Last updated: August 10, 2021

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Stimulation current therapy has been used in medicine for decades to relieve chronic and acute pain. With a so-called TENS device, you can also perform this treatment at home. This is a small, portable device. Electrical impulses are transmitted to the nervous system through electrodes attached to the skin, which trigger pain relief in the brain.

With our TENS device test 2021 we want to help you find the right device for you. We have compared the different types of stimulation current devices for you and listed the respective advantages and disadvantages. So that nothing stands in the way of you and your TENS device.




Summary

  • TENS(Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a scientifically proven stimulation current therapy that triggers pain relief in the patient. The individual nerves are stimulated by electrodes attached to the skin, which has an analgesic effect.
  • Due to the low side effects and risks, a TENS unit is best suited for quick and lasting pain relief. No medication is needed for this.
  • Depending on the size of the skin area to be treated, you can choose between one, two or four channels. Each channel is connected to a pair of electrodes, which are then stuck to the skin.

The Best TENS Device: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for TENS units

In order to find the most suitable TENS device for you from the broad mass, it is important to compare the different devices with each other.

For this purpose, we have selected the following criteria for you, with the help of which you can compare the different electrostimulation devices with each other:

Number of channels

Before you buy a TENS unit, you should be aware of the areas of the body on which you want to use the stimulation current therapy. Depending on the size of the skin area you want to treat with the TENS unit, a different number of channel outputs is necessary. There are units with one, two or four channels. You can read about the respective advantages and disadvantages in our decision section.

Some models can share their power so that you can connect more cables.

A total of four electrodes can be connected to TENS units with two channels.

Each pair of electrodes can stimulate different muscle groups and has the entire power capacity of the device. This means that you can connect over eight electrodes to TENS units with four channels and thus offer the possibility of treating up to four muscle groups at the same time.

Current frequency

The intensity level of TENS units is measured in Hertz (Hz) and refers to the current frequency. Depending on the programme, this can differ in intensity.

The current frequency is of great importance because it has a direct influence on the result of the treatment. Whether for treating pain, building muscle structure or achieving a pain-relieving effect, a different frequency is necessary for each purpose.

As a rule, the frequency varies between 1 and 150 Hz.

  • Low frequency (2-10 Hz):
    A lower frequency dulls the perception of pain and is recommended especially for relieving stress. The electrical impulses stimulate the desired muscle area, releasing any tension and stress.
  • Medium frequency (30-40 Hz):
    This frequency range is particularly suitable for releasing blockages in the nerves and for treating ganglia.
  • High frequency (50-150 Hz):
    High frequencies are suitable for relieving or even completely eliminating chronic or acute pain.

Number of programmes

Each TENS unit has a number of different programmes. These can differ not only in duration and intensity, but also in the number of programmes available.

Depending on the goal and purpose you are pursuing with the stimulation current treatment, a different device makes sense. TENS units that were developed for post-operative aftercare have different programmes than those that were developed for athletes.

When buying a TENS unit, be sure to consider its intended use.

To find out the number of programmes of a particular TENS unit, you should read about the exact number of programmes on the manufacturer's website. TENS units often show a higher number of programmes because the intermediate stages belonging to a programme are also counted. Therefore, we recommend that you check the number of programmes on the manufacturer's website before buying, so that you really decide on the device that is best suited for you.

Power supply

In the meantime, you can purchase TENS units in all variations. Either with ordinary batteries or with rechargeable batteries that can be charged with the help of a cable. It is especially advisable to choose a device that displays the current battery level.

TENS units are usually operated with ordinary batteries.

Electrostimulators that have a rechargeable battery are more expensive to purchase, but are a long-term investment.

So if you need an electrostimulator that you want to use regularly and for a long time, the rechargeable battery version is the better solution for you.

Size / Weight

If you want to take your TENS device with you everywhere without restrictions, it is helpful to use a device that is as small and light as possible.

With a weight of about 150 grams, most TENS units are already small and handy and have about the size of a smartphone. This not only ensures unrestricted mobility, but also allows for space-saving storage.

Display

Another important purchase criterion you should pay attention to is the display. The display not only affects the design of the stimulation device, but also influences the user-friendliness of the device.

For example, you can read the charge level, the different programmes and the remaining treatment time on the display. Some modern devices even show the correct placement of the electrodes in addition to the programme sequence.

