The Difference Between TENS & EMS Explained


Have you ever stumbled across a TENS product while shopping online and shortly afterwards, an EMS one too? Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between TENS vs EMS products when they both seem to offer similar benefits? You’ve come to the right place then! We’ll break it all down for you without all the technical jargon.

TENS and EMS machines actually serve entirely different purposes. Both technologies relieve pain by means of electrical currents, just through different approaches.

In a nutshell, TENS is used primarily to relieve pain symptoms while EMS is for muscle growth and athletic training. If you suffer from chronic nerve or muscle pain, you might have heard that a TENS or EMS machine could provide you with non-addictive, drug-free relief. While TENS and EMS units are powerful therapeutic solutions, only TENS is used strictly for pain therapy. EMS machines are used for rehabilitation of muscles after injury, athletic training and even beauty treatments.

A lot of people mistakes a TENS machine as an EMS machine as both are marketed with similar features.  Generally, TENS machines are much more affordable and less complex as compared to EMS machines.

What is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)?

TENS is a form of therapy that provides short-term pain relief using low-voltage electric current. It is non-invasive, inexpensive, and can even be self-administered, making it one of the most popular forms of electric therapy for pain relief.  It involves sending small, low-voltage electrical impulses to a specific nerve via electrodes placed on the skin, with the aim of modifying the way that neurons send signals and preventing the pain signals from reaching the brain.

What is Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS)?

EMS Aspire DeviceEMS or Electric Muscle Stimulation is the process of causing muscle contractions using an external electrical charge or pulse usually created by an EMS machine or device.  The electrodes are placed on the skin over the muscle that you want to exercise. An electrical charge is sent into the muscle charging the muscle’s fibres which causes a muscle contraction. This is the same action muscles experience during exercise and motion. EMS essentially exercises your muscles as if you were sending the signal for the muscle to contract yourself, when in actual fact, you are not. This makes it a popular device for people who dislike exercising but still want to keep in shape.

Which one should I use?

To cap off this TENS vs EMS comparison, let’s talk about which one is more suitable for you. It ultimately depends on your primary goal.

If your main purpose is to relieve pain, a simple and inexpensive TENS machine will do.  TENS may be able to relieve pain caused by the following conditions: arthritis, fibromyalgia, sports injuries, labour pain, nerve pain, menstrual pain, and migraines.

EMS on the other hand is more for physical therapy, fitness and body sculpting.  The repeated muscle contractions are not at all different from the voluntary muscle contractions associated with physical training. Traditionally, EMS machines have been bulky and expensive.  Only professional athletes used to have access to this specialized equipment as part of their training.  Today with the advent of advanced technology, EMS devices have become more portable and affordable to the general public.

If you’ll like to find out more about EMS devices, you can take a look at our Aspire Device which has helped hundreds of women all over the world achieve their ideal body without exercise.


At Alpha BodyTec, we cut through all the clutter and deliver only the best for our customers, be it through articles or our fitness tech products. If you would like to experience and adopt some of the latest industry-disrupting EMS fitness wearables, do take a look at our store. Enjoyed this article? Browse more of our fitness and health articles at our blog.

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