Electrical Myostimulation for Muscle Recovery

23 June 2021
Dr. Raoul Novelli
Reviewed by Dr. Raoul Novelli
Written by Anastasia Lesnikova

    Whether you are an elite athlete, a casual workout fan, or simply recovering from an injury, electrical myostimulation could be your secret weapon to a faster recovery time.

    Previously, a sports injury or post-operative injury to the muscles required many months of intense physiotherapy. One tool that is frequently used in rehabilitation is ice equipment, to cool the injury and reduce swelling. Another is a piece of beauty equipment that also has physical therapy benefits – the myostimulation machine.

    Keep reading to learn more about electrical stimulation for muscle recovery and how it can speed up rehabilitation.

    What is Electrical Stimulation?

    Electrical stimulation can induce muscle contractions through the use of electrical pulses. By positioning electrons on the skin, a mild electrical current is administered to replicate the messages neurons send to muscles and nerves. 

    The electrical pulses sent to the muscles signal them to contract and relax in repeated cycles, allowing the muscles to work and improve their strength. At the same time, similar electrical messages of a different wavelength can be sent to the body’s nervous system, blocking the transmission of pain signals from these muscles to the brain via the spinal cord.

    The repetition of these muscle contractions increases the blood flow, helping to repair and strengthen injured muscles. Similar to when exercising, the process of the muscles contracting and relaxing, helps to produce endorphins. These chemicals are known for their natural, pain-alleviating qualities, helping to aid recovery further.

    Electrical Stimulation for Muscle Recovery

    What can E-Stim Treat?

    Electrical stimulation therapy has proven to be a beneficial treatment option for several medical conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to: 

    • Back pain
    • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Joint pain
    • Arthritis
    • Muscle conditioning (primarily for athletes)
    • Muscle injury resulting from trauma or disease
    • Nerve inflammation
    • Poor muscle strength
    • Urinary incontinence
    • Spinal cord injury
    • Stroke and post-surgery recovery
    • Multiple sclerosis

    EMS and the Heart

    There is some research that indicates that electrical myostimulation is a great way for those who are recovering from a heart attack to regain aerobic ability and oxygen uptake, compared to those who rehabilitate using regular aerobic activity. If you are recovering from heart problems, it is vital to consult a professional and use a credible medical aesthetics device for EMS in a spa or physiotherapist setting, before considering a home-use device without professional guidance.

    The Different Types of E-Stim

    Electrical myostimulation for muscle recovery comes in many different forms. The most common include TENS, EMS and NMES; however, there are other specific variations.

    TENS

    Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a technique used for managing chronic and acute pain. The method involves placing electrodes near the source of pain on the skin, which then sends electrical signals through nerve fibres to block or reduce pain signals that are transmitted to the brain. TENS can be used as a non-invasive, drug-free alternative to pain management, and is commonly used for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia.

    EMS

    Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is a technique that involves the use of electrodes placed on the skin near affected muscles to cause rhythmic contractions through a slightly stronger current than TENS. If the user simultaneously attempts to contract the muscle during the EMS, this can improve muscle strength. EMS is commonly used in physical therapy to improve muscle function and prevent atrophy in patients with injuries or conditions that affect their ability to use certain muscles. It is also used in fitness training to enhance muscle development and recovery.

    NMES

    Neuromuscular and Muscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) is a type of therapy that utilises electrical impulses to stimulate nerves, causing the associated muscles to contract. This stimulation mimics the natural action potential sent by the central nervous system. NMES can be applied both during functional movement and while the patient is at rest. It has been used for many years as a means of strengthening and preserving muscle strength, particularly in patients who are immobilised and at risk of experiencing muscle atrophy. This technique is also commonly used to prevent muscle loss and aid in the recovery of patients following injury or surgery. By stimulating the muscles with electrical impulses, NMES can effectively maintain or enhance muscle strength, leading to improved mobility and overall physical health. It has also been proven useful to astronauts in maintaining muscle mass.

    Electrical Stimulation for Muscle Recovery

    Additional Types of E-Stim

    Other forms include:

    • Electrical Stimulation for Tissue Repair (ESTR) - A therapy that uses electrical currents to stimulate tissue repair by promoting blood flow and cell regeneration.
    • Interferential Current (IFC) - A type of electrical stimulation therapy that uses multiple frequencies to alleviate pain and promote healing.
    • Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) - A technique that sends electrical impulses to stimulate muscles to perform specific movements, often used in rehabilitation.
    • Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) - A type of therapy that uses electrical impulses to alleviate chronic pain by interfering with pain signals travelling to the brain.
    • Iontophoresis - A non-invasive technique that uses electrical currents to deliver medication through the skin and into the underlying tissues for localised pain relief or anti-inflammatory effects.

