Electrical Muscle Stimulation Therapy

Posted on June 7, 2012. Filed under: Exercise, Healing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrical Muscle Stimulation

What is Electrical Muscle Stimulation and what does it do?

Electrical muscle stimulation, also called EMS, is a type of therapy in which electrical impulses are generated by a machine and travel through electrodes on the patient’s skin and then into their muscles. EMS mimics the body’s central nervous system by sending safe, low-frequency electrical pulses to the affected area, causing the muscle to contract and increase temperature and blood circulation.   The same natural process of the body to repair injuries works with EMS to relieve other common nervous system disorders, including constant headaches, numbness of limbs, and back pain.  EMS is often used for therapeutic applications but some athletes use it for sports training purposes as well.  It has been found to be an exceptional way to help the body in the healing process.  It works well in relaxing the muscle and allowing it to return to its normal state quite rapidly.  The pulses can help reduce swelling and release trigger points that may have the muscle locked up.  It also helps the body to release natural endorphins for pain relief.

By utilizing and encouraging the body’s natural healing mechanisms, EMS and similar therapies can drastically reduce the dependence on medications and unnecessary surgeries and help resolve the symptoms of underlying causes much quicker.

What should be expected during the first treatment?

This therapy involves placing the EMS pads on the areas to be treated.  It is designed to be a comfortable and relaxing experience.  The patient will feel a gentle tingling that develops into a massage-like sensation as the frequency is increased.  The therapy is usually introduced at the same time as an acupuncture treatment is given.

Generally only two EMS pads are necessary but doctors may want to treat two areas at once and it is not uncommon to have two sets of pads on different areas. The assistant should begin at a very low-frequency and gradually increase at intervals until the patient is comfortable. If the frequency is too high, patients will feel the muscle tense and tighten and can ask the assistant to turn the frequency down at any time.

Where is the EMS applied?

The physician and assistants can apply the pads to forearms, knees, elbows, calves, and hands – generally anywhere there is discomfort or a condition that can benefit from electric stimulation.  The doctor will make the proper diagnosis and trained assistants will administer the therapy based on specific instructions.

What are the side effects and who should not use EMS?

According to experts at the Natural Standard and Harvard Medical School, side effects from EMS are generally very mild. Patients may experience tenderness for a day or so afterward where muscles are already sore from inflammation. Short-term redness and skin irritation may also occur. Those who use implanted medical devices and pregnant women should avoid this therapy.

Which Conditions can EMS therapy help with?

Reputable research shows EMS can help treat the following, but are not limited to:

  • carpal tunnel
  • connective and dermal tissue  repair
  • increase in the range of motion in joints caused by such problems as arthritis and injury
  • muscle atrophymuscle spasms
  • muscle tension associated with long periods of sitting, standing, or lifting heavy objects
  • post-surgical muscle regeneration
  • sciatica
  • sports injuries
  • tennis elbow
  • ulcers and chronic wounds

How long  should one use EMS?

For some doctors, EMS is a passive therapy used exclusively for acute pain and for a short period of time. For others, depending on the severity of pain, EMS is a necessary tool in extensive rehabilitation and may be used during every visit. In addition to EMS, long-term progressive therapies, such as massage therapy and specialized stretches to retrain muscle groups, have been introduced into chiropractic care routines.

Although EMS is not new in terms of muscular therapy treatments, it has been proven to effectively relieve pain over time and contribute to total body wellness. There are many patients who eventually reach a point where doing simple stretches at home and visiting a chiropractor once a month or once or twice a year is sufficient for pain-free living.

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