The 8 Best TENS Units of 2021

Experience much-needed pain relief

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Our Top Picks
"A well-rounded product loaded with useful features, it has 24 stimulation modes, 20 intensity settings, and a dual-channel design."
"It boasts many of the same features from pricier devices and offers a good amount of possible modes and intensity combinations."
"Here's an investment-worthy unit that can be used completely wirelessly and has a four-channel design. "
"Small and lightweight, it can fit inside the user's pocket and can be taken on-the-go for up to 10 hours at time."
"With a long lasting battery and a built-in timer, it allows you to control the duration of the stimulation sessions."
Best for Back Pain:
AUVON TENS EMS Unit at Amazon
"It allows you to target different parts of your back—like your upper and lower back—in a more nuanced way."
"Designed to drape over your neck, you don't have to worry about wires or adhesive pads to replace over time."
"This comes with a pair of reflexology shoes and a massage belt, giving you multiple ways to stimulate your feet and body."

In physical therapy, there are a variety of methods for relieving pain and promoting recovery. One of these methods is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (also known as TENS). TENS therapy relies on a device—called a TENS unit—which delivers a low-level electrical current to pads (called electrodes) placed on your skin. 

“The electric current that TENS units provide serves to temporarily interrupt the body's pain signals and stimulate natural endorphins that relieve pain,” Dr. Brittany Ferri, Ph.D., an occupational therapist, says. Dr. Ferri touches on the key theories people have about why TENS units work. The first is that they interrupt your body's pain signals by stimulating nerve cells that block pain. The second is that TENS units prompt your body to release pain-curbing endorphins.

Many TENS units are designed for professional use only, but others are available over-the-counter. Though they're more widely available, consulting with an expert—like your primary care provider or a physical therapist—should be your first step before using one. Ensuring you're using it properly, they can make sure the TENS unit is helping you meet your recovery goals.

Here are the best TENS units on the market.

Note:

TENS units are not safe for all people. If you have cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, or a hemorrhagic condition, it may not be safe for you to use a TENS unit. You should also avoid using a TENS unit if you are pregnant or have an embedded electronic medical device. And you should never use a TENS unit on open or injured skin.

Best Overall: NURSAL 24 Modes Dual Channel TENS EMS Unit

Pros
  • Offers TENS and EMS modes

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Various intensity settings

Cons
  • Too feature-heavy for some

  • Electrode adhesive may wear

Nursal’s Dual-Channel TENS EMS Unit is a well-rounded TENS unit that’s loaded with useful features. The device offers 20 intensity settings and 24 stimulation modes—some of which are EMS modes, rather than TENS modes. And since the device has a dual-channel design, you can stimulate two different body parts at once, using a different intensity level for each.

The device’s long-lasting battery will give you up to 20 hours of use on a full charge. If you're not using the unit for a prolonged period of time, you can use the built-in timer to keep track of the duration of your stimulation sessions.

Stimulation Modes: 24 | Intensity Settings: 20 | TENS and EMS Modes: Yes | Battery Life: 20 hours

Good to Know

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) tries to disrupt your body’s natural pain cycle by delivering targeted electrical stimulation to certain parts of your body. Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) also delivers electrical stimulation to your body. But instead of combatting pain, it’s trying to boost muscle contractions and recovery.

Best Budget: Easy@Home TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator

Pros
  • Affordable

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Dual-channel for two kinds of stimulation at once

Cons
  • Fewer settings

  • Powered by AAA batteries

  • Electrodes come in one size

The Easy@Home TENS Unit is a budget-friendly device that has many of the features you'd expect from a more expensive option. It features a dual-channel design, so you can easily stimulate two body parts at once, and it offers six stimulation modes and 10 intensity levels, giving you a combined 60 settings to play with.

While some TENS units offer hundreds of combined settings, this could be a good alternative if low cost is on your list of priorities. The unit is powered by AAA batteries, meaning it will last longer than most rechargeable TENS units.

Stimulation Modes: 6 | Intensity Settings: 10 | TENS and EMS Modes: No | Battery Life: Not listed

Best Wireless: iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Therapeutic Wearable System

Pros
  • Completely wireless design

  • Multiple stimulation modes

  • Offers TENS and EMS modes

  • Four-channel design for multiple stimulation needs

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Fairly short battery life

Wireless and compact, the iReliev TENS + EMS Therapeutic System is a good option if you need to take your unit on the go. It comes with two wireless pods, which you can attach to your body, and since it can handle more, you can stock up on additional electrodes for future use.

