Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Unit (TENS Unit)

What is a TENS Unit | Which TENS Unit to get | Benefits | Side effects | Instructions

What is a TENS Unit?

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit is a device that delivers small electrical currents to targeted body parts. These currents help relieve pain.
It was created in 1970s by Clyde Norma Shealy, MD, PhD, an American neurosurgeon and pioneer in pain medicine
Nowadays, you can get TENS units that are safe to use at home for a relatively low cost.

What does it do?

I like to tell my patients that if placed in the correct location, the TENS Unit simulates an at home acupuncture or massage session.
The electric current of the TENS unit stimulates the nerves, muscles, and tendons to reduce both acute and chronic pain
It is important to change the intensity, pulse width, and frequency of the unit to your comfort level and to produce the best effectiveness.

Which TENS Unit?

There are so many options on the market!

TEC Bean: This TENS unit is the one that I have.

It is relatively inexpensive, only $21 on amazon.

The battery life lasts a long time.

Each pad can be used about 30 times (more if you take good care of it)

Replacement pads are $10 for 20 pads



OMRON Avail  TENS Unit: 

This is about 7 times more expensive.

The benefit is that it works with your smartphone instead of a separate device, and it’s WIRELESS

Replacement pads are $20 and are washable.




(DISCLAIMER: I do not work for these companies. I am not directly recommending these products. These are just options to get you started as you do your research.)

What are the benefits?

Muscle pain
Joint pain/arthritis
Nerve pain
Peripheral neuropathy
(It may also help with other symptoms, depending on which acupuncture points are stimulated)

What are the side effects?

The TENS Unit is considered a low risk device with minimal side effects.
Nevertheless, the following things are noteworthy:

  • Pregnant patients should not use TENS Unit for pain relief
  • Those with heart conditions, especially with pacemakers, defibrillators, or similar devices, should not be exposed to electrical currents of TENS
  • Those with epilepsy or history of seizures should be cautious
  • Sometimes, the TENS current may be too strong which can lead to burning or irritation of skin; use with caution if you have skin allergies
  • The TENS Unit should not be used over the eyes, head, wound, tumors, broken skin, or front of neck


  • Place the TENS pads on areas around painful sites and/or acupressure points.Turn up the amplitude and intensity until you feel a soft pulsation.
    • Ensure that it does not cause pain
    • If it causes pain, turn down the dial
  • Start with 5 minutes a day. Make sure you do not have any skin irritation. The goal is to get to about 30 minutes twice a day
    • No significant adverse effects have been reported with using this device for longer periods of time. Nevertheless, I find that about 30 minutes each session is sufficient.
  • Turn off the unit before removing pads
  • Look at your user manual for further details or discuss with your physician for further details.