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EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) has successfully been used in medical rehabilitation and to support training in competitive sports for decades.
EMS produces intensive and effective muscular contraction, generating extraordinary training effects and rapidly enhancing performance.
In rehabilitation, EMS is a well-established method for treatment of a broad field of musculoskeletal diagnoses. Electrical stimulation of an intact peripheral nervous system may create motor responses in patients with impaired or lost ability for voluntary muscle activity.
EMS is commonly used for:
- Neuromuscular Facilitation
- Muscle Re-Education
- Muscle Training
- Prevention/Slowing Of Atrophy/Hypotrophy
- Preventing Postoperative Muscle Weakness
- Reduction Of Spasticity
- Maintaining Or Increasing Range Of Motion
- Training Of Partial Peripheral Nerve Damage With Signs Of Re-Innervation
- Treatment Of Scoliosis
- Incontinence Treatment
EMS is used in conjunction with other physical therapy and should always be combined with active training of muscle mobility, strength, coordination, and functional training.
In training, the technology for electrotherapy is used for all kinds of muscular exercise – warm-up, strength, speed, power, resistance, endurance and recovery and also for rehabilitation. The method is well known and works as an excellent complement to regular training.
Advantages Of EMS
Use of EMS may lead to faster progress in the patient’s treatment program. The method is simple and appropriate for treatment in the clinical setting as well as for self-treatment at home.
Successful athletes all over the world have discovered the advantages of EMS, such as an increase of the local circulation and the size of the muscle fibres. EMS also helps to raise the intake of oxygen as well as improve the metabolic exchange and the consumption of energy of the user.
How EMS Works
Muscular activity is produced by the central and peripheral nervous systems transmitting electrical stimuli to the muscles of our body. EMS uses external electrical impulses that act through the skin to stimulate the nerves supplying a specific muscle group.
The muscle reacts in different ways depending on the strength of the current, and the duration and frequency of the electrical impulse.
Muscles are made up of two different types of fibre:
Red fibre is slower contracting and aerobic working.
White fibre is faster acting and capable of anaerobic working.
The proportions of red and white fibres depend on the way the muscle is used. Fibre can be converted from one type to the other, depending on the signals it receives. This is known as the Trophic effect.
Different frequencies have different effects:
Low (1-10 Hz) frequencies coupled with long impulse times, for example, have a purifying and relaxing effect through individual contractions, whereby the circulation in the treated muscle is simultaneously improved and removal of metabolic end products is supported (lymphatic drainage). The oxygen supply to the muscle is improved.
Medium (20-50 Hz) frequencies can put a high level of strain on the muscle, thus promoting the muscular structure, by means of a rapid succession of contractions (fibrillation).
EMS Electrode Pad Placement
The pads are normally placed near the muscle motor nerve and the unit transmits a stimulus through the skin, with a choice of specific therapeutic patterns. The correct positioning of the pads is important.
Treatment Time And Treatment Interval
All programmes have adjustable duration with defaults of 20 minute sessions. Depending upon the muscle group and the patient’s status, treatment by EMS can vary between 15–60 minutes of stimulation twice a week, to treatment sessions several times per day.
Understanding The Differences Between TENS And EMS Units
There are two major electrical devices in today’s healthcare market that treat both chronic and acute pain in the body. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulators (TENS) use electrotherapy to stimulate the nerves and active therapeutic healing. Electronic Muscle Stimulators (EMS), on the other hand, send electric impulses that cause muscle contraction.
Even though TENS and EMS electrotherapy devices share similarities, the reality is that they’re extremely different at their core. While EMS units cause muscle contractions to stimulate healing, TENS targets the nerves themselves for therapeutic purposes.
TENS Provides Immediate Relief
Since TENS units target the nerves, the relief is immediately experienced. TENS units generally feature dual channel use, allowing users to easily alternate between their preferred settings. EMS devices feature low frequency stimulation to target specific muscle groups. While this is great for preventing atrophy in affected muscles and improving blood circulation, it’s clear that TENS provides superior pain relief. Furthermore, customizable settings make TENS units much more effective solutions.
Both Chronic And Acute Pain Can Be Treated
The benefit of TENs units is that they provide sensory level relief without causing muscle contraction. This means that the devices can be used on chronic and acute pain alike. Since the muscles are not forced to contract, muscle relaxation is encouraged and TENS devices are able to aid the body in releasing endorphins, which are natural pain inhibitors.
As the body releases more natural pain relieving substances like endorphins, the relief goes beyond the temporary and becomes something more substantial. While electrotherapy from EMS devices is certainly stimulating, the pain relief pales when compared to TENS, as the nerves are generally left unaffected.
How To Treat Areas Of The Body
TENS devices focus on treating one area of the body at a time. This ensures maximum effect and really provides a targeted solution. EMS units, however, can target multiple muscle groups at once, providing widespread electrotherapy. Since TENS units are much more focused, they’re generally considered more effective at diffusing and blocking pain.
Electrotherapy is considered non-invasive and is proven to be safe nerve stimulation. Some of the most popular conditions that TENS units treat include osteoarthritis, postoperative pain, and musculoskeletal pain. The primary shortcoming that TENS units have, however, is that they’re less effective on new injuries. Treating a fresh injury with electrotherapy can actually aggravate the pain and make it worse, though TENS’ effectiveness at relieving chronic pain is undisputed.
Understanding How EMS Devices Are Used
Since EMS units elicit muscle contractions, they’re particularly popular among athletes, rehabilitation facilities, and in physical therapy. Again, EMS helps strengthen the muscles, tendons, and tissue, but the pain relief cannot be compared against a TENS device.
Similar to TENS devices, EMS units are considered generally safe and are often recommended by doctors. People react differently, and one device might work better on one individual than another. To get the best results from both TENS and EMS units, patients should avoid leaving electrodes in place for extended periods of time and should only use as directed.
Fortunately, the pain relief from TENS units is effective without invasive treatment or the necessity of drugs. For individuals searching for pain relief from electrotherapy, the answer is clear: TENS devices offer more targeted and efficient relief. Together, TENS and EMS devices create a long-term plan that promotes health, well being, and a pain-free lifestyle.
While there are many differences, there are a few minor similarities between TENS and EMS devices. Both are personally controlled by the user, which means that patients can enjoy them in the comfort of their own home without direct supervision from a healthcare professional. Furthermore, the treatments can be enjoyed multiple times a day at the convenience of the individual.