Among the many different methods of pain management, you have probably seen TENS and EMS units appear most often in your physical therapist or pain specialists’ office. They may seem very expensive, as though they belong only in professional medical settings; however, these machines can be purchased and used at home! Although they may seem similar since both use electricity to stimulate nerves and muscles, they have vastly different uses. Here they are:
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS units, are a drug-free method of pain management. These machines work by sending periodic electrical shocks through affected areas of the body, where someone’s pain is at its worst. These shocks are mostly harmless and are provided via electrodes placed directly on the skin.
In a TENS unit, electric shocks activate signals in the nervous system to produce endorphins: the body’s natural painkiller. The pulse’s strength and frequency in TENS units are adjustable as well, and typically these adjustments are made and monitored by a specialist. Over time, the strength and frequency of TENS unit shocks may change based on the patient’s tolerance.
EMS, or Electronic Muscle Stimulation, works similarly to TENS units. Electrodes are placed on affected areas of the body, and a controlled pulse is sent through the electrodes to the muscles. Unlike TENS units, however, EMS units stimulate the muscles with stronger electrical shocks. When used while tensing and relaxing the muscles, users can build and maintain muscle mass through an EMS unit.
Choosing the Right Device
Since both of these devices are forms of electric stimulation therapy, choosing the right device depends on the needs of the patient. For example, TENS units work best for pain management. Pain caused by cancer, surgery, endometriosis, osteoarthritis, neck complications, and back complications are all treatable with TENS units. In other words, TENS units specialize in aches and pains. Plus, by releasing endorphins into the bloodstream, TENS units can relieve pain without the use of painkilling drugs, or people can use them alongside painkillers for extra assistance.
EMS units, on the other hand, are great for rehabilitation. An EMS unit can help stimulate atrophied muscles and improve circulation after an operation, or build muscle mass alongside physical therapy workouts. EMS units can also be used to stimulate muscles that have atrophied from lack of use, making them an excellent choice for patients that have spent a long time unable to move due to surgery or injury. While EMS units may relieve pain as a result, their main purpose is to stimulate the muscles.
Overall, both devices have their uses, so speak with your primary care physician if you have any questions regarding which kind of unit is right for you. To browse TENS and EMS units, along with accessories for both devices, visit the Medical Supply Depot