Best TENS unit comparison guide

The past few years have brought many new options for people seeking alternative treatments for pain. Home applied TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) therapy has become quite popular. Portable TENS units are pocket size, battery operated devices that send low-voltage electrical currents along nerve fibers to reduce pain. There is a wide variety of affordable options on the market these days, and our guide can help you find the best TENS unit for you.

Below the guide, the column titles are explained, and there is also more in depth information about the various features to consider. You can sort the table any way you like by clicking on the column headers. For example you can sort the table by price, power source, or rating:

ModelPowerCost# of padsDual channel# of modesRating
truMedic TENS Unit4 AAA batteries$29.774Y54.4
Balego TENS 7000 Dual Channel Stimulator9v battery$45.0040Y54.5
iReliev TENS Unit3 AAA batteries$49.958Y84.6
Zewa Spabuddy Sport Tens Pain Therapy3 AAA batteries $68.934Y84.4
Healthmateforever Handheld Electronic Pulse MassagerRechargeable lithium battery (USB option) $49.996Y64.4
PurePulse Duo EMS & TENS Combo Device3 AAA batteries$79.996Y144.6
HealthmateForever Pro-8AB upgrade 2014 versionRechargeable lithium battery (USB option) $99.994Y104.4
HealthmateForever 8 Pad Electronic Pulse Massager3 AAA batteries $27.408N154.3
Prospera Electronic Pulse Massager4 AAA batteries $24.994Y54.0
Omron Pain Relief Pro PM30312 AAA batteries $49.892N84.3
Omron electroTHERAPY Pain Relief Device PM30302 AAA batteries $26.512N34.2
ChoiceMMed TENS Professional Pulse Massager2 AAA batteries$21.144Y83.7
AccuRelief Mini TENS System3V CR2032 battery$16.722N13.8
AccuRelief Single Channel TENS System2 AAA batteries$34.994N64.3
AccuRelief Dual Channel TENS System3 AAA batteries$29.734Y64.3
AccuRelief Wireless TENS System6 AAA batteries$49.882N13.8
Santamedical TENS Handheld Electronic Pulse Massager4 AAA batteries$27.404Y64.4
PurePulse Electronic Pulse Massager4 AAA batteries$29.994Y64.5

The 7 columns in the guide are:

  • Unit manufacturer and model name (click to view more details or to purchase)
  • Power source – either rechargeable by USB, or disposable batteries
  • Price – These are current prices on Amazon.com in U.S. dollars. Outside the U.S., click the price in dollars to see the price in your local currency. In some cases prices will be different depending on which vendors have the unit in stock.
  • Number of electrode pads included with the control unit
  • Whether the unit is dual channel or not (see below for more info on the dual channel option)
  • Number of different modes or programs the unit is capable of
  • Rating – This is the average user rating on Amazon.com. It can be very helpful in deciding whether people were satisfied with their purchase.

Same product, different packaging

The differences in most of the units in our guide above are obvious just by looking at them. But if you look closely at a few of the units, you might notice that they look extremely similar (see the TruMedic, the PurePulse, the Prospera, and the Santamedical). In fact, literally the only difference between them is the brand name and logo. The units themselves are exactly the same model, made by the same manufacturer.

Best TENS unit comparison guide

What happens is that a big manufacturer in China sells the same unit to several different distributors in the United States. Each of the distributors then puts their own name and brand on the unit, in their own branded packaging.

Though the product is the same, different distributors offer different prices. Sometimes the prices can vary quite a lot. Some brands use good merchandising to get people to pay more for the same item. Don’t get caught paying more for a prettier box!

Besides price another factor to consider is the legitimacy of the seller. Some sellers will stand behind their products if you need to return or exchange the unit for any reason, while others may not. If this concerns you, make sure to do some research on a seller before making a purchase.

So which is the best TENS unit for you?

Determining your price range is always a good first step when shopping, and TENS units are no exception. If you’re on a tight budget, make sure to factor in the cost of batteries. Disposable batteries of all types will need to be replaced periodically, and that can really add up if you use the unit on a regular basis. Choosing a rechargeable unit will save you money over time.

When considering the different options available, it’s important to think ahead about how you will be using the unit. For example if you have pain in more than one area, you may want a dual channel unit. This will allow you to work on two different areas with different intensity levels.

Two channels can also be used on two people at the same time. That’s a nice feature when watching TV or relaxing with a friend or partner.

TENS unit LED screen

The number and type of modes of operation can vary a lot between units. Some have many options, while some have very few. Some can be more involved to operate, while others may be very simple.

Omron TENS unit controls

All TENS units have adjustable intensity levels, and most have timers or cycles.

Electrode pads and replacement pads

All TENS units come with reusable and replaceable self-adhesive conductive gel pads. The pads can vary in size and shape. This may be a factor to consider, depending where on the body you intend to place them.

The number of pads may be important in finding the best TENS unit for you. Having 4 or more pads will allow you to work on different areas, or have a greater focus on a single problem area.

After use, pads should be rinsed off with water. Washing them with anything more than water will cause them to age prematurely.

Even if rinsed with care, the conductive gel coating on the pads will wear down with use. Replacement gel is affordable and widely available, however some people find it messy or difficult.

The other option is to replace the pads. Replacements are available in many shapes and sizes. They are also widely available in larger quantities, with significant discounts in cost per unit.

TENS unit electrode pads

When replacing the pads, make sure that the lead wires of the replacement pads are compatible with your TENS unit. Lead wires are the wires that connect the electrode pads to the TENS unit, and there are several different types on the market that are not compatible with each other.