Offering 25 intensity levels and 14 stimulation modes, the device boasts a four-channel design so you can run multiple kinds of stimulation at once. The TENS unit should last 5 to 10 hours on a full charge, and the electrode pods should last 3 to 5 hours. While it has a shorter battery life than some options, it's a worthy tradeoff if you prefer a device with a wireless design.

Stimulation Modes: 14 | Intensity Settings: 25 | TENS and EMS Modes: Yes | Battery Life: 5 to 10 hours (3 to 5 hours for the electrodes)

Best Portable: MEDVICE Rechargeable Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator

Pros
  • Small and lightweight

  • Multiple stimulation modes

  • Dual-channel for two kinds of stimulation at once

Cons
  • Short battery life

  • May not be very durable

At 4 x 2 x 0.3 inches, the Medvice TENS unit is a portable option that can fit in your pocket. Equipped with a convenient carrying bag, the 4.8-ounce device is lightweight and perfect for travel. It offers 16 stimulation modes and 20 intensity levels, and thanks to the dual-channel design, you can run two stimulation programs at the same time.

Because battery life matters when you’re on the go, the TENS unit is crafted to hold a charge for up to 10 hours at a time. That’s less than the 20-hour battery life you might get from some other TENS units, but it should be long enough to meet your traveling needs.

Stimulation Modes: 16 | Intensity Settings: 20 | TENS and EMS Modes: No | Battery Life: 10 hours

Best for Muscle Recovery: NueMedics Tens Unit Machine Pulse Massager

Pros
  • Multiple stimulation modes

  • Easy-to-use interface

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Dual-channel for two kinds of stimulation at once

Cons
  • Unclear intensity settings

  • Electrodes come in one size

NueMedics’ TENS Unit is easy to use on any part of your body, so it’s a particularly great option for post-workout recovery. The device has 24 stimulation modes, and since all of them are clearly labeled with words like “neck,” “shoulder,” “back,” and “knee," it’s easy to figure out which program to pick.

Featuring a dual-channel design, the TENS unit allows you to stimulate two body parts at the same time. You can also use the device's built-in timer to keep track of the duration of your stimulation sessions. With a 20-hour battery life, you won't have to worry about recharging it often.

Stimulation Modes: 24 | Intensity Settings: Not listed | TENS and EMS Modes: No | Battery Life: 20 hours

Best for Back Pain: AUVON 4 Outputs TENS Unit EMS Muscle Stimulator Machine

Pros
  • Multiple stimulation modes

  • Offers TENS and EMS modes

  • Four-channel design for a variety of stimulation options

  • Multiple intensity settings

Cons
  • Too feature-heavy for some

  • Electrodes come in one size

  • Battery life isn’t disclosed

Many TENS units are too small to stretch across your entire back, but Auvon’s TENS EMS Unit makes it easy to stimulate a large surface area in a single session. Helpful for any body part, it's especially beneficial when stimulating your back because it allows you to target multiple areas (like your upper back and lower back) in a more nuanced way.

The device offers 24 stimulation modes and 20 intensity levels, so you can rest assured knowing you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. And since the device comes with a built-in timer, you can kick back, relax, and let the timer notify you when it’s time for your stimulation session to end.

Stimulation Modes: 24 | Intensity Settings: 20 | TENS and EMS Modes: Yes | Battery Life: Not listed

Best for Neck Pain: Cunmiso TENS Electric Pulse Neck Massager

TENS Electric Pulse Neck Massager
Pros
  • Completely wireless design

  • Wearable

  • No adhesive pads necessary

Cons
  • Fewer settings

  • Extremely limited battery life

  • Not particularly versatile

With a unique design, the Cunmiso TENS Neck Massager is not your average TENS unit. It looks like a wraparound neck massager, but it delivers the same stimulation as most quality TENS units. Offering six stimulation programs and 15 intensity levels, it can be controlled with a convenient remote. It also comes with a built-in heater you can toggle on or off for heat therapy purposes.

It's designed to drape over your neck, so you don’t have to worry about wires or adhesive pads (which you’ll inevitably have to replace over time). One downside is that it has a short battery life of about 2.5 hours on one charge.

