Electrical stimulation is a technique that uses an electrical current to stimulate the muscles in order to accomplish a particular effect.
For example, it is used in training routines in the form of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) to send tiny, low-voltage electrical impulses to the body using electrodes implanted in the skin to stimulate the muscle to contract.
This muscular contraction can serve two distinct functions: first, it can reduce inflammation, and second, it can strengthen the muscle without activating the nervous system, avoiding discomfort and fatigue. This allows athletes and gym goers to reap results fast without getting exhausted.
However, with all its popularity, there remains much confusion between EMS and another form of electrical stimulation, which is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS. In this article, we’ll differentiate between the two so you’ll know exactly which serves what purpose.
What is TENS?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a pain-relief treatment that is non-invasive. It entails utilizing a tiny portable or desktop device known as a TENS unit, which is linked to adhesive pads through thin cables.
The electrodes are sticky pads that are put directly on your skin. When you switch on the device, the electrodes send low-voltage electrical signals to your body.
These signals’ frequency and strength can be modified as needed. These signals disrupt pain control.
A single treatment usually lasts between 15 and 40 minutes. It is not unpleasant, although you may experience a little tingling or warming feeling when the electrodes come into contact with your skin.
TENS devices function in three ways: they inhibit pain signals from reaching the brain, they encourage the creation of endorphins (natural analgesics), and they enhance blood circulation.
It should be noted that TENS is not a cure. This implies that it will momentarily relieve pain while in use; it will not, however, be used to treat injuries.
What is EMS?
Electronic muscle stimulation is a kind of physical treatment and fitness. It is similar to TENS in that a machine emits electrical impulses through electrodes that are put directly into your skin.
In contrast to TENS, the electrodes from an EMS machine are administered to specific muscle groups. For example, for individuals who have just undergone knee surgery, EMS is commonly used on the quadriceps muscle group.
The electrical signals cause the muscles to contract repeatedly. Contraction can be either quick and frequent or lengthy and prolonged. This process is similar to the voluntary muscular contractions involved with strength training.
These repeated contractions enhance blood circulation, which helps to relax the muscle, reduce inflammation, prevent muscular atrophy, hasten muscle recovery, and stimulate muscle development.
Are they effective?
Research suggests that the effects of electrical stimulation research are mixed. While TENS units have been in use for decades, few high-quality works of research have demonstrated their efficacy.
On the other hand, the outlook on EMS is bright, thanks mostly to the science behind it. While it has yet to be recognized as a mainstream workout option, EMS has already proven to be effective not just in losing weight, but in providing other forms of medical relief as well.
Most supporting research, such as this 2018 study, demonstrates the usefulness of EMS when utilized on persons who have had orthopedic procedures, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair.
A 2012 research looked at the application of EMS in top athletes. According to the authors, EMS devices are a viable alternative to traditional strength training. This is complemented by another study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, which showed that EMS helped improve the strength of both healthy persons and athletes.
Are they safe?
TENS and EMS devices are both typically safe. However, like with any other machine, this does not mean that they are absolutely free of adverse effects. People with sensitive skin, for example, may feel discomfort where the electrodes adhere to your skin.
If you have a cardiovascular issue, you should consult with your doctor before using a TENS or EMS equipment since they may interfere with your pacemaker, defibrillator, or other similar devices.
Similarly, it is unclear how TENS or EMS units impact unborn infants, thus you should avoid using TENS or EMS equipment in areas where the electric current might be passed to the baby.
At We202 Wireless EMS, we provide prospective clients with an introductory assessment to determine their current health and fitness levels.
Not only does this allow us to customize your training regimen to better fit your needs, but it also ensures your safety from any foreseeable and preventable harm that any pre-existing condition may bring.
What should I choose?
TENS machines are used to treat chronic nerve, muscle, or joint pain, which can include inflammatory arthritis, back pain, foot pain, contractions during labor, or postoperative pain. TENS units can help with migraine pain relief.
EMS devices, on the other hand, are used to relax or strengthen muscles, such as in situations of muscular spasm, poor blood circulation (especially in the back and nape of the neck), muscle atrophy following sickness, or as part of injury rehabilitation.
As a result, they are increasingly frequently advised for the alleviation of muscular discomfort. In recent years, EMS has also evolved and has been integrated into workout routines owing to its positive effect on muscle regeneration and growth.
Athletes may also utilize EMS to heal from injuries more rapidly, as electrical muscle stimulation allows them to (re)build muscle without undue effort and exercise muscles that they may not use very often.
Choosing between TENS and EMS
Many patients are aware that a TENS unit is appropriate for them since they already receive this sort of stimulation in the office of a physical therapist. Do not be afraid to question your physical therapist about the machines they use to assist you.
Hence, if you already use nerve pain medications, a TENS device is probably a better option than an EMS unit.
On the other hand, if you’re taking medicine for muscular pain, stiffness, or spasms, an EMS unit is probably a better option than a TENS device. These devices are also a wonderful option if a masseuse, physical therapist, or chiropractor has suggested that your discomfort is due to muscular tension.
In rare circumstances, people have persistent pain that affects both the nerves and the muscles.
Many of these people can benefit from combo systems that provide both TENS and EMS. These lightweight combination units are intended to give the greatest therapeutic treatments for people who are in pain or have chronic health concerns.
The bottom line is that before deciding on a TENS or EMS equipment, you must first identify the ailment that is causing your discomfort. If you’re not sure what’s causing your pain, go to your doctor or a pain management specialist. ’
The bottom line
It might be tough to choose between a TENS and an EMS device if you’re unaware of your condition. Consult your doctor or physical therapist first as they should be able to point you in the right direction for your needs.
At We202 Wireless EMS, we make sure that our trainers are always on deck to address your queries and to help set you up on your way to a healthier and fitter you.