There are a number of ways to achieve pain relief, and using a TENS unit is one of them. TENS stands for trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which means that a TENS unit is a non-invasive electrotherapy pain management device. The unit works like any painkiller, by blocking the pain signals in the central nervous system, but without using any medication. Instead, it uses gentle electrical pulses that tingle slightly. Unlike painkillers, it only acts locally and does not affect the body in its entirety.
The device deals with aches and pains in the back, shoulders, neck, knees, toes or wherever your muscles ache. A TENS machine is also good for arthritis, period pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, injuries, or post surgery pain, or simply to relax your muscles.
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Note that it may not work equally well for everybody, and more clinical trials are needed to fully prove the effectiveness of the machine. However, there is a wealth of testimonials from people who have actually used the units and found at least short term relief. These units are safe and convenient, and there are no side effects as long as you use them correctly. This means avoiding contact with broken or irritated skin, tumors, injuries, placing the pads over the eyes or spine, etc. Moreover, if you take medicine for your pain, the unit can successfully complement your drug therapy. Electrotherapy and TENS units can be used not only to block pain, but also to prevent it in some cases. That is because electrical stimulation can produce endorphins that help your body fight against pain and reduce it even further.
The unit typically consists of the device proper, electrodes (or pads) and leads connecting these components; it can use 2 to 8 electrodes of different sizes, but most units feature 4 pads. Some devices require the use of a special gel with conductive and adhering properties; the gel comes between the skin and the electrodes to ensure the low voltage currents reach through the skin. Most units, regardless if they are standard or handheld, completely wireless or attached to a belt, work with either regular AAA or rechargeable batteries.
Each machine comes with its own settings; some medical conditions require more complex device features, while others can be managed successfully with a simpler unit, so read on to see which type of TENS machine may be more suitable for your condition:
1. truMedic TM-1000PRO Deluxe TENS Unit
If you are looking for a simple, yet effective pain relief device, the truMedic TM-1000PRO Deluxe TENS Unit is it. It features 20 power levels, from mild to very strong, which are useful for managing a wide array of aches and pains, and also for gently massaging stiff muscles. Lightweight and highly portable, it comes with its own carry pouch so that you can use it whenever and wherever you may need it.
One of the major perks is that this unit does not require batteries to work; instead, it draws power from its built-in Li-ion Cells that can be recharged whenever needed. Another plus is that it is suitable for use on most areas of your body, including wrists, elbows, calves, knees – areas that most other units cannot reach properly. Moreover, can treat two different body areas or two people at once, and it has a long treatment time of up to 2 hours per session.
The truMedic device is fully automatic, easy to use, with a clear LCD display, and can be purchased over the counter. It is accompanied by a set of spare electrodes, a full parts-and-labor warranty, and an instruction manual, so that you can use the unit properly.
2. HealthmateForever TENS unit
The pocket sized HealthmateForever TENS unit combines TENS and EMS physical therapies to lower pain and stimulate muscles at the same time. This is a dual channel unit, which means you can use up to 8 electrode pads simultaneously, which makes it highly effective.
The pads are self adhesive, thus rendering the use of a gel unnecessary, and can be reused up to 20 times; quality pads are important to save you money in the long run. The device features an auto mode plus 5 programmed massage modes, and various power settings so that you can set the intensity you are most comfortable with. It also includes a graphic chart of the recommended massage and treatment points, and this is very handy if you want to get the most out of your unit.
Moreover, the built-in timer shuts off automatically, and has a default setting of 20 minutes, even though the time can adjusted to anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes. This handheld and portable device has an in-built rechargeable lithium battery that lasts up to 2 hours when used continuously, but it can also be powered via any computer USB port (the USB charger is included). And, for complete peace of mind, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
3. Hollywog WiTouch Wireless TENS Unit
The Hollywog WiTouch Wireless TENS Unit is one of the most effective devices on the market, as it packs 20% more power while covering a treatment area that is 2.5 times larger than that managed by other portable devices. Thin, butterfly shaped, and made from a flexible material, it adheres perfectly to the contours of the back, as it was specifically designed for back pain. Moreover, it comes with replaceable gel pads that can be used multiple times.
The remote-controlled single channel unit is so comfortable and lightweight that you can wear it as often as you need; in fact, it can be worn under clothing and it will go unnoticed, due to its complete lack of wires and belts. The unit itself works with 2 AAA alkaline batteries, which can be a downside for some people as they will need to replace the batteries regularly and to make sure they always have a spare set around the house. However, the device was designed in such a way to maximize battery life and ensure they can handle about 150 treatments, 30 minutes each, before they require changing. All of these render the unit highly portable, which empowers you to have an active lifestyle as you can take it along when you travel.
