Question:

I live in a remote area without access to Physical Therapy. Would you be so kind as to help me select the most powerful and reliable TENS Unit? The web is riddled with so many units, some require prescription (and that’s okay), and the reviews are all over the place and often paid. Unfortunately, Consumer Reports doesn’t review TENS Units (yet; I asked), so I figured a PT may know best.


Answer:

We’re limited in our ability to give you specific information without doing an examination though we can give you general guidelines on your search for a TENS unit. Firstly, physical therapy is becoming more accessible with many insurances now allowing telehealth, even for Medicare. If you are interested in doing physical therapy, the American Physical Therapy Association can help you locate one near you at this link. If you are not sure of your physical therapy benefits, contact your insurance company to request information.

A TENS unit can be helpful to manage pain. There are a few rules to follow.

  1. Make sure you do not use a TENS unit if you have a pacemaker, it could potentially interfere.
  2. Make sure to have the machine turned OFF when you place the electrodes on or off your body. This creates an electrical circuit, so you want to make sure not to break the circuit while the machine is running.
  3. Make sure to place the electrodes at least one inch apart from each other so they don’t overlap at all.
  4. Do not use it all day every day, you will become desensitized to it. Typically, a TENS unit should be used up to 2-3x/day for 10-30 minutes. You can place a heating pad or an ice pack over the electrodes, it will not interfere.

On selecting a TENS unit, you are correct, there are so many out there it’s hard to choose!
The older style analog ones are the simplest to use and work very well. This one does not require a prescription and is the one I recommend most often.

This one has more options for different areas of the body and inTENSity is a good brand and very common in physical therapy clinics.

The good thing with TENS units is you can’t really go wrong. Typically, the simplest ones are the most user-friendly and are very effective.


**This reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.