Recently, there is also a backlight that allows you to read the display in all lighting conditions without any problems. If you have little or no experience with stimulation current therapy, this equipment is particularly suitable for you.

Accessories

Last but not least, the question arises whether you can expand the TENS device with accessories and whether you can also use the products of other manufacturers.

Since the electrodes from the manufacturer are much more expensive, we recommend a TENS unit with a universal electrode connection.

Before buying, you should therefore consider which areas you would like to treat with the stimulation device. Depending on this, the question arises whether the purchase of accessories will be necessary.

Decision: What types of TENS units are there and which is the right one for you?

If you are thinking about getting a TENS unit, there are three different types you can choose from:

Type advantages disadvantages
TENS unit with one channel user-friendly and suitable for everyday use battery operation, application only on small areas of skin
TENS unit with two channels treatment of large areas of the body possible, time-saving more expensive than units with only one channel, two cables necessary for use
TENS unit with four channels simultaneous treatment of several areas of skin, also possible with power supply unit most expensive models, four cables necessary for use

With devices with several channels you have the possibility to choose between ordinary battery or rechargeable batteries. You can also treat larger areas of the body in less time. Depending on your budget and the purpose for which you want to buy a TENS unit, one or the other is more suitable for you.

In the following section, we have listed the advantages and disadvantages of the individual variants in detail to make your decision easier.

TENS Gerät mit einem Kanal

TENS unit with one channel

Electrostimulation devices with only one channel score points mainly because of their simple and clear operation. If you need a device for certain pain symptoms and also want to use it in everyday life, a TENS device with only one channel is the right choice for you.

Advantages
  • User-friendly
  • suitable for everyday use
  • only one cable necessary
Disadvantages
  • only possible with battery operation
  • application only suitable for small areas

TENS units with only one channel are the cheapest option, but can only be bought with battery operation. Therefore, you should make sure that you have enough batteries in stock to ensure a smooth exchange in case of need.

TENS Gerät mit zwei Kanälen

TENS unit with two channels

Electrostimulators with two channels offer a greater variety of programmes than TENS units with only one output. Due to the four electrodes, the painful area can be optimally enclosed and can therefore be used very individually.

Advantages
  • Treatment of larger body regions possible in a short time
  • can be used individually
  • greater variety of programmes than with devices with only one channel
Disadvantages
  • more cost-intensive than the simple model
  • several cables and electrodes necessary

Due to the two channel inputs, these models also require two cables to connect the TENS unit to the electrode pairs. This makes the product not only more expensive to buy, but also more complex to use.

TENS Gerät mit vier Kanälen

TENS unit with four channels

Electrostimulators with four channel outputs, i.e. eight electrode pads, are best suited for large body regions. Due to the eight electrode pads, a large-area therapy treatment can be carried out. This means that you not only save a lot of time with this model, but also have several treatment options.

In addition, this model offers the possibility to isolate the individual channels from each other and to control them separately. This allows you to perfectly adjust your treatment to you and your needs.

Advantages
  • simultaneous treatment of several muscle groups
  • time saving due to the possibility of simultaneous treatment
  • isolation and separate regulation of the individual channels possible
Disadvantages
  • most expensive model
  • complex application

TENS devices with four channel inputs are the most expensive form of stimulation current devices. Since these models require four cables, the application is more difficult than with those that have only one or two channels.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about TENS units answered in detail

Before you decide on a TENS device of your choice, there are certainly a few questions that you would like to have clarified in advance. In our guide, we have selected the most frequently asked questions for you and answered them in detail:

What is a TENS device?

TENS is an abbreviation for "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation" and is an electromedical stimulation current therapy that is carried out with the help of a TENS device. By stimulating the nerves, endorphins, also called feelings of happiness, are released in the brain, which trigger pain relief in the patient.

TENS Gerät

Nowadays, many people suffer from tension and stress. With the help of a TENS device, these can be relieved easily and painlessly. (Image source: guvo59 / pixabay

However, not only the sensation of pain can be influenced by TENS, but also the blood circulation. This loosens the muscles on the one hand and stimulates the metabolism on the other.

For whom is a TENS device suitable?

