10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

best tens unit 2020
Take a pill-free approach to pain relief with the best TENS unit – ultimate guide

A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit is a device that pulses electricity to stimulate the nerves for a variety of therapeutic reasons, but mostly as pain relief in aching muscles and joints.

If you’re in the market for a TENS unit, you might find it to be challenging especially without a well-written and detailed guide (like this one) on the best TENS unit available.

TL;DR – We recommend the iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Unit.

iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Therapeutic Wearable System Wireless TENS Unit + Muscle Stimulator Combination for Pain Relief, Arthritis, Muscle Conditioning, Muscle Strength

It has a wireless design that makes it ABCD easy to use, works great over 4 isolated channels, has 14 built-in programs, and allows you to gradually increase intensity from 1 to 20.

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How we selected the best TENS Unit

The best TENS Units should primarily help to ease your muscle and joint pain. We reviewed 18 different models of TENS units noting how their intensity settings, available programs, channels and isolation, and pad placement all combined to achieve this primary function.

In addition to that, we also considered how easy to use all the models were, and if the included settings and instructions were clear enough.

Other considerations include decent battery life, the longevity of the pads included, easy access to extra/replacement pads, and manufacturer warranty.

Finally, we separated the FDA approved units from the rest and decided to run with them.

Note: We ignored subtle details like length of the connector cables, type of connector pin, the material of the carrying case (hardshell case vs fabric), and type of buttons (digital vs analog dials) as long as they did not impact the overall performance of the machine.


10 of the best TENS Units you can buy in 2020

  1. iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Unit
  2. TechCare Plus 24 TENS Unit
  3. iReliev TENS + EMS Combination Unit
  4. Compex Sport Elite 2.0 TENS/EMS Unit
  5. Omron Avail TENS Unit
  6. TechCare Touch X TENS/EMS Unit
  7. AUVON Dual Channel TENS Unit
  8. TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit
  9. iStim EV-804 TENS/EMS Unit
  10. TEC.BEAN TENS unit

iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Unit

ireliev wireless tens - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

The iReliev wireless TENS + EMS unit is the most comfortable, versatile, and easy to use TENS unit we reviewed and bags our top spot for those reasons.

It is a combo TENS + EMS unit consisting of a remote control equipped with a blue backlit display, physical buttons, and a rechargeable battery; and two separate wireless receiver pods that attach to the pads. To use the device, you simply need to stick the pads with the attached receiver pods to the desired part of your body and control them with the remote.

The device has 14 programs (8 for TENS and 6 for EMS) and 25 levels of intensity which means that you can get really small intensity increments. Also, you can run separate programs on different electrodes simultaneously as this model has fully isolated channels.

When it comes to battery life, you can get about 6 – 8 hours from both the pods and the electrodes before you need to recharge your unit. The included pads are rated for 20 to 30 uses, and you can only replace them with proprietary iReliev pads.

For warranty, you’ll have two years to replace your device for free if something goes wrong.

While it is pricier than most of our other picks, the convenience and added features are worth paying extra for.

Pros

  • Best wireless TENS unit available
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Easy to use
  • 25 intensity levels
  • Comes with a hard carrying case
  • Portable to take around

