What Is The Best TENS Machine In 2020?
Why Is This Important?
A TENS machine is a delicate piece of medical equipment and a key financial investment. Buy the wrong one and not only will you not fail to end your pain, but you’ll have wasted your money.
Helprelievepain is often asked what is the best TENS machine to buy? Today we answer your question.
‘Picking An Ineffective TENS Machine Is Not Dissimilar To Taking The Wrong Medicine’
Picking a TENS machine is a delicate process. Too many people make an ill-informed choice and then assume when the unit doesn’t work for them, that TENS therapy itself doesn’t work for pain relief.
I have written a number of articles on why TENS therapy is a very effective method for short-term pain relief – particularly back pain, although it can be used successfully for your shoulders, knees and even wrists.
There is a considerable bulk of scientific evidence behind the use of such electrical devices. Indeed, the case for using a TENS machine is so strong that many family doctors now have one permanently in their surgery.
However, the pain relief is relatively short-term, so unless you want to be visiting your local clinic every other day, purchasing one for home use is important.
Thankfully, with very few side effects and a huge range of mobile devices on the market, it is now very common to carry a TENS machine if you suffer with back or neck pain, and sometimes with knee or wrist pain.
They can be used while travelling or at work or just whilst relaxing at home. For many sufferers with chronic pain, they have become an essential part of their treatment plan.
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How Do I Want To Use My TENS Machine?
There are plenty of sites that supposedly ‘review’ TENS machines. But simply ‘reviewing’ a TENS machine somewhat misses the point.
This is a medical device. No single device will be perfect for everyone when everyone has differing needs.
In order to make the best decision FOR YOU (not for the reviewing company), you need to answer the following questions
- Where am I intending (mostly) to use the TENS machine?
- When am I going to use the TENS machine?
- Would I use an EMS function as well?
- Which features differentiate a poorly built machine, from a much more effective one?
To understand the importance of each question, I’ve explained them a little bit more –
Where am I intending (mostly) to use the TENS machine? Is it for a painful back or your knees? If it is for your back then you need a multi-channel TENS machine that will allow you to use 4 electrodes and cover a much larger area.
If it is for your knees, then you could get away with just one output (2 electrodes), although 4 would still be better, while if it is for your wrist, then a single output with 2 electrodes is all you need.
When am I going to use the TENS machine? Are you planning on using it at work or on the train/ driving to work or is it just to be used at home? If you’re only using it at home, then having wires and portability is less of an issue.
If you want to use it an office, then a completely wireless version may be much better for you.
Similarly, battery life and portability are key if you are planning on travelling with your device.
Would I use an EMS function as well? An EMS (or ‘Electrical Muscle Stimulator’) is designed to target aching muscles rather than the nerves that a TENS machine targets.
If you are planning on tackling knee pain, it is much less likely to be effective – but if it’s back pain which is normally muscular in nature (if it isn’t you should be seeing an orthopaedic consultant immediately and not looking for pain management), then EMS can also be highly effective.
So for back pain, it is worth considering a TENS machine with EMS, but for ankle/ knee pain, generally not.
Once you’ve established what you are looking for, it’s important to match this to the features of a good TENS machine…
What Makes A Good TENS Machine?
I highlighted in a previous article (What Does A TENS Machine Do), a number of key factors that can make a big difference –
- Number of Outputs or Channels
- Intensity Levels
- Specialised Modes
- Battery Life
- Size of Machine and Size of Screen
- Ease Of Use
But not all of these features will always be important to you.
A large part of your answer will depend on what you are planning to use your machine for. The most important features tend to be the number of outputs, (since this will determine how many electrodes and how large of an area you can cover) and whether it has EMS or not.
For the best pain relief, you really want a minimum of two channels, which will allow at least 4 electrode pads. This will cover a back or knee without a problem.
Having the EMS is another benefit, because it will target your muscles, rather than your nerves. Like anything in pain relief, there is no guarantee that it will work – but it certainly does for many people.
How Much Should I Be Spending On A TENS Machine?
I covered this question much more in our article on ‘How Much Does A TENS Machine Cost?‘ A typical TENS with EMS with cost approximately 40% more than one without an EMS.
There is a large variation in prices with a 4 electrode, TENS + EMS ranging from £26.99 (‘[email protected]’) to £629.99 (Keenstone), both available from a number of outlets.
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But Which Is Best For You… What Is The Best TENS Machine To Buy?
Everyone has different budgets and simply listing 100+ TENS machines and reviewing them for price and features would not help anyone (except possibly if you suffer with insomnia and want to be sent to sleep).
I tried this when working out the average prices, but by the time I had finished, some had already been withdrawn from the market and others were entering.
Thankfully, one brand that has both longevity and a great family of products really stands out in the TENS market. Many brands offer just a single model and push them for every need.
Ireliev on the other hand has produced an entire portfolio – a ‘budget’ TENS machine (with no EMS), a more expensive but leading-edge technology dual channel TENS/EMS machine and a wireless TENS machine.
Made in the US, these really are cutting-edge technology and benefit from the following key features –
Easy to read back-lit display. Many aren’t back-lit and the screen size is important if you are going to take advantage of it’s many features.
Multiple Options. TENS only (for limited budgets), TENS and EMS (for best results) or Wireless (For treatment on-the-go).
25 Intensity Levels. The Average is around 10, one has 99 but had really poor usability. 25 gives you plenty of options to try.
14 Different Modes. Again some models have more, but most slightly less. One TENS machine actually had 300 modes, but it just overcomplicated it’s use for little gain. 14 is plenty to work with.
Dual or Quad Channel. Depending on whether you opt for the wireless or wired versions.
Fully rechargeable lithium battery. Life after being charged is 2-3hrs, which is above average and more than enough for 5-6 sessions before recharging.
Amazing Reviews. Ireliev is one of the most critically reviewed and recommended brands on the internet today.
Operant Pulse Rate. As a pain specialist and medical researcher, I am most interested in the technical side of how a TENS machine operates and how factors such as pulse-rate affect pain levels.
Ireliev has a particularly refreshing approach because they actually include this data with their programs, making a detailed analysis of likely success much more transparent.
For all these reasons, I recommend Ireliev through helprelievepain as a great option for TENS therapy. As discussed earlier, whether you prefer the budget model without EMS, or the more expensive wireless version depends on your personal circumstances – but Ireliev has an option for every eventuality.
The Final Word –
Selecting a TENS machine can be a difficult task, with a vast number of models pushed for many different reasons.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on what to look for, how much to pay and what you need to decide before purchasing one.
There is clear evidence that TENS machines do work. But as with most medical equipment, picking the wrong one (like taking the wrong drug), can lead to a lack of results. Pain relief is not guaranteed at any time, but buying cheap or overcomplicated devices can make your chances of success significantly worse.
Whether you want a wireless or normal device – or one with EMS included depends on your personal preference, but some brands certainly perform better than others.
I recommend Ireliev for all our sufferers of back and sometimes knee pain, but whatever you decide, hopefully I have helped to answer the question of what is the best TENS machine to buy.
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