Types of TENS units


If you are in the market for a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit), you may find yourself confused by the range of devices that are available to you. By having a fair amount of information about each type of device, you will be able to purchase the best electrical nerve stimulation unit for your pain relief needs.

How an Electrical Nerve Stimulator Works

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is an effective method of controlling pain that chronic pain patients, like those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, deal with on a daily basis. As a non-invasive form of therapy, TENS works by sending varying low frequency electrical impulses into a patient’s body via the skin in an effort to adjust the brain’s perception of pain. Along with the pain perception adjustment, the therapy will also encourage the body to release endorphins which are natural painkillers our bodies produce in response to a variety of conditions.


In the vast majority of patients who suffer from neck pain or bone and joint conditions, TENS treatments have been proven to be incredibly effective to reduce the intensity of pain. In many patients, TENS therapy has allowed them to return to activities that they had long since given up as a direct result of the oftentimes excruciating pain they have been suffering through.

Think of the TENS device as an override switch for the way that a patient’s brain perceives the pain that the body is experiencing. Unlike prescription pain medications, there are virtually no side-effects from using electrical stimulation; at the most, a patient may report feeling a slight sensation of tingling at the electrode’s location.

Miniature TENS Machines

As a small, and concealable, electrical stimulation device, a miniature TENS unit is the smallest of its type on the market and, despite its size, it offers the same type of pain relief therapy as larger units. As an effective pain control and pain treatment method, miniature TENS units also offer patients an increased level of mobility.

Several newer systems also offer patients the ability to receive therapeutic nerve stimulation wirelessly. With the TENS unit discreetly tucked into a pocket, and an average battery life of four hours, patients can receive treatment on the go.

While these miniature devices do have a good battery life, they may not offer patients the battery life that they are looking for if they are going to be on the go for more than a few hours.

Hand-Held TENS Machines

By far the most popular of TENS units for both in-office use and in-home use, hand-held units offer patients all of the benefits of electrical stimulation therapy in a still-portable size. The low voltage electrical pulses that are delivered by the TENS machine are not just a non-invasive method of pain control but they are also safe for most patients to use. The low frequency pulses do not penetrate deeper into the patient’s body than the level needed to affect the pain nerves.

Combination TENS Machines

A combination TENS unit offers patients both the therapeutic treatment of a conventional transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit along with the benefit of muscle stimulation therapy that will work to rebuild muscles that have been injured or become weak due to a lack of use – perhaps as a result of a lengthy post-surgical recovery. By placing the electrodes in an affected spinal area, patients will be able to reduce their pain while also building much-needed muscles.

If you have any questions about which TENS device will best suit your needs, you should consult with your health professional in an effort to determine the best method of treatment for your types of pain.

Is A TENS Machine Right For You

While electrical stimulation therapy can certainly prove to be a highly effective method of controlling pain, there are specific medical conditions that could make using a TENS unit somewhat risky. Prior to starting TENS treatment, patients should consult with their medical professional in order to determine if TENS therapy is right for them.

  • Do you suffer from heart disease?
  • Do you have a pacemaker?
  • Do you have pins or other metallic objects as a result of recent surgeries?
  • Are you a pregnant woman?
  • Is your blood pressure high?
  • Are you diabetic?

Electrical nerve stimulation has been proven to be safe for the majority of patients when used correctly. Pacemaker patients should never use TENS therapy as it could interfere with the pacemaker’s performance.

Looking for a Tens Unit? Check out our Tens Unit Reviews.


About Andy

Andy writes for a number of health related sites but has always been fascinated by alternative medicine and home remedies. His deep interests in nature and the body's innate ability to heal itself (given the right condition) have lead him to a pivotal time in his life - and so, Holistic Home Fitness was born. While it's relatively new at the moment, Andy wants to build this site into a huge reference site for a more holistic approach to health and fitness.