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Electrotherapy: How TENS & EMS Works

Posted by on 7/21/2015 to Electrotherapy

Electrotherapy: TENS and EMS units

Basically, Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy as a medical treatment more elaborately; it is the use of electric currents passed through the body to stimulate nerves and muscles, chiefly in the treatment of various forms of paralysis, it uses small electrical impulses to repair tissue, stimulate muscles and increase sensations and muscle strength.

The term has also been applied specifically to the use of electric current to speed wound healing.

Several different practices exist that makes use of electrical energy for treatment but each type has its own frequency, waveforms and effects. Example includes:

1.       Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) this is the most common type and most commonly used.

2.       Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) this is also very much in use.

3.       Interferential Current (IFC).

4.       Galvanic Stimulation (GS).

Electrotherapy is primarily used in physical therapy for relaxation of muscle spasms, prevention and retardation of disuse atrophy, increase of local blood circulation, muscle rehabilitation and re-education electrical muscle stimulation, maintaining and increasing range of motion, etc.

Benefits of electrotherapy

The benefits of electrotherapy are wide-ranging and include a more advanced healing process, a more effective circulatory system and increased muscle tone, a reduction in pain, increased strength, increased range of movement, increased speed and strength of muscle contractions and an increased rate of absorption.

Effects of electrotherapy

Side effects are rare, but may include allergic skin irritation under the adhesive pads and transient pain from the electrical charge.

How TENS and EMS units work

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) both use electrical energy in medical treatment. But they do so in different ways

TENS units use electrotherapy to stimulate the nerves and active therapeutic healing while (EMS), on the other hand, send electric impulses that cause muscle contraction. TENS units have dual channel use; this gives users the option to choose a preferable setting.  It is clear that TENS provides superior pain relief. Because of its customizable settings, TENS units gives much more effective solutions.TENS machines works by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands.

Generally TENS machines are applied at high frequency (>50 Hz) with an intensity below motor contraction (sensory intensity) or low frequency (<10 Hz) with an intensity that produces motor contraction

EMS Muscle stimulators are used to relieve pain, reduce spasms and edema, tonify weak muscles and assist the healing process. Known to ease muscle tension, stiffness in joints or back areas, and known for increasing motion restricted from disuse or atrophy, electronic muscle stimulation can also increase local blood circulation. They’re particularly more used among athletes, rehabilitation facilities, and in physical therapy. Again, EMS helps strengthen the muscles, tendons, and tissue, but the pain relief cannot be compared against a TENS device.

EMS devices feature low frequency stimulation to target specific muscle groups. This is great to prevent atrophy in affected muscles and improving the overall blood circulation. EMS Units run at intensities from 1 to 130 Mega Hertz.

Both TENS and EMS deliver low voltage electric impulses to stimulate.


TENS stimulate the nerves while EMS causes the muscles to attract.

Either way, individuals should consult with a healthcare professional before deciding to use electrotherapy to alleviate their pain.






Date: 7/29/2020
Does this help with amputation pain?

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