Benefits of Electrical Stimulation
Electrical stimulation sometimes referred to as e stem or TENS is a recovery technique that can be used in 2 ways; to relieve pain or to re-educate muscles. The devices come in many different sizes and usually have two basic settings; high frequency and low frequency. Low frequency settings are
used for muscle re-education and create a constant pulsing involuntary contraction at the muscles. With inactivity, injury, surgery or even stroke, patients can lose control and firing capacity at certain muscle groups. It is the bodies defense mechanism against pain. By applying the pads onto the muscle belly and using the machine to passively contract the muscles, a patient can get the muscle re-firing with more ease. It is best to use active techniques to teach the patient to fire their muscle simultaneously with the help of the machine in order to re-learn the muscle firing capabilities and
re-teach the neuromuscular system to active that muscle on it’s own.
In untrained individuals or in those rehabilitating from injury, electrical stimulation has been shown to be more effective than voluntary activation’s in eliciting beneficial gains. Research has shown that only 71% of the muscle tissue is activated during maximal efforts in untrained or injured populations.
When the ability to maximally recruit motor units is limited with injury or being untrained, it effects your mechanics in turn leading to pain and injury. It’s a perpetual cycle which is why it is SO important to eliminate muscle imbalances before returning to sport!!!
High frequency settings create a constant buzzing providing pain relief to the muscle or joint. In theory, this works pretty simply. Pain signals are sent to the brain via nerves. The stimulation sensation for electrical stimulation on high frequency settings is said to block the nerves that deliver these signals.
The photo on the left represents a electrical stimulation setting for the VMO muscle in the quadriceps on a low frequency setting in order to re-gain muscle control. Typically the setting for muscular stimulation involve only 2 pads running along the muscle belly. For pain relief using high frequency settings, there are usually 4 pads used either surrounding the painful and injured muscle or joint. Make sure to talk to a professional before you set up your pads and adjust your setting if you are using an at home set up.