TENS Unit for Pain Management & EMS for Muscle Rehab - Ask Doctor Jo
Hey everybody, it's Doctor Jo. Today I'm gonna talk about TENS units and EMS units. Hmm, lot of letters. What do those mean? I, for one, am a big believer in these products. The TENS unit stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
And an EMS stands for Electrical Muscle Stimulation. So they're a little different, and I think people get confused sometimes. The TENS is more for a pain reliever type of thing. I recently had hip surgery, and I have to say the TENS was on me every single day, twice a day, and it took away the need to use pain medication. So if you have reactions to pain medication, this might be a good alternative to get some of that pain out of there, relax your muscles and be able to do the things that you need to be able to do. The Electrical Muscle Stimulation, the EMS, is used to help gain muscle back, so it actually contracts the muscle. It's a different feeling, sometimes it's slightly uncomfortable, but it's a good uncomfortable, I think, because it's making those muscles work.
The TENS to me has this vibration feel, which is really comfortable, I like it. Some people aren't a huge fan, but basically in simple terms, what it does is it follows that, that vibration follows the same pathway as the pain pathway. So it kind of cancels it out. So then that pain that you're feeling doesn't go up to the brain, that vibration goes up to the brain. So I always call it a little bit of a massage feeling, and when you get a good massage, massages are always comfortable, it's a "oh yeah that feels good" kind of feeling and that's what I think it feels like. The folks a FlexTone were nice enough to send us two different TENS/EMS units.
This bigger unit is usually more in the clinic that you'll see. And it has a couple of different outlets and it's really nice. And then they sent us a more mobile one. And when I opened it up, I was surprised at how small this thing is. It is so cool, it almost looks like an old-school cellphone which I like. But you can slip it in your pocket and then go about and do your activities throughout the day with it on. And so if you have maybe some back pain, you can put on your back, set it for 15 minutes, have it on, it turns off by itself and then you don't have to worry about it.
So it's really nice, I thought it was really cool, I just couldn't get over how small this is, it's probably one of the smallest ones I've seen. So this is the Pro 16 and this is the RX-8000. So what I'm gonna do is show you how both of them work and just what it does while it's working. You have these pads that you can use, and they're actually slightly different. These are the most common pads you're gonna see, they're pretty interchangeable amongst TENS and EMS units, they just have kind of a push in with a pin right here, and then you put them in. And then this one is a little slightly different for the smaller one, but it just kind of snaps on. But again, they work the same. So, when you're doing a TENS, most of the time you're gonna use 4 pads.
And when you're doing an EMS, you're gonna use two pads. With the TENS, they way you want to do it is a cross pattern. So they two here, as you can see there's two channels, you want to cross them so then the currents go to where you're kind of hurting. So let's say it's on the knee.
If I'm hurting kind of on that knee cap area, I'm gonna put one channel here, and one channel here. So I'm gonna go ahead and do that now. So you can see they're connected there. And what's nice about them too, is you can actually pull them a little bit, they're connected, but you can separate them without messing them up. So I'm gonna put one over here, then the other one over here. And then just like that.
It's best not to have lotion on your skin when you put these electrodes on. They are reusable so you have, you know, one set for you. And then what's really nice is in the big pack here, it comes with a whole bunch of them in different sizes too. So once they wear out usually after about 3 - 4 weeks, then you just get a new set. But there's also some that you can put gel on it, and they're reusable and you put the gel on it and then wipe it off, clean it off, and then you can use those again. So once you have it on.
Make sure it's turned off before I turn the power on. You turn the power on here, and it has a whole bunch of different settings, so it's almost pre-set for you so you don't have to figure out the current levels. Back in the day, you actually had to kind of figure out the current levels and it was kind of tough. But now, you can just pick knee/elbow, hip, foot, shoulder, leg/arm, and back.
So I'm gonna go with the knee/elbow. It starts off at 20 minutes, but you can just keep pressing this for more time. Then here, the channel A and B for 1 is the one it's plugged in to. So you just turn it on til you hear that click. The green light comes on.
And don't crank it up fast cause you have to get used to that feeling. And then you just start going until you feel, it's almost like a little "tap, tap, tap, tap" so like I said, again it's a massagy kind of feeling, it feels really good. And it's up to you of how strong you want it. So if it's kind of one of those where "I don't know I'm kind of worried," you don't have to have it on high.
The higher is not better, it's just for your comfort level. So some people actually like it pretty high because if you're hurting, the higher you go, it'll cancel out that hurt a little bit more. And then you just, for the TENS, you just have it on and relax. And as you can see with the TENS, you're not supposed to see a muscle contraction.
Again, I think that's where people get confused. If you actually see the muscle contracting, it's not quite doing what it's supposed to do. So you can either turn it back off and move the electrodes around a little bit so it's not sitting on a muscle that it's contracting. Or just take the power down a little bit. But you don't want that muscle contracting for the TENS. And then you can just relax and let it go. You can put an ice pack over it, you can put a heat pack over it.
So these are nice because you can put stuff over it, you don't just have to have this on it. So, again, when I had my hip surgery, I had these on, and then I had my ice cooler flowing ice water through and it felt great. Like I said, I didn't have to use pain medication very long.
So then you can turn that off. And again, both of these do TENS and EMS, but I'm gonna show you the EMS with the smaller unit. Just to show you how powerful that little compact unit is. And both of these you can use them without being plugged in and they're rechargeable. So you can charge them back up at night when you're not using it.
So now for the EMS, what I'm gonna do is try and get my quad muscle to contract a little bit. So with this one, you only need 2 pads, you don't need the 4 pads. And sometimes this needs readjusting as well. You put it where you think the muscle is, but you might have to readjust it a couple of times, or have your therapist show you where to put it in the right spot. So the little on button is here, and it's really cool. Cool colors. And again, this one is kind of set up for you again where you don't have to do much except pick the one that you want.
And then it's just got the power, "+" means stronger "-" means less. And then hitting this button goes to the different channels. So I'm gonna go to the one that actually has some contraction in there. And I'm just gonna start taking it up. And as you can see there, that my muscle starts to contract and then it relaxes.
So, again, this is one that's kind of you're comfort level. But you want it to be strong enough where it's actually contracting the muscle now, so you might just have to tolerate it, a little bit of that uncomfortableness, but you want the muscle to contract. So you really just want to kind of tough this one out so you can get that muscle contraction 'cause that's what you're looking for. If you've just had a surgery, and that muscles not quite firing on it's own, this will help. So what you can do with this, when you're doing the muscle contraction one, is do an exercise while it's on there. So I'm gonna do a quad set. SO once I feel that it's gonna contract the muscle, then I push down and squeeze that muscle as much as I can while it's getting that stimulation in there as well.
So these are some really, really cool products. I really like them. I think that they help in recovery. Help recover the muscles, get those muscles strong again, or help take away that pain which is super important. So, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments section, if you're interested in purchasing either one of the Flextones, go to our product store at AskDoctorJo.com/products If you like it, click the like button. And remember, be safe, have fun, and I hope you feel better soon.
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