In this review, Spy contributing editor Mike Fazioli reviews the Nursal 24-Mode TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator. The information below is not medical advice.
There are all kinds of pain that people deal with on a daily basis. Post-workout aches, that shoulder you wrenched doing yard work, even those “I slept funny” pains — none of them are fun. And, unfortunately, many people also suffer from chronic sources of physical discomfort, from tendinitis and bursitis to arthritis and fibromyalgia. Which is why pain-management products, particularly drug-free ones, are at a premium.
Recently I picked up the Nursal 24-Mode TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator on Amazon to try and kick a nasty case of elbow tendinitis that has hampered me for months. TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and if you’ve ever had a chiropractor hook you up to those tingly pads for back pain, that’s a TENS unit. Unlike the large professional unit at the chiro office, the Nursal unit is rechargeable and smaller than an iPhone, for ultimate portability. And at under 30 bucks, it was worth rolling the dice on in hopes of regaining mobility and eliminating the constant pain.
While muscle stimulators might seem like an “As Seen on TV” gimmick, I had a great experience with this particular product, which is currently on sale via Amazon Prime. This TENS unit will normally set you back $46, but it’s currently on sale via Amazon Prime for just $29 — a 17% discount.
Ancient Science Made New and Convenient
The idea of zapping your pain away sounds modern, but it actually goes all the way back to AD 63 in Rome, when Scribonius Largus reported that pain was dissipated by standing on an electrical fish at the shore. (Maybe for you, Scribonius, but not for the fish.) Electrostatic devices were used for headaches and other pains in the 16th through 18th centuries, with famous proponents like Benjamin Franklin. The first modern TENS unit was patented in the United States in 1974, and over time has evolved into smaller and more affordable units like the Nursal unit I tested.
How It Works
There are two schools of thought on how electrical nerve stimulation addresses pain. One is that the electric current stimulates nerve cells which block the transmission of pain signals. The other is that stimulating nerves in this fashion raises the level of natural pain-killing endorphins. A TENS unit delivers low-voltage electric currents via adhesive pads placed on the skin over or near the pain points. The Nursal TENS Unit has 24 different patterns of electrical charges to simulate different therapies, divided into 6 groups: Kneading, Acupuncture, Beat, Cupping, Scraping, and Tai Chi Massage.
Is TENS Therapy For Everyone?
Definitely not. A TENS Unit is not safe for pregnant women, people with implantable devices like pacemakers or indwelling blood-pressure monitors, people with epilepsy, heart disease, bleeding disorders, or deep-vein thrombosis or thrombophlebitis. Also, it should not be deployed on or near infected tissues, areas recently treated with radiation, damaged skin, on your face, the front or side of your neck, on your head, or on or near your genitals. (Sorry, it’s a TENS Unit, not a vibrator.) And yes, that’s a long disclaimer list, for good reason — applying even low-voltage electrical pulses to your body is not to be done haphazardly.
That said, upon taking the Nursal TENS Unit for a test run, the results were remarkable. Being a human jumper cable is a counterintuitive experience that took a couple of minutes of getting used to. I set the unit for a 20-minute session on the Strength Alternate Vertical Kneading setting, with the gel pads delivering the current on the tendon above my elbow and the sore muscle in my forearm below. I found my fingers involuntarily extending with each wave of pulses. It wasn’t at all painful — just a reflex — and kind of amusing. But after a short adjustment period, I felt the same relief I would receive during a massage. The unit shuts off automatically after the timer expires, and upon removing the adhesive pads, I felt a difference in my balky elbow.
This isn’t a one-and-done treatment to be sure — it’s therapeutic, meant for regular use. I eventually ramped up my sessions to an hour at a time, during which I could comfortably sit and read or even get some computer work done. Two weeks in, I’m feeling a distinct improvement. Chalk one up for Scribonius Largus’s poor fish!
What We Liked About the Nursal TENS Unit
It’s incredibly small and portable, barely over 6 inches by 3 inches, and weighing less than a pound. It also holds its charge seemingly forever, and when finally exhausted it recharges easily in a USB outlet with the provided cord. It comes with a variety of adhesive pads, with cords configured for two or four cords, and two output ports at the bottom. Definitely heed the instructions about dampening the pads before and after each use so they maintain their stickiness, and either put them back on the plastic pad holder or reuse the cover labels which they come in. The unit works far better when the pads are fully and securely adhered to your skin. And, as stated, the results have been excellent.
What We Didn’t Like
The interface — which is not a touchscreen — is clumsy and difficult to get used to. You have to learn how to switch between modes, increase or decrease the time of your session, and switch between the A and B output ports, all with one square directional pad and one button. And are 24 modes really necessary? To be honest, I have not gotten to even half of them yet, and it requires a more robust set of instructions than those provided to explains the differences between them.
The Verdict: We Were Skeptical, But Count Us Convinced – Buy It
An in-home pain-relief device for under $30 seemed too good to be true, and I’m not partial to homeopathic or less-common treatments. But my arm does not lie, and I actually look forward to my hour on the TENS Unit every day. When I go on the road it’s incredibly easy to pack and bring along, cords and pads and all. Once I get the hang of the interface, I’ll probably hate it less, but even now it’s just a necessary annoyance in the interest of the greater good of pain relief. And Amazon has an entire page devoted to Nursal’s line of pain relief devices, in case you want to check it out. Based on my experience with this unit, I definitely recommend it for anyone with temporary or chronic pain.
I’m not the only one that had a positive experience with this TENS unit. This product has more thousands of positive reviews on Amazon and an overall 4.6-star rating. On top of that, this particular product is discounted by 37% right now, which means Amazon Prime customers can save $17 (plus an extra 5% when you checkout).