Electrode placement

How you place the electrodes is extremely important in making sure you have an effective TENS session. The basic concept is to place an electrode on either side of the painful area, so that the electrical impulse directly crosses the affected muscles. This great video explains the concept in detail:

A drug free solution to pain

We’ve found home applied TENS treatment to be an effective and safe alternative treatment for pain. The best TENS units can provide immediate relief for a variety of musculoskeletal pains.

Since home units have become so affordable, they’ve become a go-to device for any one looking for self applied pain relief. Instead of paying outrageous rates for physical therapy or massage, you can now treat yourself at home on your own schedule for free.

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21 thoughts on “Best TENS unit comparison guide

  1. Dear sir; I am looking for one of these pulse massager, I really do not know which one to buy,i purchase the smart relief,and I does not work;i have a few pain areas,to you recommend more than one. thanks for your trouble ps I saw it has to be a Tens and not Ems. thanks ciro

  2. Hi Ayal, you said that TruMedic, the PurePulse, the Prospera, and the Santamedical are he same and the only difference between them is the brand name and logo. The units themselves are exactly the same model, made by the same manufacturer. Why then do they all have different ratings..?

    • Hi Ben- Great question. The ratings we quote are average user ratings from Amazon, and there can be noise in the numbers which depends among other factors on the number of people who have rated each product. In this particular case, averaging the ratings of the models mentioned would be more accurate than looking at their individual ratings. More generally it shows that ratings aren’t an exact measure of quality, but rather how people feel about a product. Sometimes this can be influenced by packaging, presentation, and the like. Price may also be a factor, for example if people feel like they got a good deal or not. Anyway ratings should always be taken “with a grain of salt”.

    • Hi Gina- Very interesting question. Balego is the original manufacturer of the “TENS 7000″, and are currently selling their 2nd edition (which is more powerful than the 1st edition). A company called Roscoe also sells a model called “TENS 7000″, but it’s only for use on the lower back (it comes with a “conductive electrode support belt”, as opposed to pads which can be applied a variety of places around the body).

      • I am a bit confused by your statement. To the best of my knowledge the TENS-7000 is only imported by Rosco Medical and sold to many different resellers. Also, the TENS-7000 is a different packaging then the TENS-7000 To Go.

        • Hi Federico- That’s a good question. As far as we can tell, both Balego and Roscoe have identical units called the TENS-7000, they are just branded differently. Hope that helps!

  3. Dear Sir, I have used a tens 7,000 for many years now And I must say it is a good one. But I spend so much in 9 volt batterys. And unforntatly I need a new one. I was looking for one that is not to expensive, with a plug in adaptor. What do you think of the Intensity 10 tens unit compared to the tens 7,000?

    • Hi Kim- If you use your TENS unit frequently, going through batteries quickly can definitely be an issue. For this reason we prefer rechargeable models (even though many are called “USB rechargeable”, they come with a standard wall power adapter that plugs into the unit via a USB jack). We haven’t personally tested the InTENSity 10, but judging from user reviews it looks like a solid alternative to the Tens 7000. Whichever model you decide on, perhaps think about purchasing it from a vendor with a good return policy in case it doesn’t suit your needs for any reason.

  4. Tens units were once only available through medical prescriptions, but now you can buy a tens unit right online.

  5. I have a quick question about the TENS unit. First i wanted to know if the electrodes are actually helping build resistance to pain or is it like aspirin where the more you take the less you feel? Second question is what is the long term damage, if any, of using the unit in the same area? Thanks in advance! Good videos by the way :)

    • Hello Stewart, thanks for your comment and questions. A physical therapist explained to us that the TENS unit doesn’t cure the pain but provides temporary relief to allow comfort and the ability to function better. I would not say “the more you take the less you feel”, as each person will react differently. Regarding your second question, we haven’t heard of any long term damage from using a TENS unit in the same area, but it can possibly cause harm if misused so it is important to carefully read the instructions.

  6. I’m looking for a tens unit that has two channels that can be controlled separate of each other so I can use it higher on my back and much lower on my shoulders. Also, I like a few of the presets most of these have to offer but would prefer something that has a steady pulse or constant electro current.
    Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for your help…..Chris

    • Hi Chris- From our experience, most dual channel units will allow you to control the intensity of each channel separately, however both channels will use the same preset mode/pattern. Regarding presets we too prefer slowly oscillating pulses, and fortunately all of the units we’ve tried have at least one option for that. So it sounds like most dual channel units would suit your needs.

  7. I’m looking for a tens unit that is good for the back. I’m more interested in the units that are able to plug into the wall instead of batteries. Which one would you recommend?

    • Hi Junior- All TENS units basically run on the same technology, so any should be good for your back. Regarding units that can be plugged in, you want a rechargeable unit, USB or otherwise, as opposed to a non-rechargeable option that uses regular batteries such as AAA or 9v. Sounds like any option that’s rechargeable should fit your needs.

  8. Another category might be the style of electrode pads. I’ve been using a TENS that has a probe rather than a button, and because I am using it on my foot, the probe works better than having a “pebble” in my shoe.
    I’ve been using the newest TruMedic. It has a rechargeable battery (not 4 AAA’s) and worked very well while I was selling them.
    Now that I’m sold on TENS I need a $40-$50 unit that’s rechargeable, has the right kind of electrodes and dual channel.

    • Hi Millicent- Thanks for the nice comment and great suggestion. We’re planning on upgrading our guide in the next few months, and we’ll certainly take a look at the various styles of electrode pads. Glad to hear the probe is working for you!

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