Cons

  • Top tier price
  • Small display
  • Nothing else really

Quick Comparison Table

ProductConnectionChannelsIntensity LevelsProgramsMax. OutputIncluded Pads
iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Therapeutic Wearable System Wireless TENS Unit + Muscle Stimulator Combination for Pain Relief, Arthritis, Muscle Conditioning, Muscle Strength
iReliev Wireless TENS + EMS Unit
WirelessQuad (fully isolated)251480mA2
TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit with Accessories
TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit
WiredDual105100mA4
iReliev TENS + EMS Combination Unit Muscle Stimulator for Pain Relief & Arthritis & Muscle Strength - Treats Tired and Sore Muscles in Your Shoulders, Back, Ab's, Legs, Knee's and More
iReliev TENS + EMS Combination Unit
WiredDual251480mA12
Compex Sport Elite 2.0 Muscle Stimulator with TENS Bundle Kit: Muscle Stim, 12 Snap Electrodes, 10 Programs, Lead Wires, Battery, Case / 4 strength, 2 warm-up, 3 recovery, 1 TENS
Compex Sport Elite 2.0 TENS/EMS Unit
WiredQuad fully isolated99910120mA8
AUVON Rechargeable TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator, 3rd Gen 16 Modes TENS Machine with 8pcs 2'x2' Premium Electrode Pads (American Gel) for Pain Relief
AUVON Dual Channel TENS Unit
wiredDual12208
Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator [Lifetime Warranty] 24 Massage Mode Tens EMS Machine Device Touchscreen Massager Intensity Deep Tissue Shoulder Pain Relief Sciatica Tendonitis Plantar Fasciitis
TechCare Touch X TENS/EMS Unit
WiredDual Isolated20248
Tens Unit TechCare Plus 24 Massager [Lifetime Warranty] Muscle Stimulator Device Machine Pulse Massager with Protective Cover Case Sciatica Plantar Fasciitis Tennis Elbow Back Shoulder Neck
TechCare Plus 24 TENS Unit
WiredDual Isolated20246
iStim EV-804 TENS/EMS 2 Channel Rechargeable Combo Machine Unit - Muscle Stimulator + Back Pain Relief and Management- 7 modes/24 Programs/Backlit (Including Electrodes Pads)
iStim EV-804 TENS/EMS Unit
WiredDual Isolated12248
TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator with 8 Electrode Pads, TEC.Bean 16 Modes Rechargeable Electric Pulse Massager Pain Relief Tens Machine for Back, Neck, Arm, Leg & Knee - Home Office Sport
TEC.BEAN TENS unit
WiredDual20168
OMRON Avail TENS Unit, Wireless Bluetooth Muscle Stimulator, Microcurrent Massage Therapy for Lower Back, Arm, Leg, Shoulder, Foot, Arm, and Arthritis Pain, Drug-Free Pain Relief (PM601)
Omron Avail TENS Unit
WirelessDual2010—-2
ProductConnectionChannelsIntensity LevelsProgramsMax. OutputIncluded Pads

TechCare Plus 24 TENS Unit

techcare plus 24 tens unit

Techcare Plus 24 TENS unit comes out guns blazing for the second spot in our list by having 24 programs, and 20 intensity modes at a sub $70 price. It is also very easy to use and scored top marks for comfort despite being wired.

Straight out of the box, you get the TENS unit, 6 large pads, 2 connection wires, a pad/wire holder, a charger, an instruction manual, and a small hard carry case.

The TENS unit itself looks like an older model smartphone with a large backlit display and buttons for navigating the UI. The battery life lasts a whopping 20 hours of regular use and the pads are reusable for 30+ times with proper care.

To top it all out, you’ll also be getting a lifetime warranty with the Techcare Plus 24 unit. We fully recommend this if you’re new to TENS therapy and don’t want to spend the premium price of our top pick.

Pros

  • No compromises at all
  • Great build and accessories.
  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • Comes with a hard carrying case
  • 20 intensity modes
  • 24 programs to choose from

Cons

  • The unit charges fairly slowly.
  • UI is a bit tedious to navigate.

iReliev TENS + EMS Unit (ET-7070)

ireliev tens + ems unit

Coming in third on our list is the iReliev ET-8080 TENS+EMS unit. It is essentially a wired version of our top pick. It comes with the same 25 intensity levels and a maximum of 80mA output, with 14 programs to choose from.

Out of the box, it comes with 8 reusable pads, 2 lead wires, a small carrying pouch, a wall charger and USB cable, and a belt clip holster.

One key difference is the larger screen of this wired model which is a good upgrade over the wireless model. You also get the same 2 years warranty that is offered with the wireless version.

Overall, it is a premium TENS device for anyone who prefers to have a wired version over the wireless model.

Pros

  • Portable unit
  • Great build and accessories.
  • Easy to use
  • Improved display over the wireless model
  • Dual isolated channels

Cons

  • No hard carry case included

Compex Sport Elite 2.0 TENS/EMS Unit

compex sport elite 2.0 - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

The Compex Sport Elite 2.0 TENS+EMS unit is built for PRO use only. It packs more power and features than any other TENS/EMS combo unit that we could get find.

