What Does a Tens Unit Do for Muscles (and Who Should Not Use It)
What Does a Tens Unit Do for Muscles? Well, for most people who’ve heard about the many benefits and uses of a TENS unit and are often looking for ways to reduce muscle pain, muscle spasms, muscle soreness and other muscle problems, this is one question that always lingers in their minds.
Well, the truth is, although a TENS unit is primarily used for pain relief, it has also proven to be effective for various muscle issues as well. Like an EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation Device) which is specifically designed for muscle stimulation, a TENS unit can offer muscle stimulation while still acting as a pain relief device.
Although most people often confuse the two due to their striking similarities, the two differences are designed for different uses. While an EMS unit is proven to be more effective for muscle stimulation, a TENS unit, which is commonly used for pain relief, also provides a few muscle benefits.
For people looking relief from pain and at the same time want something for their muscles, a tens and ems combo unit is an ideal option. A tens and ems combo machine is basically a single device that combines the functions of the two devices. In other words, a tens and ems combo unit relieves pain while at the same time stimulating muscles.
In this article, we discuss a number of things that a tens unit does for muscles. Still in the same article, we are going to outline some potential risk factors of using a tens unit for muscles, as well as the group of people who are advised against using it.
Let’s dive right in!
What Does a TENS Unit Do for Muscles?
TENS Machine for Tight Muscles/Muscle Relaxation
One of the biggest questions that most people ask when it comes to tens units and muscle relaxation is “Does a TENS Unit Relax Muscles.”
Well, it does! In fact, relieving tight muscles is probably one of the biggest benefits of a TENS unit for muscles.
So how does a TENS unit relax muscles?
Studies have suggested that the electrical pulses or charges from a TENS unit confuse pain signals from going to the brain, thus providing muscle pain relief which consequently reduces muscle tightness.
One study published in the NCBI aimed to determine the immediate combined effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and stretching on muscle hardness/tightness and pressure pain. About 15 young and healthy males participated in the study.
According to the study results, the combined application of TENS machine and stretching significantly reduced muscle hardness, pressure pain, and increased straight leg raising as well as the subjects’ range of motion, unlike incorporating stretching alone.
So does a tens unit relax muscles? Well, based on the study’s findings, it’s possible to reduce muscle tightness by combining a TENS unit and stretching exercises. In fact, the study also suggests that combining these two is a great way to increase muscle flexibility.
Check out this really informative video about muscle relaxation using a tens unit:
A TENs Unit Helps Relieve Muscle Knots
Various studies have confirmed the effectiveness of TENS machine for muscle knots.
Also known as myofascial trigger points, muscle knots are hard, small-sized bump-like areas of muscles that contract and tighten when the muscles are at rest. Due to increased tension, these muscle fibers may cause pain in other parts of the body when touched.
Muscle knots are known to commonly occur in the lower back, calf muscles, shoulders, shin, and neck.
Although there are numerous causes of muscle knots, one of the most common is muscle overuse or injury. Other causes include poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, stress and anxiety, etc.
Because a TENS unit main function is to relieve pain through nerve stimulation and through the release endorphin, the device has been found to be very effective in relieving pain caused my muscle knots.
A TENS Unit Relieves Muscle Pain
Some of the most common causes of muscle pain include:
- Muscle overuse
- Muscle tension/tightness
This type of muscle pain is usually localized and tends to affect only a small part of your body. Muscle pain can also occur as a result of conditions like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Dystonia, and others.
According to NHS, the mild electrical pulses produced by TENS units can help reduce the pain going through your brain and spinal cord, thus relieving muscle pain and relaxing muscles. The impulses also stimulate the production of endorphins, your body’s natural pain killers.
To relieve muscle pain using a TENS unit, simply attach the electrode pads directly on your skin and switch the device on. The electrical impulses transmitted will be delivered to the affected area to relieve pain. So might possibly feel a tingly sensation as the electrical current is transmitted through your skin.
A TENS Unit Helps Relieve Muscle Spasms
According to NHS, a TENS unit may be effective in reducing pain and muscle spasm caused by various conditions such as knee pain, arthritis, neck pain, back pain, injuries, period pain, and more.
Usually, the condition occurs as a result of muscle overuse, muscle fatigue, electrolyte abnormalities, and dehydration. Muscle spasms are known to occur abruptly and maybe accompanied by pain. Although they are usually short-lived, they tend to recur in some cases, which may prompt for a medical assessment to check for other underlying issues.
So what can a TENS unit do for muscle spasms?
Well, a number of studies have shown the effectiveness of TENS machine in the treatment of muscle spasms. One study which involved 60 patients with muscle spasm found some pretty impressive results.
