Best TENS Units for Pain Relief (2021 Updated)

Best TENS Units for Pain Relief

When your body is in pain, the number one goal is to find relief fast! A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) or portable muscle simulator can be used to quickly manage nerve-related pain without any drugs or harmful side effects. No needles! No drugs!

As a pharmacist who travels quite a bit, I’ve seen how effective these TENS Units can be first-hand. I’ll give you a list of the Best TENS Units to use as a Buying Guide – see below. I’m sure you have lots of questions and I’ll do my best to answer them, too.

Whether you suffer from:

  • painful arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • plantar fasciitis
  • low back pain
  • painful periods
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • bursitis, pulled muscles
  • sports injuries
  • carpal tunnel
  • tennis elbow
  • or other conditions causing aching discomfort, a TENS Unit just might be the answer you’ve been looking for – without addicting medications that might make you feel groggy all the time.


What is TENS Therapy and Will It Help My Pain?

TENS Therapy is the application of electrical current through electrodes placed on the skin for pain control. TENS therapy can be applied directly to the skin using a TENS unit and small gel-coated pads or electrodes.

You control the amount of electrical stimulation of the TENS unit by varying frequencies, from low (< 10 Hz) to high (> 50 Hz). TENS therapy is thought to work by alteration of the body’s ability to receive or perceive pain signals rather than by having a direct effect on the muscle contractions.

TENS UNIT stimulation may also increase natural endorphins, “the body’s feel-good chemical”, as a natural pain reliever. More endorphins are always a good thing!

What We Do Know About TENS Units

Scientific Studies

Directly from the study cited in Current Rheumatology Reports, “Specifically, we show that low-frequency TENS activates μ-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brainstem, whereas high-frequency TENS activates δ-opioid receptors in the spinal cord and the brainstem.” TENS therapy activates the same receptors in the body as powerful opioid drugs.

A 2016 study on lower back pain sufferers showed fixed-site TENS Units to be a safe and effective option for treating chronic low back and lower extremity pain. These results motivate the development of wearable analgesic devices.

For fibromyalgia sufferers, the news is very good. A recent study from the Carver College of Medicine has shown TENS Unit stimulation may significantly increase quality of life in terms of pain, fatigue and function for those with primary fibromyalgia.

So without further ado, I’d like to present our BEST TENS UNITS BUYING GUIDE. (If you’re interested in learning more about TENS Units and their features, I’ve added more general information after the guide.)


These TENS units were picked based on their ease of use, affordability, recommendations from other health professionals, portability and extra features. Those with many positive reviews from other users were given a heavier weight.

HealthMateForever YK15AB

  • Over 6,000 positive reviews on Amazon
  • Back-clip for portability
  • Long-life pads
  • Powered Muscle Stimulator (PMS) mode

  • FDA Cleared
  • 20 strength levels
  • Rechargeable
  • 8 pads
iReliev Playmakar (more expensive, but wireless!)

  • 25 intensity levels and 80 mA output power
  • Remote control
  • FDA Cleared to relieve pain associated with chronic symptoms like arthritis

  • 25 Output Intensity Channels
  • Dual channels
  • Uses 3-AAA batteries
  • 80 mA output power
TruMedic PL-009

  • Lightweight 5.3 oz
  • Approved for OTC (over-the-counter) use
  • Intensity Wheels for different pain levels
  • Access to pain management videos w/ purchase
TechCare Plus24 TENS Bundle

  • Lifetime Warranty
  • 24 Modes
  • Includes reflexology shoes and fitness belt
  • FDA Approved TENS and PMS device


Are TENS Units Something New?

No. TENS units have been used by doctors and physical therapists for over 40 years with great success. Now, instead of having to go into the doctor’s office for pain relief therapy, today there are portable units for personal use with the same pain relieving power output. Use the Best TENS Units Buying Guide above to find a model that can work for you at home or for travel.

Are TENS Units FDA Approved?

Because TENS units and EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) units are considered Medical Devices by the FDA, the companies who manufacture them must show that the device is safe and effective when used as directed. By purchasing an “FDA Approved” device, you’re ensuring the FDA has determined the product is properly designed, manufactured, and labeled to provide reasonable assurance that they are safe and effective for over-the-counter (OTC) use.

What Features Should My TENS Unit Have?

There are so many TENS units on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one is the best. You can the Best TENS Units Buying Guide above to narrow down your choices. Features to look for include dual or quad channels (to stimulate more than one area at a time), rechargeable batteries (or wireless capability) and programmable sessions (because once you find the perfect pain relief level, you’ll want to use it again and again!).

Can I take my TENS Unit on a plane?

