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TENS vs. EMS: Which is the Best for You?

Posted by Nicole Verdesi on 4/11/2020 to Electrotherapy

TENS vs EMS | Which Is Best For You? | TENS Pros

TENS and EMS are very often confused but are actually very different from each other. In short, TENS targets the sensory nerves on a specific part of the body and prevents the pain signals being sent from reaching the brain and causing further discomfort. EMS targets muscle tissues and motor nerves and causes muscles to contract and draw in more muscle fibers during rehabilitation.

EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation)

These devices help stimulate muscles and promote blood flow, ultimately strengthening the muscles and preventing muscle atrophy. It can decrease muscle edema and fatigue, both of which are driving reasons for muscular weakness, pain, and reduction in functionality. EMS can be used in either a home or clinical setting to promote recovery.

EMS Therapy

EMS therapy is designed to create an electrical impulse that mimics the signals to the brain during exercise. Similarly to TENS, small, low-voltage electrical currents are exerted through electrodes placed on the skin. In EMS, however, the current causes the muscle to contract. The non-painful muscle contractions can either be long and frequent or short and sustained, similar to a strenuous exercise. 

An average workout can only activate 30% of a muscle group’s fibers; EMS increases it to 98% and decreases the risk of injury and fatigue. Electrical muscle stimulation therapy is most often used for the following:

  • Strengthening of muscles

  • Rehabilitation

  • For the prevention of disuse muscular atrophy

  • Muscular relaxation

  • Improving Local blood circulation

  • Cosmetic muscle toning

EMS Benefits

EMS may benefit you if you don’t have any pain, but want to rehabilitate or strengthen your muscles through muscular contractions. This is better known as neuromuscular re-education.

You may have also been to rehabilitation or physical therapy centers where EMS is used. They use the exact same technologies there.

EMS Machines
Recommended by TENS Pros

We offer a wide selection of EMS and TENS machines, along with all of the necessary accessories you need to use them. Some machines even offer both EMS and TENS capability all in one device. Here are some of our most popular EMS and TENS machines:

EMS 5.0 Dual Channel Muscle Stimulator with Safety Amplitude Cap

The EMS 5.0 Electrical Muscle Stimulator is a high quality analog EMS unit with simple knobs and dials for the electrical current parameter controls always at your fingertips, and comes with a standard Safety Amplitude Cap, which is a transparent pivoting cap that closes over the amplitude knobs to help protect the user from power jolts from accidental knob movements.

Each package includes EMS 5.0 Stimulator, 45" Lead Wires, 1 package of four high quality self-adhesive electrodes, 9V Battery, Hard Plastic Carrying Case and Instruction Booklet. A 1 year manufacturer warranty is also included.

EMS 7500 2nd Edition Electrical Muscle Stimulator Unit

The EMS 7500 is a fully portable, digital muscle stimulator that features a patient compliance meter, three different therapy modes, a safety amplitude cover, a sturdy metal belt clip, rubber side railings for comfortable handling, and a premium silver finish.

Includes EMS 7500 Digital EMS Unit, 45" lead wires, 1 9V Battery, 1 Pack of four self-adhesive reusable electrodes, hard plastic carrying case, instruction manual.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)

TENS, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is an effective pain relief system that stops pain from the root by sending a small, low voltage electrical current to the affected area via an electrode placed on the skin. The easily adjustable electrical current changes the way the pain signals are sent and prevents them from being sent to the brain, alleviating the pain altogether. TENS is extremely beneficial in decreasing chronic pain caused by various conditions.

How Does A TENS Unit Work?

A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) works by transmitting small, painless electrical pulses through the skin to release endorphins and other naturally produced substances and stop pain signals from reaching the brain. It works best when used during other activities such as exercising or chores.

TENS Therapy

TENS therapy is not painful, but users might feel a slight tingle on the treatment site. Treatment times can range from about 15 to 40 minutes, and for most users, pain subsides for about 48 hours. Although TENS therapy is not curative and permanent, it can be an extremely effective tool for temporary, drug-free pain relief. TENS therapy is often used to relieve pain from a variety of conditions, including, but not limited to:

  • Arthritis

  • Sciatica

  • Foot pain

  • Back pain

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Labor pain

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Sports injuries

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Menstrual pain

TENS Machines Recommended by TENS Pros

TENS 3000 3 Mode Analog TENS Unit with Timer

This user-friendly, exceptional quality TENS unit boasts the latest in microprocessor technology, featuring precise dial and timer performance. A Safety Amplitude Cap comes standard, which closes the amplitude knobs to protect the user from accidental knob movements that may result in jolts of power. 