    Does Electrical Myostimulation Reduce Your Recovery Time?

    Electrical stimulation is a widely used technique for enhancing muscle recovery. The therapy works by sending electrical impulses to the affected muscle, causing it to contract and relax repeatedly. This process helps to increase blood flow to the area, which delivers oxygen and nutrients necessary for the healing process. 

    Additionally, repeated contractions and relaxations help to reduce muscle atrophy, which can occur when a muscle is not being used for an extended period. The electrical stimulation also triggers the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, which help to alleviate any discomfort or pain associated with muscle soreness. 

    It can also be used to target specific muscle groups, which can be beneficial for athletes recovering from injuries or surgeries. Overall, electrical stimulation therapy is a safe and effective way to enhance muscle recovery, reduce pain, and improve mobility.

    How does EMS Work for Muscle Recovery?

    It works by connecting the injured muscles to pads, which conduct electrical impulses through the damaged muscle. This increases blood flow, which, in turn, helps eliminate waste products from the area. It also works the muscle in the same way an exercise session would, by contracting and relaxing the muscle, in a similar way to how it would be used if lifting weights or strength training.

    While some EMS machines are available for home use, a spa system in a beauty or aesthetic clinic is often a better option. Therapists are trained to know the optimal places to put the pads and can ensure that the right amount of current is passed through the muscle, to avoid exacerbating an industry further. A good therapist who offers EMS can create a customised treatment plan that increases the level of electrical current gradually over the course of treatment, to avoid the possibility of any further muscular damage.

    Reducing Recovery Time

    Electrical myostimulation is not just for injured muscles that are causing problems. It is also ideal for use by athletes and fitness fans between workouts, to help reduce the recovery time between sessions.

    Not only can an electrical myostimulation treatment help to restore the muscles toning and firming actions, but it can also work to relieve pain and inflammation. It will help to minimise recovery time and get people back to their best faster than those who choose to recover without using EMS.

    What to Expect from Electrical Myostimulation

    Electrical myostimulation can be a highly effective way to treat a range of medical conditions, from chronic pain to muscle weakness. If you're considering this type of therapy, it's important to know what to expect during a typical session.

    In the first instance, electrodes will be placed around the site of the procedure. It is not possible to have this treatment on or around the head, neck or chest. However, it is commonly used for arthritis, sprains, back pain, scoliosis and sciatica, as long as these do not occur on vital parts.

    Once you are comfortable and the device is all setup, the electrical current will be turned on. While this may sound daunting, the current begins on a very low setting before it is gradually increased. This process is non-invasive and pain-free for most; the most you’ll likely experience is a light-tingly sensation, often likened to ‘pins and needles.’ Throughout the session, this sensation will build and is often described as intense, but not painful. 

    Depending on the type of e-stim being used, you may also experience muscle twitches or repeated contractions. Each therapy session can last anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the individual and condition being treated. While e-stim may not be the right choice for everyone, it can be an effective tool for managing pain and promoting healing in a variety of situations.

    Sessions with our electrotherapy devices yield remarkable outcomes right from the initial session and are entirely non-invasive. By employing a fusion of isotonic movements and neuromuscular electrical stimulation, you can achieve your own success story with the help of VIP Italia. Other users of our devices have seen their muscle strength improve by 26%, read more here. Get in touch for more information.

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    FAQ

    Are there any risks of electrical myostimulation for muscle recovery?

    While electrical myostimulation is generally considered safe, there are some risks associated with the therapy, particularly if used incorrectly or without professional supervision. Overstimulation of muscles can result in muscle soreness or injury, especially if the therapy is used too frequently or at too high of an intensity. There is also a risk of burns or skin irritation if the electrodes are not positioned correctly or if the intensity of the electrical current is too high. To ensure an optimal procedure, it is recommended to visit a professional clinic with qualified practitioners.

    Is e-stim suitable for everyone?

    Individuals with pacemakers or other implanted medical devices should not use electrical myostimulation without first consulting with their healthcare provider, as the therapy can interfere with the proper functioning of these devices. It is also not recommended for pregnant women and those suffering from serious medical conditions, such as oncological disorders.

     

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