4. HealthmateForever TENS Unit HM6ML
The HealthmateForever TENS Unit HM6ML (Black) alleviates pains and aches associated with back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, arthritis, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, fibromyalgia, etc. It comes with a lifetime warranty, one free pair of self-adhesive large pads, as well as a set of 4-in-1 wire connectors.
The unit is small and compact, and can be conveniently held in the palm of your hand, which makes it really portable. The best part about units like this is that you can switch between any of the 6 preprogrammed massage modes, namely acupuncture, cupping, tapping, tuina (push and pull), guasha (or scraping), and combination. And should you need to stop the unit immediately, the center button allows you to pause the program in the blink of an eye.
Many sufferers will find truly helpful the possibility of using 2 additional pads besides the 4 standard electrodes on many dual channel units. Thus, the 6 pads can be applied to two different areas at once, and they are larger than regular pads for proper coverage. Furthermore, the unit includes a lithium battery instead of the usual AAA batteries; the lithium is rechargeable, provides up to 10 hours of uninterrupted use, and saves you money.
5. HealthmateForever TENS unit HM6G
If you are looking for an electronic pulse massager that is easy to use and that relieves pain deep in the tissue, the HealthmateForever TENS unit HM6G (Silver) is your best bet. It can be used as an alternative to pain medication, or it can complement that if you and your doctor so decide.
The unit combines ancient Chinese therapy with the latest technology to help with most types of pains and aches caused by inflammation and stiff muscles. To this end, it has 6 preprogrammed massage modes (tuina, acupuncture, tapping, guasha, body building, and combination); while 5 of these programs help relieve pain, mode 5 focuses on body building, or toning your gluteal muscles.
One downside to this product is the lack of clear, detailed instructions, even though you can still figure out how to get the most out of the device. Like all Healthmate units, this one too uses the T button for accessing the timer; in fact, the device has an adjustable timer that can be set from 10 to 60-minute sessions, and the LCD screen will display the time you have left. You can also push the + button to increase the intensity, or the – button to decrease it, as needed.
6. Zewa Spabuddy Sport TENS Pain Therapy
The Zewa Spabuddy Sport TENS Pain Therapy is a dual channel unit with some unique features. What this means is that you can use all 4 pads at once, on different areas of the body, and that maximizes the efficiency of the device. The pads are pre-gelled and can be used several times, even though they reportedly don’t last as long as pads on other units, so add the cost of replacement pads to the price of the device. Nonetheless, the unit comes with a 2-year warranty and works for most types of muscle pains and aches.
The Spabuddy features 8 programs and 30 intensity levels, a large LCD screen that is very easy to read, as well as a timer that can be set to continuous, or adjusted to anything from 5 to 95 minutes. Moreover, it features a very handy lock button that prevents you from accidentally changing the settings when you keep the unit in your pocket, for instance. You should also know that it uses AAA batteries, which can be a disadvantage for users who prefer rechargeable ones. The unit is cleared by the FDA and can be purchased over the counter, which means you do not need a prescription to get the device.
7. iReliev Pain Relief System
Finally, the iReliev Pain Relief System is a powerful yet versatile TENS unit that comes with a 20-electrode pad set to relieve joint and muscle pain, while providing a soothing massage.
Users can choose between the 8 programs, and since it is a two channel unit, it works with both 2 and 4 pads at the same time, either on the same area, or on different parts of the body. iReliev comes with pre-gelled, large pads and replacement leads, which makes it a perfect gift. The kit saves money even further as the quality pads require no conductive gel to work properly.
If your aim is to treat back pain, you can wear this portable unit on a belt around the waist (you will have to purchase this separately, though), and the auto-lock feature helps keep your settings safe while you are active, travelling or walking. The device is super thin and compact, so that you can wear it underneath your clothing without anyone ever knowing it. That being said, the screen may not be large enough to ensure easy display reading, but that is not an issue with most people. Like most TENS devices, it comes with a 2-year warranty.
All in all, a TENS unit can be a healthier alternative to pain medication, and a great way to get immediate relief as it blocks pain only when it occurs. There are truly portable devices on the market for people who prefer to stay active at all times, while units that make use of rechargeable lithium batteries are more cost effective on the long run. Reusable pre-gelled pads are another handy feature to look out for, and if you follow the instructions on how to use and store pads properly, and buy a quality product to begin with, they can last for a couple dozen reuses.