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The Best TENS Units for Back Pain
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit can be used for neck and back pain relief. Electrode pads are attached to the body parts that have chronic pain. Electricity is then delivered at specific intensity levels. The treatment reduces pain signals that are sent to the brain while stimulating the production of endorphins. Your physical therapist may have recommended a TENS unit for home use to help with your chronic pain. The therapy is ideal for people who want to reduce the amount of medication that is used for pain relief.
TENS is clinically proven to reduce chronic and acute pain. The impulses that are delivered from the unit through the electrode pads send a rush of signals to your brain. This rush of signals overshadows the pain signals. Electrical impulses from the units also cause your body to release endorphins as natural pain relievers. After the treatment, your pain level is reduced. You may need to use your TENS machine each day, but you should discuss the therapy with your doctor first.
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Best TENS Units for Back Pain
- TENS 3000 Unit
- Digital TENS 7000
- Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Twin Stim® III
- Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ 10 Digital TENS Unit
- MAXTENS 2000 Digital TENS Unit
- MAXTENS 1000 Analog TENS Unit
- Ultima 5 TENS Unit With Timer
- Ultima 3 TENS Unit With Timer
- Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Select Combo
- Core® Pain Remedy Wireless TENS System
For detailed information about each TENS unit, please refer to our reviews below.
About TENS Units
TENS machines are available to consumers and licensed clinical providers. Some units can only be sold to healthcare professionals. You can find units that are easy to use, portable, flexible, and able to withstand rigorous use in a variety of settings. Some units, such as ours, are designed to provide multiple therapeutic modalities, such as EMS, IF, and MC.
What Can Be Treated With TENS Machines?
TENS units are approved by the FDA to help with various types of chronic pain, such as:
- Certain spinal injuries
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Sports injuries
- Labor and childbirth
What to Look for in a TENS Unit
In some cases, people who use TENS units on a regular basis find that they develop a tolerance to a single setting, so you want to find a TENS machine that has settings that will provide benefits over time.
Before you choose a TENS machine, you will need to understand some terms that are used when describing the units. The pulse width of a unit describes how long the machine delivers the current with each wave. Muscle stimulation is most effective with longer pulse widths, and shorter pulse widths are best for pain relief. Pulse amplitude is how intense the current is when delivered. If you choose a higher amplitude, the current will be more noticeable during the treatment. If you are new to TENS units, you should start with the lowest amplitude setting and slowly work up to the higher amplitudes based on your comfort and how well the treatment helps your pain. The pulse rate or frequency describes how often the current is delivered by the unit. This may be one or two pulses per second. Pulse rate is described as hertz (Hz) or pulses per second (pps). Most TENS units offer pulse frequencies between one and 250 pulses per second.
Electrode pads are another feature of TENS machines that affect how well the unit works for you. Many TENS systems come with four pads that will last for a few uses. You can replace the pads as needed. The pads stick lightly to your skin and help deliver the current into the nerves and muscles. The owner’s manual of your TENS machine will describe where to place the pads during treatment. The pads can be attached at any angle. The key is to ensure that the pad is in the right area of the body parts that you want to treat. In general, you want to place the pads at the source of your pain, and you should use at least two pads for each treatment. The pads can be stored in between uses. Be sure to check how many pads come with your TENS system before purchasing so you feel confident that you have what you need to use the unit.
Here are the top 10 TENS units that are approved by the FDA for chronic pain management.
Most Affordable TENS Unit: TENS 3000 Unit
The TENS 3000 unit is a top pick for a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation machine because it has advanced technology that allows you to precisely control the intensity levels of nerve stimulation. The timer for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and continuous operation helps you control the length of the treatment without having to keep and eye on your watch or a clock. You simply relax while the unit does the work. It uses a 9V battery, so you can use the unit anywhere and anytime. The unit is dual channel with three modes. This is a great option if you are looking for a TENS unit that is affordable, portable, and easy to use. The unit must be ordered by a licensed healthcare professional.