YES! Directly from the TSA website…”TENS units are allowed in both carry-on and checked bags. If your doctor has told you that your specific TENS unit shouldn’t go through an X-ray, you should notify the TSA officer so they can conduct alternate screening. To help you get through security more efficiently, remove your TENS unit from your carry-on bag and put it in the screening bin so the TSA officer can get a clear view of it.”

If you travel with your TENS unit, size and weight might be more important than if you’re only using it at home. Some units come with a belt clip that make it completely portable, even while out walking or on a long plane trip.

How do I target a particular area of pain with a TENS machine?

For specific areas of the body that hurt – for example, pain of plantar fasciitis in the feet and ankles – electrode TENS sandals provide a unique and effective way to target the pain. I use these TENS sandals when plantar fasciitis tries to slow me down and can highly recommend them!

TENS Sandals for targeted pain relief

For lower back pain, a TENS back belt can be a much more convenient and powerful way to cover a larger area than with electrode TENS pads alone. With the electrodes enclosed within the back belt, you simply wrap it around the sore area and connect it to your TENS unit. These are also portable and easy to bring along when traveling!

TENS Back Belt targets lower back pain

Should I Buy Extra TENS Unit Supplies?

To increase the conductivity of the electrode pads, some people find it necessary to use a drop or two of TENS conductivity gel applied to the pads. TENS gel also increases the life of the pads so they don’t have to be replaced as often.

The electrode pads that come with each TENS unit are usually coated with a special sticky, gel-like substance that helps them adhere to the body, but can still be reused time and time again. After a while, the stickiness of the TENS pads will go away and you’ll have to replace the pads. You can buy TENS pads in large sizes for areas like the back or shoulder and smaller pads for the wrist or elbows.


If there are other questions you have about this “Best TENS Units” post, please don’t hesitate to ask here.

And as with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. This does not add any extra cost to you and helps us keep The Travel Pharmacist website running.

Take care and please let me know if this works well for your pain relief!


Best Tens Units for Fast Pain Relief - A Non-Drug Option for Pain!
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Best Tens Units for Fast Pain Relief - A Non-Drug Option for Pain!
Find the Best TENS Units for Fast Pain Relief! Comprehensive Buying Guide for TENS and EMS units - portable and affordable TENS machine for home non-drug fast pain relief! Pharmacist recommended Best TENS Units
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The Travel Pharmacist
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22 Replies to “Best TENS Units for Pain Relief (2021 Updated)”

    1. It certainly has helped mine! Frustrating to have pain while traveling, but my TENS unit now travels with me (and doesn’t take up too much space!) 😉

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I was so surprised something so tiny would be so helpful for pain after walking long distances. 😉

  1. I never heard about TENS unit to manage nerve-related pains. It sounds very interesting as it only uses electrical stimuation that apparently works effectively and most importantly is a non-drug treatment which is awesome! Will bookmark this page! Thanks for sharing it.

    1. I hadn’t heard about them, either – except as something doctor’s used in their offices. So when I actually tried one and it worked, I was shocked (happily) 😉 And now they’re so affordable and small, they can be taken anywhere! I am very excited about these! Thanks for coming by!

  2. You given me an education about TENS units. Never heard of them before, but I know a couple of people who will probably want to try one of the TENS products for their ailments. Appreciate the tips.

    1. Hi Cathy! Being small, affordable and effective makes them even more attractive. I’m giving a few to family members and fellow travelers as gifts! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I tend to be pretty skeptical about things that seem too good to be true, but these are so affordable that I’m going to get one and try it out the next time my lower back pain shows up! And small enough to travel would be an added bonus!

    1. I was skeptical as well! It was such a good experience that we now bring our TENS unit with us when traveling – and even my partner Cheryl, who isn’t in pain uses it for the massage capabilities – it’s definitely found a home! 😉

    1. Hi John! I’m so very glad TENS have worked for you! I have had lots of success with them as well, especially for neck, shoulder and back pain. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Osteopathic care has been used to treat a number of conditions not connected to the musculoskeletal systems. This includes hypertension, dizziness/vertigo and chronic pelvic pain.

  5. Hello Lisa, you had shared such a helpful article. I will definitely try ‘Tens Therapy’ as per your suggestion.Keep posting

  6. My first experience with TENS machine is during my PT. They offer me one and didn’t try it. Now with your best TENS unit, I am thinking of the best option to get.

  7. Always feels great to know about the alternative therapies that could help relieve the pain in case of autonomic diseases like fibromyalgia, I hope TENS would be a nice tool for the patients suffering from the chronic diseases instead of medication that has side-effects.

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