TENS VS EMS VS PMS Frequency Units – All You Need To Know




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TENS, EMS, and PMS are some of the most popular and widely used E-stim therapies out there and as a trainer, I have a good understanding of these therapies.

So, I decided to write this guide for you and in this comprehensive guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about E-stim therapies and their differences. I’ll also answer many common questions regarding these therapies which will help you better understand them. So, without any further ado, let’s get started.


In our everyday lifestyle, we experience some moments of pain that we want to fade away. At these times mostly we consider a pain-killer to relieve us from such pain. But what you might have missed is the devices that are quite popular these days.

TENS and EMS are quite renowned machines that you might have heard of. When you consider getting a pain reliving electronic device you are sure to come across TENS and EMS devices. The common confusion among people is to consider both of them for the same purpose when in general these two have their specific purposes to accomplish.

One should know that these are designed in a way that makes them carry out different objectives. TENS is the abbreviation for Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, whereas EMS stands for Electrical muscle stimulation which is also being referred to as PMS – Powered muscle stimulation. Considering their full forms, it is obvious that they are used to meet different functionalities.

Now, one more question about them is to why choose these two instead of a painkiller medicine or a narcotic herb to soothe the pain? The answer is clear and simple. It is because you can not be addictive to TENS or EMS machines. The electronic pulses produced by them are non-painful and non-addictive.

TENS VS EMS VS PMS Frequency Units – The Difference:

Like I have mentioned, EMS And PMS devices are basically the same so let’s concentrate on them vs TENS.

The difference between these two is the different abilities they contain. A TENS device is basically aimed at relieving muscle pain. On the other hand, EMS has the tenacity to help your muscles grow and train them for athletic purposes.

Although they both carry out therapeutic tasks, the way these two operate makes them different from each other.

If you are experiencing severe muscle pain and want to get your hands on a pain-relieving device, then you should choose TENS to fulfill these requirements.

Growing your muscles back after an injury, training them for athletic ambitions, and not focusing solely on pain relief, these happen to be the tasks of EMS devices.

Another prominent difference between the two is that TENS devices are basically for nerve stimulation, whereas, EMS works to relax and strengthen your muscles. Hence, mixing them up together will be a mistake.


TENS Devices:

TENS or Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is designed to work in a way that the electric pulses produced by it interrupt the pain signals to provide relief and comfort to the distressed area.

These electronic pulses are non-painful and solely work to relax and soothe the area in which you are feeling pained.

These stimulations are sent through the skin and work efficiently to relieve pain in the hurting area. You can use it anywhere on your body as it can work anywhere to relieve pain.

How Do TENS Units Work?

Basically, this device works as pain therapy. It works through electronic stimulators which interrupt and distracts the pain-causing signals resulting in a calming sensation. It is known to confuse the pain signals and distract them to soothe the pain.

Moreover, it can stimulate your body to produce natural pain killers on its own. These pain-killers and good chemicals can enhance and lighten up your mood too. You can set the TENS device to the mode you require.

For instance, if you are experiencing circuiting pain in your back, then you may set it to the maximum. The level and suffering of the pain may vary and you can select and adjust the modes according to it.

EMS/PMS Devices:

EMS – Electrical Muscle Stimulator devices also referred to as PMS – Powered Muscle Stimulator, focus on muscle movement and contracts the muscles to provide a healthy movement through electronic pulses or charge.

It also works to build your muscles therapeutically. Rehabilitation of your muscles after an injury can also be done by an Electric Muscle Stimulation device. Furthermore, it can carry out the task of athletic training for you too.

How Do EMS/PMS Units Work?

After placing the terminals over the skin of the affected muscles, the EMS device sends electrical charges to the muscle fibers which coerces the muscle to contract. This contraction is equal to the one you experience while exercising and motion.

This sending of motion signals to coerce the muscles to contract is different from TENS machines. It makes sure that your muscles are in Muscle fatigue, swelling, soreness, and stress can be reduced through EMS devices.

Also, muscular pain-relieving therapy can be done by using an EMS device. It can work in a home setting as well and will encourage healing through stimulating blood flow.

When To Use TENS and EMS Devices?

TENS Devices:

TENS machines, with their distinctive use, can be used at different points. You can use it if you are experiencing chronic pain, if it pains after a surgical encounter, if you get migraines, went through an injury that causes discomfort, cancer pain, pregnancy pain, or even if you have a healing wound, you can opt for a TENS device to look after your stinging pain no matter where it is hurting. The primary goal of TENS device is to relieve your body from pain.

EMS Devices:

Well, unlike TENS machines, EMS has its uses when one experiences a muscular pain. If you are having poor blood circulation, muscle fatigue, weak muscles, muscles need stimulation, muscular injury, unable to move muscles because of injury, or if you have gone through a recent surgery, EMS devices will help you to fix these thoroughly.

