Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) are two helpful forms of electrotherapy. TENS and EMS machines provide various benefits to their users. These units externally apply electrodes to deliver low-voltage electric currents to the nerves and muscles. They can induce the pain gate mechanism and endorphin release for pain relief. Meanwhile, stimulating target muscles can induce involuntary contractions and improve muscle strength. Nevertheless, consulting a healthcare professional is ideal before using electrotherapy devices.
Many people suffer from acute and chronic pain conditions. This can cause significant stress and reduce mobility, lowering their quality of life. Fortunately, using TENS and EMS combo units can alleviate pain and help with the rehabilitation of muscles. It can help decrease muscle tension and address different body aches, such as neck pain and shoulder pain. This article will provide information on EMS and TENS units, the science behind them, and how to use them.
Understanding TENS and EMS Machines
A TENS and EMS machine is a portable device that allows users to access nerve and muscle stimulation in one medical device. This is beneficial for many people who suffer from various ailments. Generally, TENS and EMS units are separate machines that have different functions. However, combo units can increase the convenience of using electrical treatments.
TENS is a form of electrotherapy that uses low-voltage electric currents to alleviate aches. Meanwhile, people use EMS mainly for muscle strengthening and rehabilitation of muscles. These machines are often used in medical settings, such as in hospitals or physical therapy clinics. However, people may purchase TENS and EMS products online or in pharmacies without prescriptions.
There are traditional and wireless options that people can select from. Traditional or handheld devices use lead cables to connect the adhesive electrodes and the control unit. Meanwhile, wireless machines utilise Bluetooth to connect to the controller or a smartphone. These units typically have adjustable settings, preset programs, and long battery lives. This enables users to access versatile treatments whenever needed.
What Can It Treat?
- Acute pain: these are ailments that last less than six months. Many describe them as sudden pain and usually connected to specific causes. Examples of these are period pain, post-operative pain, and sports injuries.
- Chronic pain: these are conditions that last more than six months. These can be unexplained or linked to other ailments. Examples of these are backaches, fibromyalgia, and migraines.
- Neuropathic pain: conditions caused by damage or pressure to the nerves. This includes diabetic neuropathy and sciatica.
- Musculoskeletal disorders: ailments that affect the muscles, joints, and bones, limiting the range of motion. This includes rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Science Behind TENS and EMS Machines
TENS and EMS machines utilise electrical impulses to provide pain relief and muscle stimulation. The impulses from electrodes can stimulate the nerves and the muscles to produce various effects. Using high-frequency TENS currents, the electric impulses can trigger the spinal nerve fibres to block the transmission of pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the pain gate mechanism described in the Gate Control Theory of Pain.
Furthermore, using low-frequency TENS currents can induce motor nerve stimulation. This can trigger the release of endogenous opioids. These hormones are natural painkillers that bind to opioid receptors and reduce the intensity of the painful condition. Endorphins can also help reduce inflammation and stress while improving moods.
Meanwhile, EMS machines deliver electrical currents at higher frequencies than TENS to the target muscles to induce involuntary contractions. This stimulation can help re-educate the muscles on how to contract and relax. It can help improve muscle performance, muscle growth, and muscle tone. It also promotes faster muscle recovery by improving blood circulation.
Frequencies and Intensities
The frequencies and intensities play a crucial role in the effectiveness of TENS and EMS sessions. The frequency refers to the number of electrical pulses delivered per second. This is measured in Hertz (Hz). Lower frequencies for TENS range from 2-10 Hz. Meanwhile, higher frequencies are about 50-150 Hz. EMS machines can range from 25 to 400 Hz.
The intensity refers to the strength of the electrical currents. This should be set at a comfortable level to produce temporary relief. Nevertheless, it is best to always start with the lowest intensity levels to prevent sudden shocks or discomfort.
How to Use a TENS and EMS Machine
Using a TENS and EMS machine is easy. Nevertheless, following safety guidelines and preparing before the session is conducive to effective treatment. Hence, the user should check if the unit and all accessories are in good condition. They should check for any breaks in the wires or if the adhesives need replacement.
Once everything is ready, the user may apply the electrode pads to the target area. For pain relief, the ideal placement is on or near the pain source. Meanwhile, attach the pads to the target muscle groups for muscle stimulation. Next, link the electrodes to the control unit once they are secure. Afterwards, they may turn the device on and adjust the settings. They can gradually increase the intensity levels or select a pre-set mode.
For TENS sessions, the duration can last between 15 and 30 minutes. However, EMS sessions should last no longer than 20 minutes. Nevertheless, users may consult a healthcare professional for advice regarding using these devices. Doing so can help increase safety and may produce better results.
It is essential to observe safety guidelines when using electrotherapy devices. The foremost precaution is to consult a medical professional to ensure that electric stimulation is safe for the individual. Some may have health issues that react negatively to TENS and EMS, like certain heart conditions, epilepsy, and seizures.
Furthermore, proper pad placement is crucial to a safe and effective treatment. Users must avoid sensitive areas, such as the spinal cord, throat, and chest. They should also follow the prescribed duration for their session. Otherwise, overusing the machine could cause skin irritation or mild burns.
TENS and EMS machines are tools that help many individuals. They provide pain relief using the pain gate mechanism and triggering endorphin production. They also help with rehabilitation by re-educating the muscles and improving their growth. These machines are effective against chronic and acute pain conditions. They also help with neuropathic and musculoskeletal disorders. Furthermore, using these devices can improve moods and lessen stress. This is why many now opt to buy personal devices for convenient use,
EMS and TENS units are easy to self-administer. To use them, the user must apply the electrodes to the target areas and adjust the settings or select a preset mode. Afterwards, they may reap the benefits of electrotherapy. However, consulting a medical professional is ideal before using these units. This can help ensure safety and may improve the effects of the treatment. Those interested in a wireless TENS unit may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.