Sports Injury Recovery and Prevention
Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS)
An electronic muscle stimulator is used for relieving pain, tonify weak muscles, reduce edema and spasms, and help the healing process. This type of therapy is known to ease stiffness in the back and joints, relieve muscle tension, increase restricted motion from atrophy, or improve local blood circulation.
The electrical impulses are generated by the EMS unit and delivered through electrodes on the skin fairly close to the muscles that are desired for stimulation. The impulses resembles the action potential (AP) coming from the central nervous system (CNS), causing the muscles to contract.
Electrostimulation can also be used for athletic training for treating swelling and/or pain, particularly in the acute stage of the healing process when the injury is brand new and the swelling and pain inhibit function or progress. It treats the pain by stimulating the large nerve fibers, which often override smaller nerve fibers that are producing the pain.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators (TENS)
The most common type of electronic stimulation is known as a transcutaneous electrical nervestimulator (TENS). This unit involves the placement of electrodes on painful areas of the user's body. TENS works by blocking the sending of pain signals along the nerves and releases endorphins, which is the body's natural painkillers.
Another way that TENS/EMS works is by stimulating weaker muscles into contracting while exercising to improve their strength more quickly. It is often used in this way after knee surgery, injury to the quadriceps, or on a shoulder's rotator cuff injury or surgery for stimulating strength gains.
The electrodes are placed on the weakened muscle and the athlete/patient is told to exercise or the therapist will manipulate the area while the machine begins to deliver stimulation externally to the muscle. Research shows that recovery times are significantly increased with the use of a TENS/EMS machine.
What It is Used For
For Pain Relief
Electrotherapy is used for the relief of pain. There are a couple theories on how it's able to relieve pain. The Gate Control Theory suggests that when pain signals are sent via nerves to your brain, they have to pass through a 'gate'. The electrostim causes stimulation sensation that is said to pass through this gate and block the nerves ability of delivering pain sensations.
The second theory suggest that this stimulation leads in the brain releasing natural painkillers, known as enkephalins and endorphins, which lead to pain relief. Studies have shown that after using low-frequency electrical stimulation, there have been marked increases of these natural chemicals.
For Muscle Re-Education
Re-training muscles when they are having difficulty contracting is another use for electronic stimulation. Although it's used for a variety of conditions, it is mostly used for individuals who have had an orthopedic surgery or suffered a stroke. Often these patients have difficulty moving a joint or muscle.
When their muscle tissue receives the electrical impulse, under the proper settings, the muscle is able to contract without the patient helping. The brain can actually re-learn how to contract muscles on its own when patients contract their muscle actively while experiencing the stimulation.
Benefits of Electronic Muscle Stimulation
There are various benefits to electrical stimulation, which support it in being a really efficient way for managing pain and re-training muscles with a disease or after injury. Electrostimulation isn't addictive and the machines used are user-friendly and compact.
It offers a great alternative to taking pain medication and are cost-effective. There are few risks, the main drawback is that it won't solve the underlying condition that is causing the pain; however, it can provide tremendous pain relief without the use of drugs.
EMS therapy is used in wellness and massage centers, gyms, competitive sport, medicine, and rehabilitation. Elite athletes include electronic muscle stimulators in their training for improving speed and strength. Physical therapists use EMS for targeted back exercises and joint-sparing muscle formation. Gyms and personal trainers use it for body shaping through catabolism of fat and muscle formation, tightening of connective tissue and stimulation of metabolism.