Community Curated • Updated 03, 2019
Pain relief doesn’t always need to come from pills and other pharmaceutical means. Nowadays technology is becoming more and more efficient in relieving pain and providing comfort for people that have chronic or acute pain. The TENS machine is one such very handy means.
TENS machines are devices that stimulate the nerves in parts of the body in order to treat pain in affected areas of the musculoskeletal system. The word TENS is actually an abbreviation for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation - it actually tells you how the machine works in relieving pain. This machine stimulates the nerves by directing low electrical current through the skin.
TENS machines are very handy devices for people that don’t want to use chemical substances in order to reduce pain and can be very helpful during the months of pregnancy as well. In fact, some people prefer using a TENS machine because it acts in a way that stimulates the body’s production of endorphins, which are hormones that act as natural painkillers of the body.
The TENS machines are used for different kinds of muscle pain, as well as pain in the knee, back and neck. TENS machines are also used for period pain, as well as labor. Unfortunately, these devices still haven’t got the spotlight they deserve, which is why we have them on our sight, and we’ve made a guide on the best TENS machines you can find at the moment.
In here you can find some general info on the TENS machines, as well as a FAQ section that answers some of the questions people are most interested about when it comes to TENS machines.
If you want to have a longer read, check out this article on the reasons why you should use a TENS machine. If, however, you want to read up more on TENS machines, pregnancy and labor, please make sure to check out this very informative article.
Meanwhile, we strongly recommend going through this guide we’ve prepared for you, which, hopefully, by the end of it, it will have succeeded in eliminating all doubts about what kind of TENS machine you want to get.
The HealthmateForever brand is one that really stands out. While the premium HealthmateForever TENS units such as the T12AB are one of the most expensive ones, it’s still very much worth considering buying one. If you can afford the splurge, you won’t regret it. The Touch Screen T12AB is an elegant TENS unit that combines modern hi-tech technology with traditional therapeutic devices. Like other machines it uses a combination of TENS and EMS, amplifying the body’s natural pain-relief activities. It comes with 12 pre-programmed massage modes that produce sensations varying from acupuncture to tapping and deep tissue massage. This dual channeled TENS unit offers you the 12 modes in both channel A and channel B – what’s more, the channels are perfectly isolated which prevents reducing the strength in half. In fact, reviewers have been rave about the power production of T12AB, which is basically the most important thing you need in a TENS machine. And, it also comes with a rechargeable internal lithium battery which can last up to 10 hours of continuous use, so you’re spared the hassle of constantly running to the supermarket for fresh batteries! We realize that the price can be a bit of a stretch, and there are other TENS units on the market that can do the job as well, but the HealthmateForever is truly a well-established brand that is a leader in the TENS units market, which means it always manages to set the standards high.
Hailed as a tightly packed handy little pain relief device, the Zewa SpaBuddy Sport can definitely compete with devices that are much higher in the price range. It contains a set of convenient features made very easy to handle and operate, which makes it suitable even for the most technologically-resistant people out there. The SpaBuddy comes with 8 types of pre-installed massage programs which are aimed towards relieving you of different sorts of chronic and acute pains that you might have. Like most good TENS units, it has the very desirable dual channel option and its own timer; it also has 30 intensity levels which match a power output of 100mA, a rarer find in TENS machines, usually reaching 80mA, which makes this a powerful little machine. What makes the Zewa SpaBuddy quite special is how easy it is to use – it has only three buttons (plus the -/+ intensity controls) which makes it a hassle-free device, that doesn’t give you too many manual settings to adjust. It’s perfect for people who want to set up their therapy fast and be up and running or just sit back and relax and let the machine do its magic. One design flaw, though, would be the lack of backlit display, while there have also been some complaints connected to the name of its programs, which are referred as P1, P2, P3 and can be inconvenient when trying to differentiate between them. A better solution would’ve been for the programs to be abbreviated. Otherwise you’d have to have the instruction booklet by your side until you memorize them. Apart from this, the SpaBuddy is a perfectly mobile, lightweight and small-sized device that allows you to carry the comfort of pain-relief almost anywhere!