The TENS 3000 unit is easy to use, reliable, and affordable. It is quite effective for treating pain and stiffness in several areas of the body. The precision control allows you to adjust the stimulation to patient comfort to ensure that the treatment can be provided for the time needed. Because the TENS 3000 unit is battery-operated, you can take it with you.
Key Features of the TENS 3000 Unit:
- Digital intensity controls
- Maximum output of 80ma
- Easy to use
- Includes a cap to protect the amplitude knobs, carrying case, electrodes, battery, and user’s manual
- Weighs only 4.05 oz
- Uses a 9V battery
The TENS 3000 unit for licensed healthcare professionals lets you treat your patients quickly, safely, and effectively.
Most Features in a TENS Unit: Digital TENS 7000
The dual channel Digital TENS 7000 unit is approved by the FDA for pain management for people who want to be less reliant on medications. The unit has five modes, including burst, modulation, normal, and two strength duration settings. Burst mode allows you to adjust the burst and pulse rates at a constant 100 Hz frequency. Modulation mode offers a combination of pulse width modulation and pulse rate. Normal mode allows you to adjust the pulse width and pulse rate. The two strength duration modes provide a pulse width in the 70% range with automatic modulation intensity. Each channel provides up to 100ma in amplitude. You can store up to 60 sets of operation records for a total of 999 hours that can be shared with your physical therapist and other clinicians. The timer can be set in five-minute increments.
The unit comes with electrodes, a 9V battery, a hard plastic carrying case, and a user’s manual. This unit is approved by the FDA for over-the-counter sales to non-clinicians. The unit is one of the most powerful TENS machines available for over-the-counter purchase. The dual channel design allows you to treat two areas of your body simultaneously to shorten treatment time and maximize pain-reducing benefits. The recording feature is unique among TENS systems. You can review the records as needed to ensure that the therapy is being applied appropriately.
Key Features of the Digital TENS 7000:
- Five operating modes – burst, modulation, normal, and two strength duration settings
- Weighs only 5.3 oz
- Uses a 9V battery for portability
- Designed with a patient compliance meter for record keeping
- Includes hard carrying case, self-adhesive electrode pads, battery, lead wires, and owner’s manual
As a consumer and professional TENS machine, the Digital TENS 7000 has the features that are needed to reduce chronic and acute pain.
Best TENS + EMS Pain Relief: Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Twin Stim® III
The Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Twin Stim® III offers a combination of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). You can choose from four modes of operation for TENS – burst, normal, and two modulation settings. For EMS, you have options for synchronous, delay, and asynchronous. The unit operates with an AC cord that is included, or you can use two AA batteries to keep the device with you. This unit can only be purchased by healthcare professionals.
This is a nice compact TENS machine that automatically turns off if one of the electrode pads comes loose during treatment. This saves you time and ensures that the therapy is delivered as intended. With easy operation, a portable design, and four modes to choose from, the InTENSity™ Twin Stim® III is a good fit for many applications.
Key Features of the Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Twin Stim® III:
- Two power sources – AC cord and two AA batteries
- Offers TENS and EMS
- Weighs only 5.5 oz
- Pulse rate of 1 to 150 Hz for TENS and EMS
- Four TENS modes and three EMS modes
The combination of TENS and EMS in the Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Twin Stim® III makes it a favorite among healthcare professionals who manage chronic pain conditions.
Most Presets in a TENS Unit: Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ 10 Digital TENS Unit
The InTENSity™ 10 Digital TENS machine by Current Solutions™ is an affordable option for you to use for chronic pain management. It is designed with 10 presets for different areas of your body, so it is extremely easy to use. You operate the unit by pressing only two buttons. This TENS machine comes with four electrode pads and can operate with a 9V battery or the AC power cord that is included. The TENS machine delivers a pulse rate and width based on the area where it is being used, such as your neck, hip, foot, middle of the back, lower back, upper back, knee, wrist, shoulder, and ankle. The unit delivers either fixed or modulating stimulation based on where you use it.
The unit features a design that has been clinically proven to effectively and safely treat chronic pain, and it can be adjusted for the specific part of the body to ensure that the stimulation is delivered appropriately. The unit is lightweight, compact, and easy to operate. With four electrode pads included, the InTENSity™ 10 Digital TENS machine can treat two areas of the body simultaneously.
