Alpha-Stim and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) are both electrical stimulation devices that provide effective drug-free treatment for pain.

But, Alpha-Stim comes with a different mechanism compared to that of TENS. The use of the TENS device is not quite new. Alpha-Stim is not entirely new either, but it is not commonly used compared to TENS devices.

Broadly speaking, compared with Alpha-Stim, TENS could easily cause side effects that could result in an injury. But, TENS is very popular.

This article will explain and compare Alpha-Stim and TENS in treating pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Let’s try to understand what Alpha-Stim is first. And, then TENS.

What is Alpha-Stim?

Alpha-stim™ is seen to be a proven ‘safe’ and ‘effective’ electrotherapy device for pain treatment
and management of anxiety, depression and insomnia.

This device has no addiction risk, no interaction danger with medications and its side effects does not linger.

Alpha-stim aids in combating both insomnia and depression. It helps in relieving both pains
and anxiety. It can give long-lasting results in some instances, but sometimes only immediate and short-term ones.

This device can be used in a home or a hospital setting.

Alpha-Stim Recognition and Research-base

Alpha-stim is controlled by the food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and is authorized in several other countries in the world. Surveys from doctors and patients revealed that Alpha-stim has helped with about 90% of patients who gave it a try also more than 100 published reports and completed individual research studies supporting the innovation.

Alpha-Stim Treatment Protocols

Alpha-stem uses two protocols in treating patients.

  • Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)
  • Microcurrent Electrical Therapy (MET)

Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) is the method of using less than one half milliampere electrical current delivered into the brain directly through ear clip electrodes for the section of 20 to 60 minutes to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Microcurrent electrical therapy (MET) is the method of transferring less than a milliampere micro current per channel into the body. Self-adhesive AS-Trodes™ or Alpha-Stim Smart probes are used for electrical delivery with a protocol of 2 to 5 minutes to treat pains in extremities (hand pains and leg pains).

AS-Trodes (Picture shows AS-Trodes)

How Alpha-Stim Works

Alpha-Stim electrotherapy device functions by transmitting a peculiar electrical waveform for the modulations of the body cell’s signals to come back to the baseline, functioning normally, greatly reducing mood conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia without drugs.

With Alpha-Stim, a significant number of people have experienced relief with just a single treatment.

The result of this Alpha-Stim electrotherapy device, when continued to use, can be more pleasant, cumulatively increasing over time as the function of the cell will be easily modulated.

Possible Side Effects of Alpha-Stim

Alpha-Stim side effects are usually self-limiting and mild.

According to the physician survey, side effects associated with the MET and CES treatment were:

dizziness (0.07%),

electrodes burns/skin irritation (0.07%), and

headache (0.10%).

CES treatment with higher currents more than necessary for a more extended period may cause nausea or dizziness that can last for some hours and in few cases days.

Alpha-Stim treatment immediately before going to bed may cause the patient to find it difficult to sleep. On rare occasions, paradoxical effects such as sleep disturbance and increased anxiety may occur.

It is also advisable to consult a healthcare practitioner or an authorized Alpha-Stim seller if Alpha-Stim did not commence to control your anxiety, pain, depression or insomnia within one month of use for advice.

There are mainly two types of Alpha-Stim models.

Alpha-Stim M vs Alpha-Stim AID Comparison

The technology of Alpha-Stim has two available users’ friendly models -Alpha-Stim M and Alpha-Stim AID.

The two are appropriate for both home and clinical use.

Alpha-Stim M

Alpha-Stim M is a combination of both MET (Microcurrent Electrical Therapy) for pain treatment and CES (Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulator) for treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Alpha-Stim M is a versatile and complete model, also the right choice for people who are being treated for pains.

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Alpha-Stim M comes with self-adhesive AS-Trodes™ and smart probes which help to cure pains and Ear clips for CES administration.

Alpha-Stim AID

Alpha-Stim AID is for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

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Now, let’s look at TENS.

What is TENS?

TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a process of pain relief that includes the use of low electrical current.

A TENS Unit is usually a small battery-powered device with wires connected to the electrodes pads. When the pads are directly attached to the skin, and the device is switched on, tiny electrical impulses are transferred to the part of the body that is affected/treated.


