Stimulating muscles with the use of electrical signals generated by artificial means is not very new to us. In the year 1780, an Italian physicist and biologist discovered that the muscles of a dead frog can be stimulated using electricity. This marked the beginning of a new branch of biology, called the bioelectronics.
Fast-forward to the recent times, we are witnessing this technology actually being used to revolutionize people’s lives. Electrical stimulation therapy is being used to treat problems ranging from muscle spasm and pain to muscle atrophy.
What are the components of an EMS machine and how does it work?
These EMS machines have a battery in them that generates the electrical impulse. They have electrodes that come in pairs of two, four or six, that are in the form of pads. These pads contain adhesive gels that help it retain the position where it is placed. These electrodes pass the impulse generated by the EMS unit, with the help of lead wires. Very small Amps of current runs from the main unit to the pads. The frequency of the current (Hertz) and pulse duration (microseconds) can be adjusted in the EMS unit.
Any change in the frequency changes the kind of muscle fiber that the machine targets. There are three kinds of muscle fibers and each of them gets stimulated at a specific kind of frequency. Note that it is not possible to produce all the three frequencies at once.
What is a TENS machine and how does it work?
TENS is short for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, which is a machine that uses an electrical impulse to treat pain and spasm. The machine looks similar to the EMS machine, but has a completely different role.
The major difference between the functioning of the two is the frequency at which they work. While EMS machine works in the frequency range of 50 Hertz to 20 Hertz, TENS machine works on frequencies, either above or below this range.
Relief is provided by TENS machine in the following two ways:
At Sensory Level: The electrical signals generated by the machine interferes with the pain signals and hence blocks the sensory neurons thereby reducing the sense of pain.
At Motor Level: This stimulation technique causes the body to release chemicals that suppress pain sensation.
TENS is a machine that is used to treat conditions like muscle sprains, back pains, shoulder pains, scoliosis and sciatica. Improvements have also been witnessed when the machine is used to treat symptoms of asthma.
Both EMS and TENS machines work by using similar principle and have widespread use either for rehabilitation or for pain-relieving purposes. EMS machines are now increasingly being used for body toning and muscle building too. These have become the new exercise machine for abs. It has been found that people who have used these machines for 8 weeks have reduced their waist size by 3.5 cm.
Many companies sell EMS and TENS machines as a single unit. This has made buying these devices even more attractive.