Obviously, we cannot avoid talking about a TENS machine that was number one best seller on Amazon. And we’re not surprised, considering its highly affordable price. But, is it worth it? The truMedic PL-009 has 5 preprogrammed auto-simulation programs, each for a different region of the body, which is a very practical thing when you’re seeking a specific treatment for a particular area. The great thing about Auto-simulation programs is the fact that they’re very convenient for first time byers or novices in the ways of TENS machines. If you’re a pro and search for more complicated settings where you can have more choice in customization of your therapy sessions, then maybe you’ll want to look for another machine. The PL-009 is another dual channel machine, with its own intensity controls for each of the channels and two or four pads that can be used at the same time. It has 10 intensity levels which makes it a very fine device in terms of the strength control it gives you during the therapy sessions. An underside to this machine, which can be rather of a hassle, is the 15-minute auto-stop in the programs option. This means that if you want a treatment longer than 15 minutes, you will have to select the settings once more and start again. The good side of this might be that it can stop you from overusing the machine and causing even further soreness. A great option for first time byers and people who seek easy to operate machines, as well as having one of the lowest prices on the market, the truMedic PL-009 definitely justifies its number one bestselling place on Amazon.
HealthmateForever’s Pro15AB has been praised a lot and that hasn’t been unearned. Standing among the higher priced TENS machines out there, it would definitely justify its cost if you decide to give a little extra. This machine is abundant with features whose wealth and versatility might make them suitable for the more specific pain affected areas. The beast features the Pro15AB has to offer is dual channel system, which is great for treating two affected areas at the same time. In fact, HealthmateForever pioneered this highly practical and innovative feature, which also makes them a superior brand to a lot of dual channel TENS machines out there. This not only means that you can treat two different places simultaneously, because the machine can withhold two separate settings and programs for each place you want to treat, but it also means that you can operate this machine like two separate devices. So you basically get two machines for one! The Pro15Ab also has a built-in rechargeable lithium battery, a very nice backlit easy to read LCD screen, an EMS option, and it has a wireless pad option compatible with the WI9 wireless HealthmateForever TENS receiver (not included in the kit though). Overall, this is one of the top-notch TENS offer that you can find – comes with all the basics you need and much more!
We’re still not sure whether the retro, bulky design is intentional or not, but it’s nevertheless charming and it serves a good purpose. The TENS 7000 doesn’t shy away from effectiveness and pain-relieving efforts. It’s a device that has long been around and has still kept its integrity. It has 5 modes and with them 3 other adjustable settings that give you a lot of flexibility and much higher control during your therapy sessions than a lot of other machines. It also comes with a timing option, which means that you can choose the exact amount of time you want your session to last. Like the majority of machines, the TENS 7000 is designed as a dual channel device and can be used with two or four pads at a time. It also has higher intensity levels than other TENS machines, which usually range from 0mA-80mA. The TENS 7000 has a range to 100mA, which can provide additional stimulation to painful areas. The downside might be that it’s not rechargeable, but that might be its only real downside. Reviewers have applauded the protective cover that goes over the intensity controls, something that has been a problematic design flaw in other such products – you certainly don’t want a nasty surprise by accidentally sending the intensity from the lowest setting to the highest in a flash! The TENS 7000 has a protective cover that won’t allow these kinds of inconveniences in already sore areas. The great thing is that it also has a protective cover in the front, which prevents other unwanted and accidental maladjustments during therapy sessions. In short, the TENS 7000 allows you to tailor your pain-relief experience and adjust it to your own needs – not all machines can be this adaptable. And, it comes with such a great price!
While not the most expensive muscle stimulators on the market, the iReliev is still among the higher priced TENS machines. The iReliev contains both the TENS and EMS combination therapy unit, which means that you get two kinds of therapies in one device. Basically, the TENS covers the nerve stimulation and the pain relief part, and the EMS covers the muscle contraction recovery and strength training part. The iReliev comes with 14 therapy modes: 7 for the TENS mode, 6 for the EMS and 1 Arthritis TENS mode. Some customer reviews have complained about the low backlight of the screen which is harder to see in the dark. Otherwise it’s a solid product – it’s powered by 3 AAA batteries which amount to 15 hours of use (batteries are included in the pack). It’s portable and has easy to use, intuitive design (even reminiscent a bit of Apple’s early iPods); it also contains a lock function to prevent injuries and is said to maintain up to 60 minutes of continuous treatment. Finally, we can say, compared to other TENS machines on the market, the iReliev isn’t that much different or more exceptional than the rest, although it is a high quality product that will satisfy your pain-relief demands!
A TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a small device that’s operating on batteries, which is used for treating pain in the musculoskeletal system. TENS machines function by sending and delivering low current electrical impulses, through the means of electrodes with adhesive patches (also called sticky pads) on them that can be attached on a person’s skin. The low electrical current goes through the electrodes in order to get to the tissues and muscles of the body. Once it reaches them, it causes a tingling sensation in the areas treated.
With the production of electrical impulses, the TENS machine helps to reduce the pain signals that go towards the spinal cord and the brain, which can also help to relax the muscles, and additionally aid in the pain relief process.
TENS machines aren’t considered harmful. There may be a slight risk of a potential mild shock coming from a faulty machine, but the ones that are being sold on the market are pretty weak machines and don’t really pose any danger.
Sometimes it happens that people overuse the TENS machines and this, in turn, causes skin irritation around the place where the electrodes stand on the affected areas of the body.
The TENS machine works by sending low electrical current through the skin and to the muscle and other tissue that’s affected. Large surface electrodes are attached to the skin in order to stimulate the nerves lying underneath, thus helping to relieve the pain.
The TENS machines work in two ways, with a low and high pulse rate.
The regular method of use of the machine is when it set on a high pulse rate (which goes between 90-130 Hz). In this rate, the machine generates electrical impulses that interfere with pain messages which are sent to the brain, and also block them.
The other method of use is when it is set on a low pulse rate (ranging between 2-5 Hz). With this method, the machine stimulates the body by making it produce its own pain-reducing hormones (endorphins) which actually act like blocking agents to the pain signals.
The TENS machine is considered as a safe device to use and has very little to no side-effects. Sometimes people may develop allergic reactions to the sticky pads or adhesive patches, although this can be easily solved by getting latex-free pads that will counter the allergic reaction.
Another potential side-effect might come by overusing the machine. Overuse usually causes soreness in the area that’s being treated. Be mindful of the intensity settings of the machine - if it’s set too high, it can cause muscle twitches and other sensations that are unpleasant.
The answer is a simple - yes. TENS machines have been used for quite some time now by pregnant women, helping them to reduce labor pain.
TENS machines are generally considered a low-risk, drug-free and non-invasive option for pain relief in early labor, and sometimes later stages of pregnancy.
Burdened with recurring back pain, some women in their late stages of pregnancy opt for the TENS machine, rather than the usual painkillers. Opinions are not entirely conclusive whether the TENS is entirely safe to use while carrying, but a large number of experts agree that these machines should be used after the 37th week of pregnancy. It is important to note that the energy applied to the affected area is not positioned in a way in which it can affect the fetus.
The TENS machine is more commonly used during early labor and can help ease the pain and discomfort caused by the contractions. If the doctor and midwife decide it is safe for use after the early stages of labor, then the TENS machine can also be used during established labor.
Considering it is an electronic device, the TENS may not be suitable or convenient for all births. It is not recommended for people with pacemakers, and cannot be used in the shower/bath or once you get an epidural. Before using the TENS machine during pregnancy or labor always consult first with your doctor.
TENS machines are considered safe to use during labor. Some hospitals even have TENS machines you can rent during the hours you need it the most. TENS machines are most effective in the early stages of labor, when there’s a recurring lower back pain. TENS machines aren’t that effective (or aren’t effective at all) in the active phases of labor, when the contractions are longer, more frequent and stronger.
TENS machines during labor are usually attached to the lower back, with each patch on both sides of the spine. The intensity of the TENS machine can be adjusted by will during the period of contractions.
There’s not a strict rule on how long you can use a TENS machine in labor. In fact, you can do it as long as you want or as long as possible in the labor phases. Also, you can use the TENS machine as much as you want even after you give birth. Post-birth use of the TENS machine can help you with the pain following the placenta delivery. It will also not, in any way, interfere with breastfeeding in those crucial months of nursing.
TENS machines are thought as pretty effective when it comes to relieving your labor pain, without any or very little side-effects. This doesn’t mean though, that they can be used for every type of pain that occurs in the body.
The great stuff about TENS machines is that they can treat the pain in areas which are affected, can also be combined with other treatments.
TENS machines can be sort of like a hidden gem between the plethora of pain-relief methods used by people all around the world.
If, as we suppose, this is your first time using the machine, please make sure to take it easy in the beginning, even if you’re not able to see immediate results of pain-relief. It’s best to always consult with your doctor or gynecologist before you set off to buy a TENS machine.