Electrical Muscle Stimulation
Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is probably the most common therapy we use at the office. EMS is the contraction of muscles by using external electrical impulses. The type of impulses used can create different effects including decreased muscle tightness and reduction of pain.
EMS reduces muscle spasm by rapidly contracting muscles faster than the body can by itself. The fastest muscles in the body are the ones that move the eyelids, but even those can contract only about 12 times a second. EMS contracts the muscles at 150 times a second. This causes muscle fatigue and after about ten minutes, relaxation of the muscles. Once the muscles are relaxed, pain is reduced and range of motion is increased. Used in this way, EMS is great for relieving muscle spasms or tension. It also makes it easier to adjust people so we typically do this before we adjust our patients.
Now for the dirty little secrets…
Dirty Little Secret 1 TENS units and EMS units are really the same thing.
TENS units are those portable units that you can carry around with you. They are small enough to fit in a pocket. They actually use a slightly different current than EMS but most new TENS units have settings that can be changed to function almost exactly like EMS units. The only difference is that they may be slightly less comfortable than our big machines
Dirty Little Secret 2 TENS units are not really that expensive.
They go on sale every couple of months and I usually get some in case patients want to buy them. We have them for $50 and it includes the pads.
Dirty Little Secret 3 TENS units really aren’t that much different than the big machines we use.
Our machines might be a little bit more powerful but not by much.