An electrical stimulation machine probably sounds intimidating to many people, but oddly enough, this machine is far from that! These machines are very popular amongst physical therapists and orthopedic rehabilitation facilities because they can help alleviate pain. Whether you have used an e-stim machine before or have no idea what this machine is, the basics of understanding this machine are beneficial for you to know.
What is an electrical stimulation machine?
You might hear people refer to electrical stimulation machines as electrical muscle stimulation, EMS, Stim, or E-stim. These machines are usually not very large, with a centralized base that generates an electrical current, and has setting options such as intensity of electrical pulses, timers, etc. The machine has several cords coming from it with pads at the ends that will be applied to the skin.
How does e-stim work?
The electrical pulses generated by the machine run faster than your pain sensors that communicate to your brain when you are in pain. Thus, the stim machine can interrupt your pain sensors and can help block you from feeling the pain temporarily. Another concept is that these pulses allow your body to release endorphins which also help to alleviate pain. When used to alleviate pain, you will feel a tingly, ant-like sensation. There should be no discomfort or pain!
E-stim machines can also be used for muscle re-education. If a patient is having trouble getting a muscle to work again or contract after an injury (most common after surgery), the e-stim machine can re-engage the muscle without any effort from the patient. It essentially wakens the muscle up and reminds your body of how to utilize that particular muscle again.
Who can use electrical stimulation?
Most people are candidates for electrical stimulation, however there are some individuals who should not use the machine. Some of these contraindications would include people with implants, pacemakers, cancer, post surgical scars that are not completely closed yet, and children with open growth plates. Your physical therapist should be well-versed on this, your medical condition, and history. Your PT should also be checking in with how you are feeling to make sure the e-stim machine is on the correct setting and you are seeing benefits from using the machine.
What are the different modes on the e-stim machine?
There are several different modes on the E-stim machines used for different purposes. Here at our clinic, Envision Sport Physical Therapy & Pilates, we utilize IFC, Russian and Iontophoresis. IFC is short for Interferential Current and is most useful for E-Stim that decreases pain and stimulates blood flow to the desired tissues. IFC is actually not TENS. The two are similar, but with IFC you can easily move the current to target the more painful parts of an injury. Russian Stimulation is best for muscle re-education because the electricity that comes from this actually contracts the muscles. Iontophoresis is a type of E-Stim used to administer topical medications. Typically these medications help with reducing pain, inflammation, minimize swelling, muscle spasms, or help with pain relief. Any use of Iontophoresis would have to be prescribed by your physician.
Electrical Stimulation is a great modality for a majority of patients and can be incredibly effective as part of the rehabilitation process. It really is simple, noninvasive and typically the relaxing part of your PT appointment.
Remember, it is important to be your own advocate and obtain good information from trusted, reliable sources. If you are interested in Electrical Stimulation, or Physical Therapy, we, at Envision Sport Physical Therapy & Pilates, can provide these treatments for you if applicable to your current conditions! Give us a call at (949) 713-6445 and we can schedule your appointment.