Electrical Stimulation (E-Stim)
Electrical stimulation therapy is a noninvasive pain treatment offered throughout ChiroCare of Florida’s eight locations. E-stim offers a variety of benefits but is most notable for alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, and helping relieve tension from soft tissue. If you’ve been experiencing discomfort or suffered a recent injury, it may be time to discover how E-stim can make a difference.
What is Electrical Stimulation?
Electrical stimulation is often referred to as its abbreviated name, E-stim. E-stim has been used to treat pain and ailments for over 2,000 years, beginning first with the Egyptians and later practiced by the Greeks and Romans. Throughout the period from 1920 to 1940, E-stim became common in the treatment of a variety of acute and chronic diseases. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that electrical stimulation technology became popular in the U.S. as a method of pain management.
Electrical stimulation involves the use of electrode pads that your chiropractor will attach to the skin above the affected soft tissue. An electrode is a device that conducts electricity. These electrodes are connected to an electrical stimulation device, which generates brief electric impulses. These impulses can vary in size, depending on the device’s setting, the area being treated, and the patient’s own tolerance – E-stim should always be comfortable and customized to suit the patient’s needs.
The electric impulses generated by E-stim technology stimulate your muscle’s ability to contract. Depending on the area being treated and the device’s setting, these contractions may be barely noticeable or can resemble painless, involuntary twitches. At ChiroCare of Florida, our chiropractors will walk you through this process to find the perfect balance for you.
What is the Purpose of E-Stim?
The electrical stimulation process simulates what naturally happens in the body when a muscle voluntarily contracts and releases. Typically the central nervous system will transmit information, such as the message to contract a specific muscle, throughout the body via its own internal electric impulses. Essentially, E-stim technology mimics these impulses such that it can steadily stimulate contraction.
Between each contraction, the muscle relaxes. This repetitive contracting and relaxing motion strengthens and repairs soft tissue, particularly muscles which have become weakened, shortened, or injured. In addition to this, the electrical impulses are also believed to block the activity of pain receptors, which are responsible for sending pain messages from the source of injury to the brain.
Likewise, E-stim is thought to encourage the body to produce endorphins. Endorphins, also known as the body’s natural pain relievers, are produced organically by our bodies when we’re suffering injury or discomfort. However, when pain persists, the electric impulses delivered by E-stim therapy help stimulate additional endorphin production for further relief.
How Does Electrical Stimulation Work?
The process of E-stim therapy begins by attaching the electrodes to the body, using a gentle adhesive to hold them in place. The electrodes are placed onto the skin, directly over the muscle they will be targeting. For instance, if pain is experienced in the right shoulder blade, the electrodes will be placed on the skin covering the right shoulder blade.
Once electrodes are placed on the body, they are connected to an electrical stimulation device that releases tiny waves of electricity. These waves send small electrical impulses through the electrodes and target the area of the body that is experiencing pain. During the E-stim treatment, you’ll most likely witness the muscle begin to vibrate or twitch. This is the muscle repeatedly contracting and relaxing and means that the treatment is doing its job.
Each electrical stimulation session lasts up to 15 minutes and may be repeated for optimal results. During treatment, most patients report a tingling sensation or feeling of warmth within the area. Within the muscle, the rapid contracting and relaxing caused by electrical stimulation has the following effects:
- Stretching of the tissue – which improves mobility and range of motion.
- Increased blood flow to the affected tissue area – which aids in repair.
- Flexing and working weakened muscles – which improves strength.
- Training or “re-educating” muscle fibers to certain patterns of response – which can build strength and help regain normal movements in seriously injured muscles.
- Slowing the process of muscle atrophy or decay – which keeps muscles active and functioning.
Who Can Benefit from E-Stim?
Most notoriously, electrical stimulation is known for its pain relief and muscle relaxing properties. Due to this, E-stim therapy is beneficial for a wide variety of people. In fact, electrical stimulation can be used for:
- Muscle training or re-education
- Pain relief
From helping to relieve chronic pain to promoting healing in the body, E-stim has a variety of benefits. The contractions stretch affected tissue, which can improve mobility and strength as well as help calm muscle spasms. This can be beneficial for those recently healing from an injury or suffering scar-tissue related pain. Additionally, the process increases blood circulation to help relieve pain and tension, aiding in the healing process.
Likewise, E-stim therapy is an effective method of relieving pain caused by:
- Arthritis and chronic inflammation
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Chronic pain from old injuries
- Pain resulting from surgeries
- Inflammation from over-activity
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle re-education after stroke or surgery
- Muscle disuse following broken bones, soft tissue injuries, or spinal cord injuries
- Pulled muscles and sore joints
What Are the Risks of E-Stim?
While electrical stimulation is suitable for most patients, as with all treatments, there are certain circumstances in which E-stim should be reconsidered. Those with an implanted medical device that is electrically powered, such as a pacemaker, should use caution with E-stim. Despite being designed to work properly around other electronic devices, implanted medical devices and heart defibrillators can mistake E-stim impulses for a physiological signal coming from the body itself.
Likewise, those with pre-existing muscle injuries, such as tears and deep bruises, should be wary of receiving immediate treatment. The repeated contraction of the muscle caused by E-stim can exacerbate the current injury when administered before the muscle has begun the healing process.
Finally, beware of trying E-stim at home. While you can find electrical stimulation machines for personal use, unsupervised use or use without a professional can cause tissue burns or skin irritation. At ChiroCare of Florida, our chiropractors have over 50 years of combined experience. Trusted by many, our E-stim services help to relieve pain and tension, promote healing in the body, and help speed up injury recovery.
If you think E-stim could be the right treatment for you, contact ChiroCare of Florida today to learn more. We look forward to seeing you soon.