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How this $40 gadget helps runners, gardeners and back pain sufferers

If you experience muscle-related issues (such as back pain), the Auvon TENS unit is an inexpensive but effective remedy. Here's how to use it.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Kerry Wan
The AUVON TENS unit.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Let me preface this by saying I'm going to be talking about a device to improve health, but this article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before using any device to treat a health condition because every person's situation is unique.

With that said...

My wife and I aren't as young as we used to be. The importance of that cliché grows with every passing month. And it shows. Every time I go out for a long run, my muscles demand more and more attention to heal. My wife toils away in our yard to create a living work of art. Some days she overdoes it and her back gladly reminds her just how fragile the human system can be.

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To that end, we do everything we can to either prevent injuries or heal them without having to rely on painkillers. I do a lot of stretches, use ice, and will soak in a hot bath when needed. We also rely on an inexpensive device that has saved us both from costly doctor and/or chiropractor visits.

That device is the Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit. This gadget sells for around $40 (with the occasional sale) and has done wonders for both my wife and me. In fact, it was my wife's chiropractor that suggested we purchase the unit (he used a similar device on her during an office visit). We've had this unit for three years and it has paid for itself time and again.

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The specs for the device read as follows:

  • Dimensions: 4.12 x 2.24 x 0.43 inches
  • Battery: Internal Li-Ion rechargeable (using micro USB cable).
  • Modes: Up to 20 modes, including hammering, kneading, shiatsu, and more.
  • Independent Mode Control: You can set separate modes and intensities for channel A and channel B.
  • TENS Pads: Includes both 2" x 2" and 2"x 4" pads (you can purchase more separately).

The battery on this device lasts a very long time. Although we don't use it daily, the charge typically lasts for weeks.

Using the TENS unit

Using this TENS unit is simpler than it looks. You remove a pair of adhesive pads from the plastic pouch, apply them directly to your skin over problematic locations, plug the pads into the unit (via the included cable), select the channel you've plugged the pads into, adjust the time and strength, and enjoy the sensation. Here's a video demonstration for reference.

There are a couple of warnings you must understand. First, pad placement is crucial. There are places you must never place the pads (there are warnings to this effect in the manual). When in doubt, always do an online search for TENS unit pad placement for the problematic area.

Secondly, the unit sends a low-level electrical current into your muscles, which will spasm. I've used the unit on my calf which prevented me from walking while using it. Because of this, you must never use the unit when you need to be mobile or use whatever muscle (or muscle group) the unit is focused on. When using the unit, you'll also find certain modes work best with certain muscles or issues. Make sure to read more about the modes in the manual and understand what they do and the effect they have.

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Again, I cannot stress enough that you must use caution with a TENS unit. Your best bet would be to first consult a professional (doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor) before employing this device. When used correctly, this unit can work wonders on sore or locked-up muscles. My wife's back is a perfect testament to this unit. However, if used incorrectly, the TENS unit can be dangerous.

Another bit of advice is to always displace the pads onto their plastic film and return them to the plastic pouch when finished. If you leave the pads out, the adhesive will dry up and become unusable. I've used the same pads for some time before they had to be replaced.

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When you use this TENS unit carefully, you will see that it can bring serious relief to sore muscles. On a number of occasions, my wife has thrown out her back and this device has prevented her from having to make yet another trip to the chiropractor. As for me, it makes recovering from marathon training runs considerably faster.

Again, I must remind you to use the Auvon TENS unit with great care. Used correctly and it will bring great relief. If used incorrectly, you could find yourself getting a ride in an ambulance (rare and worst-case scenario). In the years I've used this unit, I've never had a problem. If you buy one, read the manual carefully and do not stray from the advised usage.

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