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What is Electrical Muscle Stimulation?

August 27, 2011

Electrical muscle stimulation (also known as TENS) refers to many types of electrical therapies that are used to relieve pain.  It is sometimes called e-stim or EMS for short.

When is it used?

Electrical stimulation is often used to reduce pain and promote healing in an injured part of the body by stimulating the muscles.  It is often used as part of a physical therapy and/or chiropractic program.

How is it used?

Electrodes are placed on the skin near the painful area and attached to a machine by wires. Low voltage electrical impulses are delivered to surface nerves in the skin.  These impulses can be delivered at variable current strengths, pulse rates and pulse widths.  The electrical current overloads the nerves that block the body’s pain signals.  It may also help the body release endorphins.  Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.  The goal is to try to find the best frequency and intensity to control the pain.

What are the benefits of electrical muscle stimulation?

Some of the benefits are:

  • Decreased pain over injured areas
  • Relaxation of muscle spasms
  • Prevention or decrease in muscle atrophy
  • Muscle re-education
  • Increase in local blood circulation
  • Improves tissue healing over injured area

What are the risks associated with this type of treatment?

The risks of this procedure are very minor.  Just make sure that the settings on the electrical stimulation are not too high.  The electrodes should not be placed over the front or sides of the neck or in areas that have decreased sensation.

You should not have this treatment if you have a pacemaker.

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