I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
Okay, so I’d never actually heard of TENS units before this review. But when I read the description from TechCare, I thought it’d be a great thing to try on Tim’s sore muscles.
If, like me, you hadn’t heard of this thing, TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It’s a form of EMS, or Electrical Muscle Stimulation.
Essentially, it’s a unit that sends very low-level electricity to a specified area. This increases blood flow while also stimulating the muscles in whichever part of the body you chose. It’s supposed to be great for easing pain.
When the TechCare S came in the mail, I was surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting, but a unit the size of an MP3 player was not it.
The package came with the base, two sets of stick-on paddles: one small, one large. There are two plugs at the top of the unit, so you can actually run both sets simultaneously if you so desire.
There was also an accupressure map, which I’ll discuss later on.
The unit has six different modes. You press the “M” button to cycle among them. Each one has a slightly different rhythm, so it’s best to give each one a shot for a few minutes.
You also have a choice of session times. The default is 20 minutes, but you can opt for 10, 30, 40, 50 or 60 by pressing the “T” button. The timer counts down, so you can always check to see how much time you have left in your session.
Once you have the mode and duration chosen, you just press the plus or minus buttons to find a comfortable intensity.
The unit charges by USB cable.
There are several great things about this product. The biggest factor is that I love, love, love it. But I suppose I have to focus on all aspects. So…
This thing has amazing battery life. I’ve been using it almost daily for about a month and still have two out of three bars. That’s probably because the unit turns off as soon as the session is over, so you’re never wasting charge.
It’s pretty small, so you can easily carry it in your pocket or, like I do, tuck it in the waistband of any pocketless pants.
The paddles are, of course, going to lose their stickiness over time. To help control that, there are ovals of film you place on them when they’re not in use.
The film is easy to peel off and to put back on. The only downside is that they’re mostly clear (with just “TechCare” written several times), so you really have to pay attention to where you’re putting them down.
Have I mentioned that I love, love, love this thing?
Yes, it was initially intended for Tim, but unfortunately he didn’t like the sensation. He already deals with muscle spasms, so he didn’t like the twitching in his hands and forearms.
I think it’ll be good on his back, but since I messed up the intensity the first time around with his back… Well, he’s a bit gun-shy. Once I’ve been using it a couple more months, he might trust me to try again.
Anyway, I still wanted to give the product a shot, so I started using it on my back.
My lower back is pretty bad in the mornings. It used to be just a couple of times a week, but at this point it’s just about every day. It might get better once I’m exercising (and therefore stretching and strengthening my core).
For now, though, I can’t really move comfortably — especially bending/inclining my torso much — in the a.m. So the TENS unit seemed worth a shot.
I won’t lie: It’s a weird sensation at first. The twitching is a strange sensation. Not painful, just… strange. Still, once you settle into it, it’s weirdly soothing.
If you think about it, the stimulation really isn’t that different from a massage. In both scenarios your muscles are being stimulated, loosening them up. It’s just that the TENS unit gives you full control over the rhythm and intensity.
I started using it for the default 20-minute session,and after that I’d be able to bend without discomfort. But as I said, it’s weirdly soothing, so I’ve slowly increased up to a full hour. Sometimes, when that session is over, I put it on for another 20 minutes.
I’ve used it on more than just my back, though. I tweaked my knee, so I used the smaller paddles on either side of my kneecap. After 20 minutes, it wasn’t sore anymore.
I even used it for cramps at one point. It definitely helped, though they did come back about 90 minutes later. So call that mixed success, I guess.
A house guest used it on her sore forearm. Afterward, she said it definitely felt looser and less painful. And my therapist says that some of clients swear by their TENS units.
So it’s not just me saying that this product helps… Once you get used to the twitching, anyway.
I was very frustrated with the manual. It did have some good information, including where not to use the paddles. Which is good because otherwise I probably would have tried it on my neck like an idiot.
But it had absolutely no information about the modes. There are six of them: five pairs of hands, one pair of feet. I wanted to know what each one meant, but the manual said literally nothing about that. Just that we should experiment with the various modes.
After more than a month of use, I still don’t understand the difference among the images. The hands (or feet) become animated blinking off and on, but they don’t seem to correspond to any specific rhythm.
This means that, at a glance, you can’t really remember which one does what. I gave up and just picked a mode that seemed to work. I can’t help feeling that I’m missing something, which is somewhat irritating.
This one is only a kinda-sorta bad point. When you switch among modes, the intensity falls to zero. I know that it’s probably the safest way to go (hence only kinda sorta bad), but it’s still annoying when you are trying to experiment with modes.
You switch, only to feel nothing. Then you have to fiddle with intensity to find a good level. Then you have to remember how it compares with the last mode. By the time I get to the third mode I can’t remember what the first one felt like.
Again, this is probably the safest method, but it’s still frustrating at times.
Honestly, I wish it hadn’t been included at all. It’s confusing and of dubious helpfulness.
There are three views of the body. In each there are far, far too many thin lines pointing to a specific area. Each thin line has a number and a set of Chinese characters.
I finally noticed the key at the bottom of the map (literally the third time I looked at the page). Each number is at the bottom with a list of three or four conditions that area is supposed to help with.
Except that there are so many lines that they’re very squished together in the images. I kept having to trace the lines to make sure I was seeing the correct area.
Plus, there were too many numbers to contain on the front page. A good chunk were on the back, meaning you have to flip the page back and forth. I kept losing my place, which was extra annoying.
Not to mention that I’m not thoroughly convinced by acupressure as a whole. The one I tried (bottom of the foot, insomnia) didn’t do anything. I think it’s best if people just put the paddles directly on the area that hurts.
I think the good vastly outweighs the bad, especially since you can just ignore the acupressure map.
As I may have mentioned, I love, love, love this thing. It could be great for anyone with chronic pain, whether that’s from fibromyalgia, an old injury or just the creakiness that comes with aging.
While some of the units are admittedly pricey, the one I got sells for just $24.99 on Amazon. The level of relief I’ve gotten is worth far more than that.
Have you ever tried a TENS unit or EMS technology before?