Stimulation Modes: 6 | Intensity Settings: 15 | TENS and EMS Modes: No | Battery Life: 2.5 hours

Best for Foot Pain: TechCare Plus 24 Modes Tens Unit Massager

Pros
  • Multiple stimulation modes

  • Long-lasting battery

  • Dual-channel for two kinds of stimulation at once

  • Ships with reflexology shoes and a massage belt

Cons
  • Intensity settings unclear

TechCare’s Plus TENS Unit ships alongside a pair of reflexology shoes and a massage belt, giving you multiple ways to stimulate your feet and the rest of your body. The unit offers 24 stimulation modes, and since it features a dual-channel design, you can run two stimulation programs at once.

If you want to add diversity to your session, you can take advantage of the included accessories. The reflexology shoes look like slides, but the insoles are textured with beads of different sizes to give your feet an intense massage. The belt can be worn around your waist, and since it’s compatible with your TENS unit, you can use it in place of more classic electrodes.

Stimulation Modes: 24 | Intensity Settings: Not listed | TENS and EMS Modes: No | Battery Life: 20 hours

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a TENS unit you can use at home, The Nursal Dual-Channel TENS EMS Unit (view at Amazon) is a solid option. It has 20 intensity settings and 24 stimulation modes—including both TENS and EMS modes—to relieve pain and promote muscle recovery. Plus, the TENS unit has a dual-channel design that makes it easy to deliver two kinds of stimulation at one time for a custom recovery routine.

What to Look for in a TENS Unit

Stimulation Modes

Most TENS units offer a variety of stimulation modes, similar to an at-home personal massager. If you’re happy with basic TENS unit settings, the extra stimulation modes may not be necessary. However, if you plan on having your unit for a while, a device with multiple modes may be a good investment.

Intensity Settings

The stimulation modes on a TENS unit affect the stimulation pattern—whether it pulses, how it pulses, etc.—and the unit's intensity settings affect the strength of the stimulation. You want to have control over these factors to ensure you're meeting your recovery needs.

TENS and EMS Modes

Many TENS units double as EMS units. As a reminder, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is commonly used to relieve pain, and EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) is commonly used to promote muscle recovery. So depending on your needs, having both options may be useful.

Battery Life

When it comes to electronics, battery life is always a key consideration. Though it’s unlikely that you’ll use your TENS unit for hours at a time, a long-lasting battery means fewer recharge sessions—giving you one less thing to worry about and making it good for travel.

FAQs

How does a TENS unit work?

A TENS unit delivers a low-level electrical current to a series of pads (or electrodes). Typically, you’ll place these pads directly on your skin—ideally close to nerves or other pain trigger points. This electrical current is thought to stimulate pain-blocking nerve cells or promote the release of endorphins, thereby relieving pain. 

How high should I set my TENS unit?

Dr. Karena Wu, D.P.T., owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, recommends setting your TENS unit to an intensity “where you feel it but it does not hurt.” For some, this could be the highest intensity setting, and for others, this could be the lowest. So, focus on what the experience feels like rather than focusing on the actual intensity setting as noted on the device.

How often can you use a TENS unit?

Before using a TENS unit, you should talk to an expert—like your primary care provider or a physical therapist. This person can help you understand how to properly use a TENS unit, as well as how often you should use a TENS unit. Many people can use TENS units for up to 15 to 20 minutes every day, but others may prefer to use a unit more or less. 

“People using this device at home should also strictly adhere to directions provided by a qualified professional,” Dr. Ferri says. So talk to an expert, and follow their specific instructions.

Can you overuse a TENS unit?

Yes, it is possible to overuse a TENS unit. “People who use TENS units may experience uncomfortable symptoms, like tingling, buzzing, or a vibrating sensation,” Dr. Ferri says. These symptoms are merely uncomfortable, but if you prefer not to experience them, you may want to cut back on your TENS unit use. 

On the more extreme end, Dr. Ferri says some people can experience burns and skin irritation when they use a TENS unit too frequently or for too long. And Dr. Wu says that people may become less sensitive to TENS units over time, meaning they’ll no longer experience the benefits of using one.

Both experts recommend using a TENS unit for no more than 20 minutes at a time. However, your doctor can give you personal recommendations on how long to use one for your personal pain and recovery needs.

Why Trust Verywell Fit? 

As a seasoned health and fitness writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands how vital quality product recommendations can be. She is careful to recommend products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well-reviewed by those who’ve tried them. 

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Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Updated January 15, 2020.