Key Features of the Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ 10 Digital TENS Unit:
- Ten presets for pulse width and rate based on the area of the body
- Battery and AC powered
- Includes four electrode pads
- Operates by the press of just two buttons
With 10 presets and a range of other features, the Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ 10 Digital TENS machine is an affordable option for chronic pain treatment for many body parts.
Most Durable TENS Unit: MAXTENS 2000 Digital TENS Unit
Available to licensed healthcare professionals only, the dual channel MAXTENS 2000 Digital TENS machine offers flexibility and function. You can adjust the amplitude, pulse rate, and pulse width to provide unique therapeutic benefits. The built-in timer can be set for 15, 30, 45, and 90 minutes as well as continuous operation. The package includes four reusable electrode pads and a cover to protect the machine from accidental changes to the settings during the treatment.
As a fully adjustable TENS machine, the MAXTENS 2000 Digital TENS unit offers the flexibility you need to treat various pain conditions that occur throughout the body. The construction is solid, and the settings are protected with a hard cover.
Key Features of the MAXTENS 2000 Digital TENS Unit:
- Weighs only 4.3 oz with the battery installed
- Battery lasts up to 30 hours with normal operation
- Burst, constant, and modulation settings
- LCD monitoring
- Dual channel
Most Battery Life for a TENS Unit: MAXTENS 1000 Analog TENS Unit
Available only to licensed healthcare professionals, the MAXTENS 1000 Analog TENS unit comes with a protective cover to prevent changes to the settings during use. You can set the timer for 15 to 30 minutes. The pulse width, amplitude, and pulse rate are all adjustable to tailor the treatment. This is a great unit for acute and chronic pain conditions. The package includes four reusable electrode pads, and the unit operates with a 9V battery for portability.
The MAXTENS 1000 Analog TENS unit is easy to operate so you can start treatment quickly. The power of this little unit is enough to help with chronic and acute conditions in as little as 15 minutes. The design makes this an easy-to-store TENS machine, and it easily fits into a small travel bag.
Key Features of the MAXTENS 1000 Analog TENS Unit:
- Dual channel
- Weighs only 4.5 oz with the battery installed
- Operates on normal settings for up to 50 hours
- Burst mode allows for adjustable pulse width at a frequency of 100Hz with a burst being delivered every second
- Modulation mode automatically cycles the pattern every 10 seconds with a linear decrease
Best Bang for Your Buck TENS Unit: Ultima 5 TENS Unit With Timer
The Ultima 5 TENS Unit with Timer is available to licensed healthcare professionals only. The dual channel TENS machine has two burst modes, two modulation modes, and a continuous mode. The first burst mode operates at a pre-selected pulse width, and the second burst mode allows you to modify the pulse width. One of the modulation modes allows you to change the pulse rate while other settings are predetermined. The unit has a timer for 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes. The Ultima 5 TENS Unit with Timer has a LCD screen that measures 52.5mm x 35.8 mm.
With a compact design, digital display, and affordable price, the Ultima 5 TENS Unit with Timer offers the flexibility you need to help manage pain. The 9V battery power makes it portable and easy to take with you. Having five modes of operation lets you use the TENS machine for multiple applications.
Key Features of the Ultima 5 TENS Unit with Timer:
- Timer for 15 to 60 minutes and continuous operation mode
- Includes four reusable electrode pads
- LCD monitor
- Uses 2 AA batteries
- Dual channel
The compact, lightweight Ultima 5 TENS unit is a great option for clinicians who want an affordable machine.
Best TENS Unit for Beginners: Ultima 3 TENS Unit With Timer
With three modes of operation, the Ultima 3 TENS Unit with Timer offers licensed healthcare professionals with the flexibility needed for their chronic pain management treatments. This dual channel TENS machine can be set for normal, modulation, and burst modulation operation. Pulse amplitude operates from zero to 80 mA, pulse width from 60 to 250 microseconds, and pulse frequency from two to 150 Hz. The pulse width and frequency can be adjusted. Timer settings are 30 minutes, 60 minutes, continuous, and no timer.