For starters, the unit has a fully independent, fully isolated quad-channel wired setup. This means that you can run four completely separate TENS/EMS programs via four different electrodes at the same time.

It is quite bulky but relatively easy to control and comes with a very concise instruction manual. Other items you’ll find in the box are a travel pouch, 8 electrodes, 4 lead wires, and a wall charger.

Functionally, you get 0-999 intensity adjustments at 0.5mA increments! It also has 10 built-in programs, 9 EMS (4 strength, 3 recovery, and 2 warmup) and 1 TENS program. The battery charges very slowly, needing 6-8 hours to be fully charged, but lasts up to 18 hours.

We’d strongly recommend the Compex Elite Sport 2.0 TENS/EMS unit for anyone who wants a pro-grade EMS device that doubles as a good TENS unit.

Pros

  • Sturdy build quality.
  • Pads last longer than other tested units.
  • Easy to use
  • Pro-grade EMS features
  • Quad isolated channels
  • Very powerful device (120mA compared to 80mA of our top pick)
  • micro-adjustable intensity levels.

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Pricey
  • It may be too advanced for first-timers.

Omron Avail TENS Unit

omron avail tens - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

Omron Avail dual-channel wireless TENS unit is the only other wireless TENS unit among our top picks. It is a very simple and well-designed unit that comes out of the box with 2 wireless receiver pods, 2 pads, a charging station, a wall charger, and a storage box.

What makes it stand out from the iReliev Wireless TENS unit is that it does not come with a remote control unit. Instead, the TENS device is controlled by an Omron TENS app that you can download on your iOS or Android phone. This makes the Omron Avail incredibly easy to use and carry around.

It has 20 intensity adjustment levels, 13 preset programs (9 TENS and 4 massage programs), with battery lasting about 3-4 hours of use. The pads replaceable pads are rated to last for 30 uses and you also get a one year warranty on the device.

The Omron Avail is a great and easy to use TENS device for those who want to carry their TENS unit around regularly – just be sure to always carry the charger.

Pros

  • Very simple build that is easy as ABC to use.
  • Great build quality
  • 20 intensity adjustment levels
  • Comes with a hard carrying case

Cons

  • Short Battery life

TechCare Touch X TENS/EMS Unit

techcare touch - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

Do you want a great TENS unit that’s as close to a smartphone experience as possible? Then you should get the TechCare Touch X. We loved the Techcare plus 24 so much to place it 2nd on our list, and the Touch X keeps all the best features of the plus 24 and adds a larger touchscreen display.

Unboxing the Touch X TENS unit, you get the TENS device, 8 pads, 2 lead wires, a user’s manual, a USB cable and wall charger, 1 plastic case for storing pads and wires, and no carrying case.

Just like its older sibling, you get 24 massage programs and 20 intensity levels with a battery that lasts up to 20 hours. You also get Techcare’s lifetime warranty.

And at a regularly discounted sub $70 price tag, you can’t go wrong with the Techcare Touch X.

Pros

  • Unbelievable price point.
  • Great build and accessories.
  • Easy to use
  • Great battery life
  • 24 programs, 20 intensity levels
  • Best in class display size and quality.

Cons

  • Our unit did not include a carrying case

AUVON Dual Channel TENS Unit

auvon tens unit - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

The AUVON TENS unit is another great entry-level TENS unit at a bargain price. It is a dual-isolated unit with 20 preset programs and 12 intensity levels. It’s also easy to set up and use.

Out of the box, it comes with 8 pads, a wall charger, a pad holder, 2 lead wires, a user manual, and a soft carrying pouch.

The TENS unit itself has a fairly large display and some hard buttons for navigating the UI. It is equipped with a battery that lasts up to 10 hours of use, and the replaceable pads are rated for 20 to 30 uses.

Finally, when you buy the Auvon TENS unit, you get a 1-year warranty. This unit does not have any extra features and does not double as an EMS device. For a TENS unit regularly priced around $30, you’ll be getting a great deal.

