runs through lower back until the lower leg. People dealing with sciatica issue experience intense pain. A TENS unit blocks the signals to the brain which provides relief from the pain. These devices are often recommended by doctors for those suffering from sciatica.
3. Plantar Fasciitis
Electrical stimulation generated by TENS unit has shown to reduce the discomforts caused by plantar fasciitis.
4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A tens unit is very effective in providing relief from carpal tunnel syndrome. All you have to do is just place the dual channel on both side of hand and wrist.
TENS unit have shown to reduce inflammation in many clinical studies. That is why, it is often prescribed for treating the discomforts caused by tendonitis.
6. Migraines and Headache
As per many researches, tens unit has been proven to be an effective treatment for migraines and headaches. It also helpful in preventing them.
7. Nerve Pain and Neuropathy
As tens unit is known to stimulate the nerves, it is considered to provide amazing solution to nerve pain. This device is even an effective drug-free alternative for neuropathy. (1)
8. Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetes is one of the common complications that responds well to TENS unit. But the users are recommended to take extra precautions while using this device as the electrode gel can cause some skin irritation.
The pain associated with Fibromyalgia is often relieved by a TENS unit. It is even more effective when combined with other solutions like exercise.
Many researches and clinical studies have expressed mixed effectiveness on whether a TENS unit can provide relief from arthritis related pain or not. However, many organizations and doctors have suggested to use it for getting relief from daily discomforts associated with arthritis.
11. Labor Pains
A TENS unit is a drug and invasion free solution for handling the pain during labor. It helps to block the signals sent by uterine contractions to brain.
12. Muscle Cramps
When it comes to pain in muscles, tens unit has shown amazing effectiveness. It is also helpful in increasing the motion range of the muscles too.
Apart from these, a TENS unit is also helps in treating other health conditions and illness that include…
- Muscle joint pain.
- Bone problems and discomforts associated with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia.
- Lower back pain.
- Neck pain.
- Acute pain like labor pain and long-lasting chronic pain like cancer pain.
Who Should Avoid Using a TENS Unit?
Usually, a TENS unit is safe to use. However in some rare conditions, it can lead to some side effects that include…
- The electrical impulses can be too harsh for certain patients which can lead to skin irritation or burning sensation.
- Pregnant women should avoid using this device as the effect of electrical stimulation on fetus is still unknown.
- Heart patients should take precautions while using this machine.
- People with skin allergies can have negative reactions to electrode pads.
- Persons using infusion pumps, pacemakers or defibrillators are often recommended not to use any kind of electrical current stimulation producing devices.
- If you have pacemaker or any implanted electronic device.
- Avoid using it on skin lesions, over the front part of the neck or carotid artery and on the head.
- Do not use it on broken or desensitized skin.
Note: To avoid any side effects, it is better to consult physical therapist or chiropractor to know the correct method of using it. Make sure to follow the instruction carefully. If you are thinking to use a TENS unit in combination with any conventional medical treatments then talk to your doctor before itself. It is recommended to forgo the medical treatment and just rely on TENS unit.
TENS and EMS – Are They Similar?
TENS unit is used for stimulating electrical impulses to block the pain signals in the nerves. However, an EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) unit is specially designed to stimulate the muscles to provide relief from swelling that puts strain on muscles and supporting joints. Once the swelling is reduced, function and dislocation of joints (by strained muscles) are relieved.
EMS is often recommended by doctors for muscle spasms, joint stiffness and edema that lead to loss of function and discomforts. Because they are well-known for stimulating local blood flow and increasing motion range. They are perfect for increasing blood flow in neck and back as they are the most common areas that tend to suffer a lot of muscle tension.
To be precise, an EMS unit is very helpful for…
- Improving blood circulation.
- Strengthen weak muscles.
- Relieve muscle atrophy.
- Relieve muscle spasms.
- Stimulate and re-educate muscles.
- Improve motion range that is disturbed by illness or injury.
- To prevent thrombosis in lower legs.
Which Unit Should you choose – EMS or TENS?
It can be a difficult task to choose between the two options if you don’t know the primary cause of the pain. So, it is better ask your physical therapist which machine is helpful in dealing with your situation.
If you are currently taking medication related to nerve pain then TENS unit is suitable. However, if you are under medication for muscle pain, stiffness, knots or spams then an EMS unit is helpful. In some cases, a person may suffer from chronic pain that involves both muscles and nerves. If you are one of them then you can try a device that is a combination of both EMS and TENS.
TENS Vs Nerve Conductive Testing
Normally, these two device seem to work similar: electrodes are places on the skin and electrical impulses are passed through the tissues. However a tens unit is therapeutic but nerve conductive testing is unpleasant – high voltage and amperage make it feel like series of electrical shocks. The main purpose of nerve conduction is to measure the health of peripheral nerves by understanding how much they take to conduct electricity.
Precautions to Consider While Using Wireless TENS Unit
Just like any other machine, you have to follow certain precautions to avoid side effects.
- Never immerse a TENS unit in the water.
- Avoid placing the device close to excessive heat.
- Never use it while driving or operating machinery.
- Never use it or place it near heart monitors or alarms.
- Don’t place the electrode pads on carotid arteries, eyes, across front of head, on abdomen if pregnant, on heads of kids under the age 12 and near malignant tumors.
- You have to periodically change the pad’s position.
- Never sleep TENS machine on without a timer set.
- Avoid using it for more than one hour at a time.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is a TENS Unit Safe to Use?
Normally, a TENS unit is completely safe to use regularly. However, if you misuse it then this device can be harmful. So, it depends on how you use it.