TENS is especially suitable for those who suffer from chronic pain or muscle diseases. The following pains can be alleviated by a TENS treatment:

  • Headaches & migraines
  • Joint & muscle pain
  • Phantom pain
  • Menstrual pain
  • Bone inflammation, irritation or wear and tear
  • Tennis elbow, golfer's elbow
  • Sciatica & rheumatic pain
  • Lumbago

Contraindications / restrictions of use:

TENS devices may only be used after consultation with your attending physician if one or more of the following points apply to you:

  • during pregnancy
  • with metallic implants in the treatment area
  • Cardiac arrhythmia or heart muscle disorders
  • Injuries / wounds on the skin, mucous membrane or subcutis in the treatment area
  • Pacemakers and/or active implants (defibrillators)
  • when operating machines (e.g. driving a car)
  • psychological restrictions

From what age are TENS units allowed to be used?

In principle, a stimulation current device can be used from the age of 16. However, you should always discuss any treatment with your doctor beforehand.

During use, it is most important to observe all safety instructions and to use the device according to the enclosed operating instructions.

What is the difference between TENS and EMS devices?

When searching for your optimal TENS device, you will certainly come across products that also offer an EMS function. The abbreviation EMS stands for electrical muscle stimulation and is specifically intended for muscle building. Whether a TENS unit with EMS function makes sense for you depends on your goals. Do you want to relieve pain or build up muscles with the help of stimulation current therapy?

We have summarised the most important differences between TENS and EMS devices for you in this table:

TENS EMS
achieves pain relief used for muscle building
focus on a single muscle focus on an entire muscle group
electrodes are placed directly on the skin electrodes are placed on functional clothing

If you want to achieve pain relief with your treatment, a TENS unit is the right choice for you. Nowadays, many devices have both functions, which is why a decision between EMS and TENS is no longer necessary.

What are the benefits of TENS treatment?

TENS units have been used in medicine for decades to relieve pain. The stimulation current therapy is a safe method to address the body's own protective, control and regulatory mechanisms that have been weakened by illness or otherwise. The body's self-healing powers are activated and thus pain is relieved.

The following advantages result for you from stimulation current therapy:

  • easy application
  • very good tolerability
  • proven effectiveness
  • inexpensive to purchase
  • can be used anywhere
  • drug-free pain therapy
  • low risks

Is a TENS device dangerous?

Basically, treatment with a stimulation current device is completely safe. However, you should follow all safety instructions during the application and adhere to the operating instructions of your TENS unit.

The most common side effect is skin irritation. These occur mainly when the unit is used for too long on the same area of skin and should disappear after a longer interruption of the treatment. If the skin irritation persists, you should consult your doctor.

How do I use a TENS unit?

TENS units are equipped with electrodes. You have to apply these to the painful area. The current impulses are transmitted to the nerves via these electrodes, which creates the pain-relieving effect. You should not apply the pads directly to the painful area, but in the immediate vicinity. This ensures that the entire area is treated evenly and is particularly suitable if the pain is in the deeper tissue.

The stimulation current therapy can be applied several times a day if necessary, but the application time of 20 to 30 minutes should not be exceeded. After 30 to 40 applications, the electrode pads must be replaced.

What does a TENS unit cost?

Stimulation current devices are now available in every price range. The cheapest devices start at 10 euros.

High-quality TENS units are available from 40 to 180 Euros. High-class current devices are considerably more expensive, but these are intended for medical practices and physiotherapy.

Type Price range
TENS unit one channel 10-20 Euro
TENS unit two channel 30 - 80 Euro
TENS unit four channel 100 - 250 Euro

In principle, you can assume that TENS units with two channels are the cheapest variant. The more channels you need, the more expensive they become.

How do I care for a TENS unit?

Before you start taking care of your TENS unit, first make sure that the unit is switched off. Most units switch off automatically after the programme duration has expired. However, you can also switch off the stimulation current unit with the ON / OFF button.

  1. Switch off the device: As soon as you have made sure that your device is switched off, remove the electrode pairs.
  2. Cleaning: Gently clean the electrodes with a slightly damp, lint-free cloth. This will increase the life of the electrodes.
  3. Storage: Then stick the cleaned electrodes back on the foil and store it in the protective packaging of your device.

If the adhesive power of the electrodes decreases, you can moisten the surface with a little water. Store the electrodes or adhesive pads in a cool place (e.g. in the freezer) until the next treatment. The adhesive pads only need to be replaced if the adhesion cannot be restored by this procedure.

Image source: madrolly / 123rf.com

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