Pros

  • Unbelievable price point.
  • Good build and accessories.
  • Easy to use
  • Good battery life
  • Good display

Cons

  • Only 12 intensity levels
  • No EMS function

TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit

tens 7000 digital tens unit - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

Our second spot is taken by a very basic unit that ticks all the right boxes. TENS 7000 2nd edition TENS unit is a dual-channel TENS unit that looks like a slightly overgrown cigarette pack. It is a wired unit that comes with 4 pads, one 9-Volt battery, lead wires, instruction manual, and a hard carrying case.

The TENS device has a bold non-backlit display, 4 soft buttons for navigating through the basic user interface, and 2 control knobs for adjusting the intensity of each electrode channel.

It is stronger and ‘zappier’ than our best picks with a max output current of 100mA, but only has 10 intensity levels. This means that you don’t get those micro intensity increments as our top pick. It also has 5 built-in TENS programs.

What you get with the TENS 7000 unit is a very powerful TENS unit backed by one year warranty for those who are on a very tight budget and do not mind the intensity jumps.

Pros

  • Unbelievable price point.
  • Great build and accessories.
  • Easy to use
  • Comes with a hard carrying case

Cons

  • Only 10 intensity levels
  • Not very portable
  • Non-rechargeable batteries need frequent replacement.
  • Screen is not backlit

iStim EV-804 TENS/EMS Unit

istim tens unit - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

The iStim EV-804 looks familiar – like the TENS 7000 we reviewed, except it actually has EMS function. It could have scored higher than the TENS 7000 which is just a TENS unit if it figured out how to create a useable instruction manual. This does not mean that the device is hard to use, it just needed a better explanation if you have to spend $50+.

On the plus side, you’ll be getting an overgrown cigarette box that ticks all the flaws of the TENS 7000. It has a rechargeable battery, a decent backlit screen, and 12 intensity levels. It’s still not as portable as our other picks, but it has a carry case that looks like a toolbox.

Once you get a hang of the UI, it’s pretty simple to use. The battery lasts a loooonggg time (30hrs+) on a single charge and the pads are reusable for 20 to 30 times. You also get a 1-year warranty with this unit.

Pros

  • Solid build and accessories.
  • Easy to use
  • Comes with a hard carrying case
  • Excellent battery

Cons

  • 12 intensity levels
  • Not very portable

TEC.BEAN TENS unit

tec.bean tens unit - 10 of The Best TENS unit 2020: Ultimate buying guide and Reviews

The final device to make our list a great entry-level TENS unit from TEC.BEAN. The unit is another strong option for those who are new to using TENS devices and just want something that works well without breaking the bank.

Tec.Bean TENS unit is a very portable dual-channel TENS device with a fairly large backlit screen and buttons for UI navigation and control. It comes with 20 intensity levels, 16 preset programs, and a battery that lasts more than 20 hours on a single charge.

Out of the box you get 8 pads, 2 lead wires, a wall charger, a plastic pad holder, a carrying pouch, and a user’s manual.

The unit is easy to set up and use and comes with a one year warranty for under $50.

Pros

  • Great price point.
  • Solid build and accessories.
  • Easy to use
  • 20 intensity levels
  • 16 preset programs
  • Good for first-timers

Cons

  • No EMS function

Do TENS units really work?

A TENS unit basically works by sending electric impulses via pads a.k.a electrodes to your nerves to block/scramble/reset pain signals.

The physiology behind a TENS unit is actually very old as it was reported that ancient Romans around 63 AD stood on electric fish by the seashore to relieve pain. Source

According to this research done in 2008 to determine the effectiveness of TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) for Treatment of Hyperalgesia and Pain, there was “positive treatment effects of electrical stimulation for relief of chronic musculoskeletal pain, and randomized controlled trials consistently demonstrate the effectiveness of TENS for acute, emergent, and postoperative pain conditions.”

In short, TENS units work!

Are TENS better than EMS?

TENS ( Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) differs from EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation) in their use and actions. A TENS unit uses electricity to stimulate the nerves to block pain of several causes.

On the other hand, an EMS unit uses electricity to stimulate the muscles and cause contraction. This can be used in muscle strengthening, rehabilitation, recovery from injury, and even cosmetic purposes.

While both TENS and EMS use electricity for stimulation, their effect and uses are quite different. In short, TENS is for blocking pain, where EMS is for stimulating muscles.