2. How to Operate a TENS unit?
As per the instructions provided by the manufacturer, you have to place the electrode pads on the affected area. Now, turn the intensity up until you experience buzzing sensation or tingling sensation. You can increase the intensity until you feel strong but make sure it is comfortable range. This unit usually have different programs like tingling, pulsing versus and constant versus. You can choose among them depending on your comfortability.
3. What is the Maximum Time to Use a TENS unit?
If you are new to use this device then start with 10 – 15 minute program. Once you are familiar with it, you can slowly increase it for up to 30 minutes to 2 hours. You can use it several times in a day if needed.
4. Can we Use TENS Unit at Home?
Yes, it is completely safe to use this device at home until you use it as per the instructions provided by the doctor or manufacturer. This device is considered to be the best when it comes to get relief from pain at home.
5. How does it feel While Taking the TENS Therapy?
The person using it usually experience a pleasant tingling sensation or something similar to low electric shocks on the skin where the electrode pads of the device are placed.
6. How Much Time Does TENS Unit Take to Work?
Usually, a TENS unit will work instantly. However, you have to use it for at least 30 minutes in order to reach the maximum affect. The therapy usually lasts for about 30 minutes after switching off.
7. Is it Ok to Use TENS unit with Other Pain Relief Methods?
Yes, it is safe to use a tens machine with other methods like prescribed medication. However, it is better to consult a doctor before using it.
8. Where to Buy a TENS Machine?
These devices are widely available in many websites like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Walgreens and others. However, if you want to purchase it locally then visit any pharmacy store.
9. Are TENS units Really Effective?
Yes, these devices are very well known to provide relief from a number of different conditions. However, you have to choose the right one as per your requirements.
10. Does a TENS unit helps in Building Muscle?
Usually, a TENS unit that is set on high intensity levels may contract muscles. But it is not suitable for strengthening or toning the muscles.
11. Is it Safe to Use a TENS Unit While Pregnant?
Usually, this device is used as alternative therapy for dealing labor pains. However, it is not recommended to use while pregnant, especially under 36 weeks. So, it is better to consult a gynecologist for proper guidance.
12. Are TENS units Covered By Insurance?
Most of the insurance companies cover these devices as they are used for chiropractic pain. However they may have certain requirements for approval. As every insurance plan is different and has different deductibles, it is better to call your insurance carrier for more accurate information.
13. Can I Use TENS unit for Pain Relief during Labor?
This device is considered to be safe and effective during labor. In order to receive more benefits, experts recommend not use the unit continuously during contractions. It is important to control the pulse strength and frequency as per the convenience. If initiated during early labor stages, this device can be continued to established labor if the doctor deems it is safe.
14. Is a Prescription Required for Purchasing a TENS unit?
It is not necessary to have a prescription for buying this device. However, if you have any specific health issues then you consult a doctor to prescribe a tens unit that is perfect for your condition.
15. What Preparation is required for Using TENS unit?
Usually, preparation is not required for using a TENS unit. All you have to do is just place the electrode pads on the affected area, above the overactive nerves and switch on the machine. If you are home user then learn how to place the pads properly. Normally, a doctor will know them correctly in terms of healthcare setting.
16. What Results Does a TENS unit provide?
The transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation provides quick and long lasting relief from cramps. During this therapy, endorphins are released and nerves are controlled which relieves the pain.
After repeated sessions of TENS therapy, some people often experience permanent relief from the pain. Some people need a prolonged usage of this device to achieve this condition. The effectiveness of this therapy usually range by treatment intensity and condition.
17. Is TENS Unit Useful to Relieve Dental Pain Caused by Oral Surgery?
Whether electrical stimulation is effective in relieving for post-surgical jaw pain is still unknown. There are no enough studies conducted on this to provide accurate answer. So it is better to discuss regarding it with your dentist or oral surgeon.
18. What is the Difference between Modes and Programs
Usually, there is no much difference. Some of the manufacturers prefer to use the term programs while some others use modes. They refer to the same thing so you don’t have to worry about that much.
19. How Can I Make the TENS electrode Pads Sticky Again?
It is very common that the electrode pads get less sticky after certain uses. Once of the reasons for happening that are dirt, oil and debris. As these things reduce the stickiness, the electrode pads no longer stick to the skin. So, cleaning them regularly improves the life of the pads.
All you have to do is – just use a clean cloth or paper tissue to clean it. After cleaning, gently brush the pads with a toothbrush. This will ensure the pads will get sticky again. If you want to really extend the life of the pads then use electrode gels or sprays. They will help the pads stick to the skin and also make them more efficient in conduction of electrical pulses.
Note: Lack of care is the main reason why electrode pads don’t last long. Applying the pads on an unclean surface will make them lose the elasticity.
20. Are there any Disadvantages of Wireless TENS Unit?
A wireless tens unit is specially designed to be small and compact. A large TENS unit (that has wires) has many programs and functionality than compact tens unit. Wireless unit will not have as many electrode pads as a wired one.
And moreover wireless tens unit are powered by batteries – which means that they have limited power. As the batteries will run out, you have to always keep a backup ready. Some wireless devices many not be effective for chronic pain.
TENS unit provides a therapeutic pain management for health related issues like pain, herniated disc, sciatica, fibromalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and several others. They are discreet, flexible, wireless and affordable too.
As per the editors: “Healthmate Forever” has to be your first choice. However, you can choose any one as per your convenience.
If you have other queries or want any information about TENS unit then write to us in the comment section below. We will reply to them as soon as possible.