This unit is easy to program before starting treatment, and the analog design may be more intuitive and user-friendly for people who have not used a TENS machine before. The wide range of pulse amplitude, width, and frequency allows the unit to be used for treating chronic pain in several areas of the body. The Ultima 3 TENS Unit with Timer is a good, affordable option.
Key Features of the Ultima 3 TENS Unit with Timer:
- Weighs only 4.4 oz with the battery
- Operates on a 9V battery
- Includes four reusable electrode pads
- Easy to use
- Designed with a cover to protect the setting adjusters during operation
The analog design of the Ultima 3 TENS unit makes it easy to operate, even for those who have never worked with TENS units before.
Best Combination TENS Unit: Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Select Combo
The InTENSity™ Select Combo by Current Solutions™ combines TENS, EMS, inferential (IF), and microcurrent (MC) in one unit. For TENS and EMS treatments, you can use a frequency of one to 150 Hz, pulse width of 50 to 300, and current of zero to 100 mA across four modes of operation. For IF, the unit can be operated with four modes. The MC settings include three modes of operation. The unit has a timer for one to 60 minutes of constant operation.
The portability and flexibility of the Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Select Combo makes it a good choice for use in the office and for visiting patients in their homes and other environments. You can switch between TENS, EMS, IF, and MC easily based on the patient’s comfort during the treatment. The unit is durable, even with heavy and frequent use.
Key Features of the Current Solutions™ InTENSity Select Combo:
- Includes electrode pads, power cord, 9V battery, user’s manual, carrying case and lead wires
- Flexible to treat a variety of pain conditions
- Operates at 105 mA
- Portable and easy to use
- Unit has four TENS modes, three EMS modes, four IF modes, and three MC modes
If you see patients for pain management treatments in a variety of settings, the Current Solutions™ InTENSity™ Select Combo allows you to deliver TENS, EMS, IF, and MC therapies in one device. The flexibility and design ensure that your patients receive the best therapeutic option for their individual needs.
Most Portable TENS Unit: Core® Pain Remedy Wireless TENS System
The Core® Pain Remedy Wireless TENS unit offers the ultimate portability and ease of use. No lead wires are needed. You simply place the electrode pads in the area being treated, adjust the settings, and perform the treatment. The unit comes with rechargeable batteries. The ergonomic design makes the unit easy to use. You adjust the settings with buttons on either side of the unit.
The Core® Pain Remedy Wireless TENS System delivers equal power as other devices, yet with the convenience of a wireless operation. The batteries last for several hours with continuous use. The compact, lightweight design allows for easy storage, even when traveling. It can be used to treat two different areas of the body to save you time and maximize the therapeutic benefits.
Key Features of the Core® Pain Remedy Wireless TENS System:
- Wireless – no lead wires needed
- Rechargeable batteries included
- Comfortable and easy to use
- Portable for use in the office or at home
- Can be used on the neck, back, shoulders, and other areas of the body
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What exactly is a TENS unit?
A TENs unit is a piece of equipment used in a chronic pain treatment called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENs) therapy. This small battery-operated device transfers low-voltage electrical impulses through electrodes into a patient's skin. To properly provide pain relief, the electrodes must be close to nerves at the pain center or trigger points.
What does a TENS unit do?
Chronic pain is a disorder that alters the way your brain and nerves react to pain. As part of the reaction, neutrons in your brain activate pain. There is also pain deactivating neutrons in your brain. When your body is pain-free, there is a balance between your pain-causing neurons and your pain-canceling neurons. Conversely, chronic pain results from overstimulation of the pain-causing neurons and under-stimulation of the pain-stopping neutrons.
Both neurons accomplish their tasks by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters that can send pain signals or stop pain signals. The TENs machine sends electrical pulses at 90-130 Hz to block pain messages sent to the brain. As a result, the brain recalibrates and restores the balance between the pain-causing and the pain-canceling neutrons emissions. Unlike other chronic pain treatments, TENs devices are most effective when engaging in activities like walking, doing housework, or exercising.
What conditions are TENS units used for?
