An electrical stimulation (e-stim) is a technique used in physical therapy that uses mild electrical pulses. Portable stim machines are also becoming in demand in recent years to help individuals facilitate therapy in their own time and place. These devices are mainly used for pain management and muscle stimulation. They help people with chronic pain or suffering from an injury manage the symptoms and rehabilitate faster. Moreover, they come in various types and functions.
Electrotherapy provides many benefits. They help improve physical conditions without the aid of medications. It is also a non-invasive form of treatment. In addition, it lessens the likelihood of getting intrusive procedures. Thus, individuals who do not want to rely on drugs may use these devices. Moreover, e-stim has many types. In this article, we will present the functions and uses of the most used treatments, TENS and EMS.
What is a Portable Stim Machine?
A portable stim machine is a battery-operated unit that sends electrical impulses through the skin. It is equipped with electrodes that are placed on the target area to stimulate the nerves and muscles. There are many types of devices. The most common types are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS).
Stim machines are programmable units to adjust the frequency (pulse rates) and intensity (amplitude). Users can also set the duration (pulse width) and waveforms. Thus, it is adaptable to the person’s needs. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including pain relief, muscle recovery, and even to improve athletic performance.
Electrotherapy has been used for decades by doctors and physical therapists to aid in recovery. However, advances in technology made it more accessible for personal purposes. They are also safe and easy to operate that do not require medical supervision. Nevertheless, it is essential to know how each machine works and its precautions to prevent risks.
Other Types of Electrical Stimulation
- Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) – helps individuals with paralysis or muscle weakness to perform functional movements.
- Interferential current (IFC) electrical stimulation – for symptomatic relief of pain. It is similar to TENS but uses stronger currents. It is less common and more expensive.
- Russian stimulation – for strengthening and building the muscles. It is similar to EMS but uses higher frequency. It has been used to enhance athlete performance.
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – to induce seizures in the brain to relieve the symptoms of some mental health problems.
- Galvanic Stimulation (GS) – uses direct current to relieve pain associated with trauma.
Portable Stim Machine: TENS
Among the pain management therapies, TENS is the most used. The portable stim machine uses alternating currents to stimulate the nerves to relieve pain. It achieves this through pain gating and endogenous opioid theories. The first method uses high-frequency (HF) to induce the spinal nerves to close and block pain signals from reaching the brain.
The second approach uses low-frequency (LF) to trigger the release of endorphins. They are hormones that act as natural pain relievers. Endorphins inhibit the nerve cells from sending pain messages. Consequently, it reduces the overall perception of pain. The electrical pulses also increase the blood flow needed for healing and reducing inflammation.
A TENS machine allows users to modify the settings based on their condition or level of pain. Conveniently, modern devices include pre-set modes for quicker treatment. These programs have built-in settings designed based on body areas or medical conditions. Therefore, selecting a pain mode will immediately begin the treatment without needing further adjustments.
Uses and Applications
A TENS machine is beneficial in many pain conditions. Firstly, it helps relieve muscle aches due to overuse, tension, and strains. Secondly, it is efficient in managing chronic pain. It best treats nerve or joint-related disorders, such as arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia, bursitis, and tendinitis. It is also helpful in reducing symptoms of degenerative disc diseases or chronic back pain.
TENS is also suitable for acute pain like period cramps and labour pain. The electrical pulses help distract the brain from contractions. Lastly, it helps manage post-operative pain. Devices like the wireless iTENS from iTENS Australia have customisable features and pre-set modes for these conditions.
Portable Stim Machine: EMS
Another popular use of a portable stim machine is for muscle stimulation. EMS aims to strengthen the muscles by using stronger currents to cause contractions. The stimulation causes the activation of motor neurons, which generate an action potential in the muscle fibres. The contractions help improve endurance and flexibility, and other muscular functions.
EMS also helps recondition muscles that were affected due to an injury or disease. It also boosts circulation, which helps lessen muscle soreness. As a result, it helps relieve muscle pain and restore the range of motion. Athletes or fitness trainers incorporate EMS to complement a training program. In relation, it is important to note that EMS is not a substitute for exercise.
To use the device, place the electrodes directly over the muscle belly. Then, turn on the machine and start with a low setting. Increasing the intensity will cause the contractions to become stronger. For instance, you may set the device as high as you can tolerate. However, avoid turning it extremely too high to prevent damage to the muscles and nerves.
Uses and Applications
EMS is suitable for individuals with muscle aches or wanting to improve weak muscles. Physiotherapists prescribe it to patients coping with an injury, after an operation, or post-stroke. Furthermore, people may use it to stimulate the muscles before a warm-up or exercise or relieve post-workout soreness.
Muscle stimulation also prevents atrophy or the thinning of muscle mass. In summary, it helps improve muscle health and promote recovery. In addition, it is best to consult a professional before starting EMS for guidance. Ensuring that electrotherapy is not contraindicated for you is vital for safe and effective treatment.
Portable stim machines are versatile devices that can provide a wide range of benefits. In particular, TENS therapy offers pain relief from acute and chronic conditions, while EMS is for muscle strengthening and rehabilitation. The device uses mild electric pulses that users can modulate to fit their treatment needs. In addition, it comes with pre-set programs for quick and convenient use. Thus, it is essential to get a diagnosis of your condition to use the right device or therapy.
There are a lot of considerations in getting a device. Firstly, it is to know what you need or purpose. Secondly, know the functions and features of each unit. Electric stimulators come in several types and styles, such as traditional (wired) or wireless machines. Lastly, follow the correct usage and safety guidelines to avoid risks or side effects. You may consult a health professional to see if electrotherapy is right for you.