Those TENS electrical impulses reduce the signals of pain going to the brain and spinal cord, which help to relax muscles and relieve pain. It also stimulates endorphins production, which is the natural painkiller of the body.

TENS is capable of reducing pain and spasms of the muscle caused by varieties of conditions which include;


endometriosis caused pelvic pain,

period pain,

knee pain,

back pain,

neck pain,

sports injuries and many more.

Tip: Do you have any signs of sciatic nerve pain? Here is the Best TENS Unit Placement Guide for Sciatica Pain.

Possible Side Effects of TENS

When compared to drugs, TENS is ‘safe’. That is one of the many reasons why TENS is reliable and popular as a treatment option.

Nevertheless, TENS has a few side effects you should closely monitor for.

  • Burn marks.

This comes as a result of very high-intensity settings or leaving on the pads for a long time. Though the TENS units have pro-set modes that help guide the user from these mistakes.

  • Skin irritation.

Irritation occurs when the pads are left on the skin for a long time without checking on it.

  • Muscle Twitching.

This happens when the TENS unit intensity is too high.

  • Damage to open wounds.

Wounds can become irritated and may also prolong the healing process when TENS electrode pads are placed too close or on damaged skin or even on an open wound.

  • Potential fetal harm.

The TENS effect on fetuses is yet to be tested. Therefore, pregnant women wishing to use a TNES unit should consult their doctors before using TENS close to the uterus or abdomen.

  • Muscle pain.

This might be as a result of the high-intensity level or because there is not much gap between the electrode pads.

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Tip: Here is the difference between muscle pain and nerve pain.

  • Facial nerve damage.

This will only happen when TENS is placed on the face. The manufacturers do not recommend placing TENS on the face.

  • Loss of muscular control.

There is every possibility that TENS could affect the movement of muscles and the feelings of the patient while it is being applied. That is the reason a bit of advice is given not to drive or operate machines while undergoing TENS treatment.

  • Unpleasant electric shocks on the skin.

This only happens when the electrode pads are not correctly applied or when the skin is wet.

The side effect of TENS is mostly error in operation. And, its effectiveness and safety make it very popular in relieving pains.

Tip: TENS is different from EMS (Electrical muscle stimulation). Follow the link to read our TENS vs EMS Selection Guide to identify the best treatment option for your specific medical condition causing pain.

Now, let’s compare the two leading technologies, Alpha-Stim and TENS, in the management of depression, anxiety, pains and insomnia.

Tip: Remember, anxiety attacks are different from panic attacks. Here are panic attack symptoms in women and men.

Alpha-Stim Vs. TENS for Depression

Alpha-Stim for Depression

Alpha-Stim is one of the most efficient non-addiction and drug-free depression treatment.

The FDA-cleared devices use CES (Cranial electrotherapy stimulation) for depression treatment.

Alpha-Stim transfers a peculiar waveform into the body for the restoration of chemical balance in the body and mind. This waveform is transferred into the body through small clips attached to the earlobes. These clips transfer a microcurrent to the brain stem, aiming at some particular groups of nerve cells.

Alpha-Stim is not painful, non-invasive, and it can be used at hospitals, privately or at home.

Tip: Omni Stimulator, which is a type of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is effective for depression too

TENS for Depression

The efficiency of TENS in handling the symptoms of depression seems to be unresolved.

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A recent study that looked at patients depression symptoms with subacromial impingement syndrome (SIS) discovered that TENS, in combination with exercise, don’t have any impact on the symptoms of depression.

Another article published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicines suggested that TENS therapy, when compared with an antidepressant, is more effective when it is combined with music and education (behavioural therapy) but currently, there is no robust research available to confirm it.

Tip: Benefits of Art Therapy for Adults and Children were covered before.

Alpha-Stim Vs. TENS for Anxiety

Alpha-Stim for Anxiety

Medical experts greatly recognize CES-based Alpha-Stim devices areas an effective treatment for anxiety without addiction risk and medication.

These devices transfer a mild microcurrent that is similar to the amount and type of electricity occurring naturally in the brain.

The tiny, less than milliampere microcurrent is so gentle that the majority of people don’t feel it.