Can you overuse a TENS unit?

It’s very possible to overuse a TENS unit the same way you can overuse any other electronic device/gadget or pain medications out there.

Your doctor will typically advise you on how many times per day/week you can use a TENS unit to achieve optimum results. But we’re guessing not more than 3 times/day.

Does a TENS machine loosen tight muscles?

Loosening a tight muscle should be in the range of an EMS machine. However, most of the TENS units we reviewed are TENS/EMS combo units and so can serve this purpose for you.

As always, consult with your doctor to determine the best intensity and program settings if you decide to use an EMS unit.

Where should you not put a TENS unit?

The first obvious place will be in the water, as a tens unit delivers electricity and should not be submerged in water.
Next, it will be a great idea to avoid placing the electrode pads on your mouth, throat, temples, sinus nerves, and on swollen or inflamed areas of your skin.
Finally, you should never for any reason place the electrode pads of a TENS unit directly on your heart as this can send fatal electricity to your heart.

How can I make my tens pads sticky again?

Your set of electrode pads are only meant to last a certain number of uses, typically between 20 – 50 uses, with proper care. However, they can easily become less sticky and less effective after a few uses when not cared for or used properly.

One reason this happens could be the accumulation of oil and dirt on the pads. If that is the case, cleaning out with soft damp cloth should remove the debris and make them sticky again.

Another thing you can do is to try using electrolyte sprays and electrode gels that are made to specifically help the electrodes adhere better to your skin. Also, always remember to clean your skin before applying the electrode pads, and to clean the electrode pads after use.

Finally, our top pick, the iReliev Wireless TENS+EMS unit has a program, the iReliev Dollar Electrode Pad Club, to help you save money.

Can you wear a TENS unit all day?

Short answer; No. It is impossible to wear a TENS unit all day because they have sticky pads that gradually become less stick the longer you wear it. Some of the best TENS units will last for a few hours and not more.

Also, even if somehow you manage to wear a TENS unit all day, most massage programs are timed over 15 to 60 minutes making it very irrelevant to wear your TENS unit all day.

Does a TENS unit reduce inflammation?

There are no studies that demonstrate the direct anti-inflammatory effects of a TENS unit. However, this study showed that High-frequency TENS significantly reduced spinal glutamate and aspartate in animals with joint inflammation compared with levels in those without joint inflammation.

This means that the use of High-frequency TENS demonstrably reduced pain caused by inflammation by activating opioid receptors.

So while it is not exactly proven to reduce inflammation, it is proven to reduce pain caused by inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis.

How much does a good TENS unit cost?

There’s no specific ballpark price regarding the cost of a good TENS unit. As with most other tech items/gadgets, the higher price typically represents better value up to a certain point where you’re just paying for luxury.

Our top pick, iReliev Wireless TENS+EMS Unit costs around $180, while most of our other picks cost anywhere between $30 to $200 – except for the Compex Sport Elite TENS/EMS unit that cost $300+.

Is a TENS unit good for arthritis?

A TENS unit can be used for arthritic pain relief but does not cure your arthritis. Think of it as taking your regular pain medication.

You can use it at a particular moment to take the edge off when you feel acute pain, and you can use it regularly to reduce the episodes of pain you have generally. Buying a TENS unit is a great investment if you regularly use pain killers.

What should I look for when buying a TENS unit?

There are a few things you should look out for when buying a TENS unit. Fortunately, those are the same criteria that let us sift through a lot of TENS units to give you our top picks.

Firstly and most importantly, a good TENS unit should allow you to gradually increase intensity levels by having at least 10 levels (higher is better) so that you don’t go from mild to shocking in an instant!

Next, you should consider how easy it is for you to use the particular TENS unit and if it has a clear instructions manual. You should also consider if you want a TENS/EMS combo unit or a basic TENS unit.

Then you can look at basic features like the display, battery life, size/portability, and price of the unit.

Finally, you should consider if you want the most comfortable experience by buying a wireless TENS unit at a higher price, or if you can sacrifice the added comfort for a lower price.

After considering all these factors, we recommend;

…and any of our other picks if these are not available.

Last update on 2020-08-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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