TENS therapy uses the TENs machine to treat long-lasting and short-term pain in the muscles, nerves, and joints. With this in mind, a TENs device provides effective treatment for people who have fibromyalgia, bursitis, tendinitis, chronic pelvic pain, low back pain, diabetic neuropathy, and osteoarthritis. Also, TENS devices are effective with labor pains and anxiety.
Does a TENS unit relax muscles?
When you attach the electrode pads to your skin, the TENs unit sends the electrical impulses through the pain center, causing a tingling sensation. The electrical impulses curb the pain signals headed to the spinal cord. One of your body's main reactions to pain is muscle spasming. So, your muscles should relax as the pain subsides.
Are TENs units safe for regular use?
In general, TENS devices provide safe pain treatment for almost everyone. In addition, the use of this machine has no side effects. However, you must not use a TENs machine if you have undiagnosed pain, a pacemaker, a pregnancy, Epilepsy, or certain types of heart disease. Some users' skin may turn red or get irritated from an allergic reaction to the pads. As a result, special pads are available for those who experience this problem.
Do you have to be certified to use a TENs unit?
TENs units are safe and easy to use. You don't need to earn a certificate to use one. However, the device may not work for you. As a result, you shouldn't use a TENs unit without instructions from a doctor or a physical therapist. These healthcare providers can show you the proper way to use your unit. Otherwise, you could misuse it and burn your skin.
Even though the TENs device is easy to use, you will need to know exactly where you should put the electrode pads, the amount of power to use, and the regimen. Your doctor or physical therapist will help you with these details. Also, you may need several TENs therapy sessions with your healthcare provider to determine whether your unit will reduce your pain. Sometimes, it may take a trial run with several different types of machines and settings before finding one that provides the needed treatment for you.
Where can I buy TENs units?
TENs are available for sale over the counter at pharmacies and drug stores. Also, they are available online through quality suppliers like ScripHessco, which has over 40 models of portable TENs units for sale. Plus, they have a wide range of digital TENs units and analog TENs units from major brands like MAXTENS, TENS, InTENSity, Quattro, and Ultima. All the products come with a one-year warranty. For more information or to find answers to all of your questions, call our knowledgable customer service line for more information.
What are the different types of TENs units?
When you're looking to purchase a TENS unit, think about what kind of pain you plan to manage. TENS units are categorized by the following features:
Intensity Levels: The higher the intensity level, the stronger the electrical current sent from the unit. Most units offer 80mA. Higher intensity levels are usually prescribed by doctors.
Pulse Rate: The pulse rate measures the rate at which the electrical currents are sent from the device. There are options such as 2-10 Hz for mild pain or 80-120 Hz for chronic pain.
Channels: You can get a TENS unit with a single channel, dual channels, or a quad unit with four channels. More wires and channels mean you can target different areas of your body at one time.
Electrodes: You can select from wired or wireless electrodes.
Tips for purchasing a TENS device?
A TENS unit is not only easy to use but entirely safe as well. But before purchasing a TENS unit, you should be aware that some insurance providers may pay for your TENS unit, provided the pain treatments are medically necessary. You should, however, consult with your insurance provider to confirm if it will pay for the TENS unit.
Tips you need to consider when purchasing a TENS unit include:
- Before purchasing a TENS unit, you should consult your doctor or pain management therapist. A doctor or physical therapist helps determine the cause of the pain and can advise you on using the device safely. While a TENS unit is safe for use in most individuals, those who are pregnant or suffer from epilepsy should not use them.
- Let your doctor or pain management therapist be the first one to use the TENS unit on you. Before using your TENS unit at home, it's always advisable to let your doctor guide you on using the device. While a TENS unit is not complicated to operate, it's always good to learn how to use it from specialists. They help you understand where to place the electrode pads and the amount of power needed to achieve the best results for your level of pain.
- It takes time to know if a TENS unit will work for you. In addition to guiding you on using the TENS unit, you will be required to book several sessions with your doctor or physical therapist to determine whether the TENS unit will work on your pain. Doctors will try several modes on you while adjusting the settings until an optimal level is achieved. At the end of your sessions, they will advise you on the best mode for your pain.