The waveform is transmitted through small clips attached to the earlobes which transfer a microcurrent to the brain to modulate certain groups of nerve cells. It gives significant anxiety and stress relief, and normalized mood.

Alpha-Stim can be done at home, and it takes about 20 minutes to be completed. Many users of Alpha-Stim experience immediate anxiety reduction and for their first time, increased well-being feelings.

Alpha-Stim CES technology benefits are cumulative. Every treatment continues from the progress of the previous, relieving anxiety for a more extended period.

Tip: Did you know anxiety symptoms in women can be different from men?

TENS for Anxiety

Like I noted in the depression above, research has it that the effect of TENS on treatment to people with anxiety is very minimal; nevertheless, hyperalgesia and pain focused research projects discovered that TENS might help in reducing anxiety symptoms.

Alpha-Stim Vs. TENS for Pain

Both Alpha-Stim and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units deliver effective drug-free pain treatment. The two of them provide pain relief through an electrical device.

How TENS Work on Pain?

A TENS device transfers a lower voltage of electrical current directly to the particular place the pains are being felt through an electrode that is placed on the surface of the skin. Often, it is used in treating symptoms like aching muscles or back pain. The device makes a tangling sensation which blocks the symptoms of pain temporally.

Tip: Do you know how a bulging disc back pain feels like, and how different that from a disc prolapse and disc protrusion?

Tip: Remember, kidney pain is a medical emergency!

How Alpha-Stim Work on Pain?

Alpha-Stim works with AS Trode or smart Probe to provide a peculiar waveform through MET (microcurrent electrical therapy) to modulate the signal of the pain instead of blocking it when treating pain.

Alpha-Stim is cleared by FDA to deliver safe, fast and validated pain management for people combating post-traumatic pain, chronic pain and acute pain.

MET (e.g. Microcurrent Electrical Therapy such as Alpha-Stim®) and TENS are similar in form, but MET uses lesser current. The current of the TENS device, when compared to that of Alpha-Stim, is much stronger.

Alpha-Stim uses CES (cranial electrotherapy stimulation) through small clips on the earlobes in treating conditions that always come with chronic pain such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. But TENS, on the other hand, do not.

Alpha-Stim Vs. TENS Effectiveness on Pain

TENS device can quickly reduce pain from the onset, but it is usually a short-term result. The body also adjusts to it, to maintain a therapeutic effect demands a higher amount of current over time.

Alpha-Stim effects on pain are both fast-acting and long-lasting. It is also cumulative, and patients can be able to decrease the use with time. Also, there are several other research that supports the effectiveness and safety of Alpha-Stim.

Tip: Quell pain relieve device can help with pain too.

Alpha-Stim Vs. TENS for Insomnia

Alpha-Stim for Insomnia

Alpha-Stim is ADA cleared handheld medical prescription device for the treatment of insomnia. The treatment takes about 20 to 60 minutes and users can receive impulses while going about their normal activities at their places of work or home.

The technology is based on an exclusive waveform that goes between electrodes clipped on the earlobes to restore balance in the brain and reduce insomnia.

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TENS for Insomnia

A study that investigated the result of TENS on chronic insomnia published by Oxford Academics concluded that low-frequency electrical stimulation has positive additive effects on people fighting chronic insomnia and also taking medications. The study further discloses that daytime sleepiness, anxious and depressive mood predicts the response of treatment and the reduction of occipital delta power is related to alleviating insomnia symptoms.


TENS usually provides in milliamperes a simple square wave, which is much stronger than the current of Alpha-Stim and outside the normal level of physiology. The frequency should be programmed and changed by the user. TENS delivers a painted stimulus called “counter-irritation analgesia” to relieve endogenous pain. It does not relieve residual pain but only provides temporary relief for pain while being used.

Alpha-Stim runs on 50-600 microamperes. Its treatments with either the smart-probes or electrodes are diagonally done across the body and also all through the tissues affected. The microcurrent type of therapy initiates cellular and blastema regeneration, ATP
increase, reduces pain, reduces inflammation, and it is also to be used across the brain for disorders that are related to stress, e.g. anxiety, aggression, depression and many more.

Tip: Thumper massager could help with pains, anxiety, depression and stress too.