The 10 Best Muscle Stimulators (EMS and TENS Machines)

Muscle stimulation is one of the most underutilized forms of muscle regeneration, pain control and recovery. These machines are often times considered as something only professional athletes have access to, while others see them as gadgets that have no real effect.

Today we are going to show you our picks for the top 10 best muscle stimulators, including Electronic Muscle Stimulators and TENS machines. Once we go over our picks, we will discuss what makes a good muscle stimulator, why you should own one and more. With that said, let’s get to reviewing our selection of models for this category.

Top 10 Best EMS and TENS Machines:

Compex brings a number of high quality models to the market but their Edge 2.0 has got to be the best bang for the buck option they offer. The machine features a robust build quality and a low profile design.

Under the bonnet you will find 12 snap electrodes, 4 different programs, and a number of accessories. Programs that come with the machine include 2 strength oriented modes, 1 recovery mode and one TENS mode that offers efficient pain relief.

What makes Edge 2.0 even more attractive is its compact size and an intuitive user interface. This is exactly the type of package you would take along with you to the gym. At this price, it is a proper steal.

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Pros

  • A fully utilitarian design that features 12 quality made snap electrodes
  • A lightweight, portable unit that is easy to carry along to the gym
  • Four different modes of operation with two strength programs included
  • Intuitive user interface makes it very easy to use

Cons

  • Although it is reasonably priced, it might be too expensive for some

Our next pick comes from iRelieve and represents a hybrid setup that features both TENS and EMS components to it. It’s a streamlined model that features a compact design paired with four snap electrodes as well as two electrode pads.

It is a bit different in this regard, but that is due to its dual nature. The true value of this model becomes apparent when you look at its programs. The manufacturer behind it has included 7 pain-relief TENS programs.

Additionally, there is 1 arthritis TENS program and 6 EMS programs. Aside from these, you can access any of 25 levels of 80 mA intensity, use an adjustable timer, lock function and much more. Overall, this is a great unit.

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Pros

  • A hybrid machine with both TENS and EMS programs
  • Comes with both snap electrodes and electrode pads for more flexible use
  • Plenty of options with 8 TENS and 6 EMS programs available
  • Lightweight design makes it a great choice for gym use

Cons

  • The interface and controls could be more user friendly

The TENS EMS combo stimulator from Message Therapy Concepts is quite similar to the model we have just talked about. This combo unit brings a slightly different set of features, though. You are looking at a quite modern, efficient design.

The company behind this model has opted to go with 2 channels and 6 electrodes in total. With that said, it offers 12 different programs that run on 20 intensity settings. There are 8 TENS modes and 7 EMS modes.

As you can probably tell, some of the modes are overlapping. The intensity is reasonable, but not as high as on some other machines on our list. With a massive touch screen, this unit is aimed at those who travel.

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Pros

  • One of the more compact and lighter models on the market
  • Comes with 6 pads including 2 small, 2 medium and 2 large
  • Offers 12 programs with 7 EMS and 8 TENS modes
  • Sports a massive touchscreen with a contrast backlit display

Cons

  • The intensity offered is slightly below average for this category

Next up is a solid TENS unit from Zewa. Unlike our previous picks, this is a TENS-only package that keeps things simple. It’s also a rather compact model that you can tuck in your gym or other kind of bag.

Zewa ships these with 4 electrode pads that are made in USA and quite durable by design. These are wired, which is to be expected at this price. Once you hook everything up, it’s time to check out the programs.

This TENS unit comes with 8 programmed modes as well as 30 intensity levels. One of the benefits that of a dual channel setup is that you can fine tune the output per channel. This is another rather solid model.

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Pros

  • FDA Approved TENS machine with a solid track record
  • Comes in a portable, easy to use package that just works
  • Feature 4 durable, made in USA, electrode pads that will last
  • 8 pre-programmed TENS modes paired with 30 intensity levels in dual channel

Cons

  • Massive display that isn’t utilized nearly enough in our opinion

Going down the price range reveals some of the most interesting models in this category. NueMedic’s TENS pulse massager offers a combination of great performance and simplified user interface that makes using this device very easy compared to most other.

Before we get to that, it’s worth mentioning that this unit comes with 6 large, quality made electrode pads that run to a compact control unit. Aside from the aforementioned simple interface, the unit features a good looking aesthetic.

NueMedics made things easy by naming all of their 12 programs in a way that relates to various body parts. You have the Knee program, Elbow, Hip, Shoulder programs and others. All you’ve to do is choose the right one.