Using EMS devices when you encounter anything similar to those stated, will help you relax and soothe the discomfort. You can even use it during a workout to increase the yield.

There are many gyms today that include EMS devices and these became training devices for all people who wish to strengthen their muscles.

You can train with EMS devices using weights or on a treadmill to increase the effort level or with EMS alone.

TENS VS EMS For Back Pain:

Choosing the right device for the right purpose is extremely important. As we have discussed the differences between these two devices thoroughly, making the right choice for the right purpose is not difficult now. Every now and then, you may be feeling a stinging pain in your back.

To make it go away, you should determine whether it is muscle fatigue that is causing the pain or if it has some other reason to occur. Conditions like stiffness will make sure that it is muscle pain.

Choose an EMS device if it is due to muscle fatigue and soothe the muscles of your back. It will also regulate the blood flow in your back muscles.

A TENS device should be used if soothing pain is the primary motive and no muscular abnormality is involved and it is the doing of nerves. Mostly, TENS device is used to relieve back pain.

TENS VS EMS For Knee Pain:

Knees are the joints that are flexed countless times in a day. The high movement rate and the high risk of injury lead to knee pain. Pain in the knee joint can indicate anything.

It can be a muscle imbalance or a strain that has stressed the knee nerves. Get it checked in the nick of time and decide whether you need a TENS device or an EMS machine to relieve your pain.

TENS VS EMS For Shoulder Pain:

Should pain often gets quite excruciating and causes inflammatory sensations along with the pain. To choose between the two as the best option for shoulder pain, you must find out what sort of pain is it that you are experiencing. For this purpose, you can consult a doctor or a therapist.

If it is caused due to nerves, consider using a TENS machine to soothe the pain. Or if it is happening because of muscle spasms and improper blood circulation, then an EMS machine is the right choice for you.

TENS EMS Combination Device:

HealthmateForever – 2IN1 – A very popular combination device on Amazon

Another thing you can reach up to is a combination device which has both EMS and TENS. Though it is a bit expensive, it contains versatility by possessing the properties of both machines.

It is the perfect device for an athlete or a sportsman as TENS will relieve them of their everyday pain, and EMS will strengthen their muscles and train them. It is portable which means you can take it anywhere along with you.

Also, it offers a great deal as you will have to buy a single device instead of two. It can cure back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and will also strengthen your muscles in those areas to avoid pain in the future.

Moreover, your blood flow will get regulated and will save you from such pain. Hence, whether it is muscle pain or nerve chronic pain, you will have both of them relieved at one go.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

For your further inquiry, you may check out this section of the article. Here, we will answer the most common questions regarding ”TENS VS EMS VS PMS Frequency Units”.

Are TENS And EMS Units The Same?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) are two different E-stim therapies and they are used for different purposes. For example, TENS machines are mainly used to stimulate nerves in order to relieve pain whereas EMS machines are used to stimulate muscles that rehabilitate and strengthen them.

What Is The Difference Between The TENS Unit And The NMES Unit?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) are E-Stim therapies and both of them target our nerves using mild electrical current but they are used for different purposes. TENS is used for pain relief and the NMES unit is used for muscular weakness treatment.

Can You Overuse An EMS Unit?

No, it’s not advised to overuse your EMS Unit because it can have side effects. Normally, you can use an EMS Unit for 30 minutes but it’s recommended you should limit your session to 20 minutes to avoid issues such as skin irritation. 

When Should You Not Use EMS?

EMS can be used in most cases but if you have any electrical device implanted in your body, you shouldn’t use an EMS Device until your doctor advises it. EMS Devices can potentially interfere with your electrical implant and affect its working so if you have a pacemaker, neuro-stimulator, or any other electrical implant, you should not use EMS without your doctor’s recommendation.

Can E-Stim Be Harmful?

E-Stim is a powerful therapy and there are no established risks associated with it. However, if you use it for an extended period, the electrodes can cause skin irritation so make sure you limit your session to 20 minutes. Similarly, if you have any electrical device implanted in your body, you shouldn’t use E-Stim therapy until your doctor clears it.

Can I Use E-Stim At Home?

Yes, you can use E-Stim therapies at home and you should limit your sessions to 20 minutes to get good results and avoid any issues.

How Long Should I Use E-Stim For?

According to research, you can get better results when you use E-Stim for 20 to 30 minutes while you are active. It won’t be very effective if you are resting or lying down.


E-Stim therapies such as TENS, EMS, and PMS are very effective and can help relieve pain and rehabilitate your muscles. You can also use them at your home and get good results by using them for 20 to 30 minutes. However, if you experience skin irritation you can reduce your session’s duration to 20 minutes to avoid skin irritation. 

I hope that you found this guide useful and if you have any questions, I’d love to answer them. So, please let me know your questions in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Also, don’t forget to check this guide where I’ve shared the best TENS unit for Chronic Pain for Personal Home Use.

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