Each package includes TENS 3000 device, 45" Lead Wires, 1 package of 4x 2" x 2" square white cloth self-adhesive electrodes, 1 9V Battery, Hard Plastic Carrying Case, and Instruction Booklet.

TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital TENS Unit with 5 Modes and Timer

The TENS 7000™ 2nd Edition is one of the most popular, and best valued, digital TENS units on the market. This Digital TENS unit is a big improvement over previous models. Proven to be among the most durable and easy-to-use TENS units out there, the upgraded digital processor is more precise and accurate than ever before. This unit is great for users seeking a digital device that is also equipped with physical amplitude knobs and five programmed modes. The TENS 7000 is a preferred doctor's choice for effective pain relief.

Each package includes TENS 7000 Stimulator, 1 sturdy belt clip, 2 pairs of 45" Lead Wires, 1 pack of 4x self-adhesive reusable electrodes, 1 9V Battery, Hard Plastic Carrying Case, Quick Start Guide, and Instruction Manual.

InTENSity 10 Digital TENS Unit

The InTENSity 10 Digital TENS Unit is one of the most popular stimulating units in the InTENSity-branded premium digital electrotherapy device family. This device comes equipped with 10 pre-set, clinically-tested, pain-relieving TENS treatment programs, organized by different body parts, making it one of the easiest, and most effective, TENS devices available on the market today. With the press of 2 buttons, the device is ready to operate effectively based on the area of the body being treated, with a customized treatment program based on clinical research protocols. 

Each package includes InTENSity 10 unit, 1 Pair of 45" Lead Wires, 1 9V Alkaline Longer-Lasting Battery, AC Adapter, 1 Pack of 4 Self-Adhesive Reusable Electrodes, Instruction Manual, and Hard Plastic Carrying Case.

Deciding Between TENS and EMS Units

Many people suffering from chronic pain have found that the use of both EMS and TENS works best for them. For that reason, combination electrotherapy units such as those listed below are accessible, providing the benefits of both muscle strengthening AND pain relief.

Combo (Both TENS and EMS) Units Recommended by TENS Pros

InTENSity Twin Stim III Digital TENS & EMS Combo Unit 

The InTENSity Twin Stim III is a portable electrotherapy device featuring two therapeutic modes: TENS & EMS therapy, which are used for pain relief and muscle stimulation. The unit is among the upper echelon of pain relief devices, with a maximum output of 105mA, and it also comes standard with an AC Adapter and removable belt clip for easy, at-home use and convenience.

Each package includes Twin Stim III unit, 45" Lead Wires, 1 package of 4 high quality self-adhesive electrodes, 1 9V Battery, A/C Power Adapter, Hard Plastic Carrying Case, and Instruction Booklet.

InTENSity Twin Stim IV - Rechargeable TENS & EMS Combo Unit

The InTENSity Twin Stim IV Digital TENS & EMS Device is a two output channel TENS machine that is highly effective in relieving nerve and muscle pain. It is among the latest 2nd-generation line of InTENSity pain relief devices. This is the first full-line of portable, combination electrotherapy devices to have preset programs by body part, as well as manually-customizable programs in one device. These devices have the most innovative, up-to-date programs and waveforms available to provide easy to use, non-invasive pain relief. Equipped with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, the 2nd Generation InTENSity devices are perfect for at home, or on-the-go, therapy.

Each package includes InTENSity Twin Stim IV Combo Unit, 45" Lead Wires, 1 pack of 4 Premium Electrode Pads, 1 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery, Wall & USB Charger, Carrying Case, Instruction Manual, and Quick Start Guide.

Talk with your Healthcare Provider

It is always important that a doctor / trained medical professional is consulted if you have a pacemaker or other implanted medical device, including any metal pins, rods, or screws, if you have cancer or diabetes, experience seizures, or are pregnant, prior to considering the use of any form of electrotherapy for pain management and rehabilitation. Anyone who is allergic to Nickel or the adhesives on the electrodes may have a reaction to TENS and/or EMS. If you experience any headache, dizziness, nausea, or rash while using TENS or EMS, please stop use and consult a doctor.

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Jaime Richiez
Date: 2/29/2020
Date: 4/14/2020
Date: 4/1/2021
Thank you for sharing his amazing article. I really liked the way you have presented this article.

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