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Pros

  • Simple unit that combines great performance with intuitive user interface
  • Great bang for the buck value at this price
  • Features 12 intuitively named programs that correspond to different body parts
  • High contrast backlit display in a fairly compact chassis

Cons

  • Lack of dual channel leads is definitely felt on this one

Going even further down into the affordable range leads us straight to AUVON’s TENS/EMS combo. Despite its price, this setup brings some pretty high end features. For starters, you are looking at a set of rather high quality TENS pads.

They are pretty much on par with some of the best in the industry. In other words, you don’t have to worry about them falling off or anything similar. Additionally, larger pads mean more coverage and better average impulse delivery.

As far as other features go, you’re looking at 20 different modes of operation, presets that fit various uses, muscle stimulation modes and pain relief programs. At this price, AUVON’s setup is certainly one of the best options out there.

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Pros

  • A robust little kit that comes with great hardware
  • Features some of the best electrode pads in this segment
  • Offers 20 different TENS and EMS modes to choose from
  • Impressive bang for the buck value considering its price

Cons

  • EMS side of the package is lacking in performance

Finding a simple, truly affordable EMS/TENS setup happens once you reach the price range where this [email protected] model habituates. At its core, this machine brings all the basics you’d expect to find. There’s are some compromises you should know about.

For starters, you are getting 4 pads divided into 2 channels with 20 intensity levels per channel. In that sense it is pretty much on par with more expensive models. You’re getting 16 modes divided between TENS and EMS functions.

Despite being one of more basic models, the battery on this unit lasts up to 10 hours. Pushing those figures under sustained use might yield a shorter battery life, but still well within the margins of what is generally acceptable.

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Pros

  • Affordable model that still offers plenty of high end features
  • Comes with a decent selection of TENS and EMS modes
  • Great battery life under constant use makes it suitable for travelling
  • Relatively simple to use thanks to a well-designed control panel

Cons

  • Features only 4 pads, which is not optimal but not too bad either

Nursal is another brand that offers a solid setup you can get at affordable prices. Their model is arguably near the bottom of this segment in terms of price tags, but it’s far from being bad. This machine is different.

Unlike everything we have discussed prior, Nursal’s model is one of the rare TENS/EMS machines in this part of the market that comes with 8 electrode pads. That alone gives it an edge over most of its competitors in class.

Features wise, you are getting a touch screen with additional controls, 20 levels of adjustable impulse intensity as well as numerous modes of TENS/EMS treatment. With all this said, Nursal’s TENS unit is FDA approved. It’s a great cheap option.

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Pros

  • Affordable setup that gets you plenty of higher tier features
  • Comes with 8 electrode pads which is above average
  • Features various TENS and EMS Modes that can be adjusted for intensity
  • Intuitive design with a backlit touchscreen and simple controls

Cons

  • Although adjustable, the intensity control doesn’t have too much range

As we approach the end of our list, we are digging deep into simple, straightforward devices that were designed to offer one thing and do it well. TENS 7000 delivers a streamlined package of features packed in a basic setup.

It is arguable that looks weren’t something that the company behind this device found too important. With that said, looks aren’t really a primary concern with TENS. Model 7000 features four large electrode pads and several different modes of operation.

All in all, it is a basic device that lacks all the modern features and makes you work for what you want. Truth be told, the lack of a flashy touchscreen or touch controls doesn’t detract anything from this setup.

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Pros

  • Extremely affordable TENS setup that gets the job done and does it well
  • Simple design that is rooted in utility rather than anything else
  • Comes with 4 quality electrode pads that work well

Cons

  • It is a basic device with basic options and basic features

Last but not least we have an absolute bestseller that has proven its worth numerous times by now. YK15AB from HealthmateForever offers a decent balance of power, performance, price and features. On top of that, it is quite functional overall.

At its core this is a TENS only setup that features 8 electrode pads paired with 20 different levels of adjustable intensity. Since this model is mainly oriented towards pain management, there only 9 custom modes that’s less than average.

One thing to keep in mind is that these modes are categorized by body parts and type of pain, which makes things that much easier. As far as aesthetics goes, YK15AB looks like an AC remote, but it is functional.

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Pros

  • One of the cheapest TENS machines that actually works
  • Tried and tested model with a massive track record of success
  • Features 8 electrode pads paired with solid impulse levels
  • Features 9 custom designed modes dedicated to various body parts

Cons

  • Pads tend to lose their adhesive properties sooner than expected

What are TENS and EMS Machines?