During the study, 30 patients were treated with a TENS unit while in the other 30 patients from the control group, passive exercises which included stretching of the agonistic and antagonistic muscles and increased range of motion were performed.
At the end of the study, the authors reported a reduction in muscle spasms in the patients who were treated with a TENS unit. Also noted were great improvements of the patients’ range of motion. The authors of the study also suggested that a reduction in muscle spasms are more likely to be pronounced if muscle stimulation is applied for longer periods.
A TENS Unit Speeds Up Muscle Recovery
A TENS unit may also help with muscle recovery. The unit sends small electrical impulses to the affected areas which help to not only combat pain, but also in rehabilitating and reeducating muscles, in addition to combating muscle atrophy.
Although its effect may not be as pronounced as that of an EMS unit, a TENS unit still works great when it comes to muscle recovery. Professional athletes and chiropractors have been using both the EMS and TENS units for pain, muscle soreness, muscle spasms, and in speeding up muscle recovery.
A TENS Unit Helps Provide Relief from Sore Muscles
According to Parkinson Life Center, a TENS unit can be used to provide relief from muscle soreness caused by muscle overuse, arthritis, and inflammation. Through the transmission of electrical impulses, a TENS helps eliminate pain from the sore muscles, while promoting better circulation for a speedy recovery. Athletes can use TENS units for their sore muscles as well as muscle spasms and pain.
Possible Side-Effects of Using a TENS Unit for Muscles
A TENS unit is generally safe to use for many people. The device has not been found to cause any severe side-effects. However, because the device produces a tingling or prickling sensation, some people may find it a little bit uncomfortable to use. But quite frankly, the sensation is quite mild and should be a cause for worry. A tens unit does not hurt.
There is also the case of some individuals experiencing allergic reaction upon using the unit’s adhesive pads. If you have a skin allergy that causes your skin to become irritated and red, then you have the option to use hypoallergenic electrode pads instead.
Another possible side effect of TENS unit is that it may cause spasms and lower your blood pressure when the tens unit pads are placed either on the eyes or the front of your neck. As a matter of fact, because of the electrical impulses produced by the tens machine, placing the pads on your eyes may exert excessive pressure, which may potentially lead to eye injury. Be sure to avoid these areas at all cost.
Other areas to avoid include:
- The chest
- Over a tumor as electricity had been found to promote cell growth in in vitro experiments
- Directly over your spine
- Internally except the vagina, dental applications, and anal area
- Broken skin or wounds
A TENS unit overuse may also lead to potential side-effects.
Overall, the potential side effects of a tens unit are minimal and its safety should not be a cause for concern.
Who Should Not Use a TENS Unit?
Like any other treatment or medication, there are a few groups of people who are advised against using a TENS machine for muscles or basically any other use. Although the device is generally safe to use, it’s not suitable for the following individuals:
- Expectant women- Expectant women should avoid using a TENS unit especially in the pelvic and abdominal regions. Although transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation has been used by expectant women for years without any reported side-effects for either the baby or the mother, it’s still advisable to be cautious when using it. And if you really have to, consult with your doctor first.
- Individuals with epilepsy as the device may induce seizures
- Individuals with heart problems
- Individuals with a pacemaker or any other type of electrical or metal implant
Does a TENS Unit Really Work for Muscles?
A number of studies have confirmed the effectiveness of a TENS unit for a wide range of muscle issues as discussed above. Although the device is primarily designed for pain relief, its effect on muscles cannot be ignored.
Of course, its effectiveness as a muscle stimulating design cannot be compared to that of an EMS device. If you’re looking for better results, an EMS unit is a much better choice.
Again, a TENS unit can be effective for muscles, so you can use it a pain reliever and muscle stimulator. You have nothing to lose. And if you’re skeptical about its effects on muscles, you might want to consider a TENS and EMS combo unit as such devices offer best of the both worlds. You can read more about tens and ems combo units here..What is The Best Tens & EMS Combo Machine Available?
Here is a a really informative video about “How to Use a TENS Unit to Relieve Muscle and Joint Pain”
What Does a TENS Unit Do for Muscles?-Final Verdict
As you’ve learnt above, there are a few significant studies that support the uses of TENS unit for muscles. However, given that the device is primarily designed for pain relief, more research is needed to verify its effectiveness as a treatment for muscle problems.
Overall, a TENS unit is an incredible device that you can easily use at home to relieve your lower back pain, relax muscles, relieve muscle soreness, and so much more. And the good news is that you can always use it safely alongside exercise. The device is also easy to use , non-invasive, and affordable too.
We hope that we’ve answered your question “what does a tens unit do for muscles” and good luck using a tens unit for your muscles!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.