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine is a small device that uses electrical impulses in order to relieve pain. This is done by placing electrode pads that come with the machine at specific places on your body. If you’re looking to alleviate that shoulder pain, you will place the pads around the affected area.

Once the pads are positioned properly, electrical impulses are passed onto the skin in a way that is supposed to greatly reduce the pain. In other words, those electrical signals interfere with pain signals sent by the nerves in said muscle or region to the brain.

Despite many thinking that TENS is a gimmick or simply treatment that doesn’t work, using these devices has proven effect on human pain perception. However, the thing to keep in mind is that different pains are affected differently by TENS. Similarity, different people react differently to these treatments. So if TENS is designed to alleviate pain, what is EMS and what does it do?

Understanding the Difference Between EMS and TENS

Often confused for one another, EMS and TENS are two very different machines. They look similar or the same, and as you can tell by our list there are plenty of hybrid models, but they are not the same.

Where TENS works to reduce pain using the means of electrical impulses, EMS uses electrical impulses to stimulate muscle growth in various indirect ways. As you can probably expect, there is plenty of controversy surrounding this device. Stimulating muscle using electrical impulses? Potentially stimulating muscle growth? Is that even possible?

As it turns out, the truth is somewhere in the middle. First and foremost, muscle growth that we’ve mentioned is highly indirect. In other words, simply slapping those electrodes onto your body won’t be enough to grow muscle. EMS works well as means of increasing blood circulation, relaxing the muscles and toning them. If you are expecting to get more inches on your biceps using nothing more than just an EMS, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Now that we know what EMS and TENS do, let’s discuss how to look for a good model.

TENS, EMS or Both?

The very first thing that we need to understand that while TENS and EMS are different, there are machines that combine both of these into one. In a way, finding a good hybrid might be the best option for most as there are some pretty great models out there as you can tell on by our list. On the other hand, if you are looking for just one, you might be better off with a specialized machine.

Knowing what type of machine you need can save you plenty of trouble down the road. Especially considering how often these two devices are confused for one another.

What Makes a Good TENS/EMS Setup?

Arguably, factors that will be deciding which model you will get can be divided into software and hardware factors. Software side of the issue can be narrowed down to features. Let’s take a look at those first and then we’ll move one

Features – Modes

Modern EMS/TENS machines depend on a variety of features to deliver their performance. One of the first thing you will want to look for are. Having preset modes available is important if you want something that is simple to use. Various presets will do different thing for TENS and EMS machines. For example, TENS machines will have different modes depending on which part of the body is aching. On the other hand, EMS machines aren’t limited by that so their modes will be oriented more toward different type of muscle stimulation.

Channels

Aside from modes, you’ll want to look for channels. This feature is important for both EMS and TENS. Dual channel machines allow you to fine tune each cluster of electrode pads to deliver different stimulation. This feature can be a welcome add-on or straight up necessity depending on how you approach using these machines.

Intensity Levels

Next up are intensity levels. What you’ll usually see are 20-25 levels of intensity although there are models with 50 and more. The idea is to be able to adjust the percentage of mA delivered to the pads in increments that are comfortable to you. If there is one thing you should look for, it is at least 20 levels of intensity.

Hardware

On the hardware side of things, you are going to want to look at electrode pads. These come in a variety of shapes, sizes and types. Some are smaller and allow you to be very precise with your placement. Others are larger and designed to cover wider areas of your body. Keep in mind that EMS and TENS have different needs in terms of electrodes which is why hybrid machines can sometimes be tricky to figure out. Generally speaking, more is better and you will want something that has a good retention platform in place.

Design

Pads aside, the overall design of the pad is also quite important. What you are looking for is a design that is easy to use but one that has enough depth to cover your intended application. Large, touchscreen displays are a great place to start. These are often well rounded in terms of functions, controls and navigation.

However, you shouldn’t discard simpler machines that utilize old school methods, design features, user interfaces and other components. Those older machines are perfectly capable of delivering more than great performance across the board. Matter of fact, there are old school TENS rigs that will outperform many modern machines you can easily get on the market right now.

The Verdict!

At the end of the day, TENS and EMS machines have proven to be efficient. Maybe not as much as some would like, but these devices absolutely do have an effect on our bodies. We have done our best to present you with a number of great models that we feel represent the best on the market. We didn’t dwell into professional models too much as those tend to be quite exclusive price wise. The ones you see on our list represent the best bang for the buck you can find out there at the moment. With that said, all you need to do is chose the one that fits your needs.