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How to use a TENS units & EMS machines for muscle soreness (DOMS)? Placement of electrode pads

Post-workout muscle pain is undoubtedly the most common of all in athletes or people who go to the gym. In fact, 100% of us have felt it at least 10 times in our lives; whether after making a change in routine, increasing intensity or returning from an injury, DOMS (soreness) is a lifelong companion when doing sports.

While they go away without treatment, they can sometimes linger longer than expected and cause intense pain. Fortunately this can be controlled with the use of TENS electrotherapy and can be reduced with the regular use of EMS, two therapies that we will explain in depth below.

How to use TENS units to relieve stiffness pain?

Using a TENS device to relieve muscle soreness pain is quite simple. You should bear in mind some of the points we are going to explain below, so that you can get the most out of each session.

Where to place the electrodes?

In the case of DOMS, the placement of the electrodes pads cannot be localized, so they must be dispersed so that they cover as much muscle as possible, especially in large muscle groups such as the back, legs or abdomen.

What frequency to use?

As far as frequency is concerned, since this is a muscular pain that is only activated by moving or contracting the muscle, a frequency of between 2 Hz and 4 Hz is more than enough to stimulate the release of endorphins, and achieve muscle relaxation that relieves the pain quickly.

Best TENS units to treat muscle aches and pains

There is a huge number of TENS devices on the market, but undoubtedly the best ones are in the following list that we share with you. The most complete and cost-effective ones are on it.

iReliev - Wireless TENS + EMS Combo for pain relief, arthritis & muscle strength with 8 pads
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: -
  • Modes/Programs: 14 Programs
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 5 hours)
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • TENS+EMS combo
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Includes user manual
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Does not specify intensity levels
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • No heat therapy
The best feature of the iReliev wireless electro stimulator is that it has one of the most complete sets of equipment on the market. The wireless unit included in the package works with both TENS and EMS technology, and also includes 4 receiver pods, 8 electrodes, a dual interchangeable cable adapter, 1 carrying case, a starter guide and an instruction manual, making it one of the best-equipped packages available.

Its rechargeable battery gives you 8 to 10 hours continuous run time per full charge, and each of the pods provides 3 to 5 hours of continuous operation. With 8 TENS and 6 EMS preset programmes, along with 25 intensity levels, its 4-channel system allows you to perform isolated treatment on various muscle groups. Undoubtedly the most complete option you can find for the treatment of ailments.

Irest Classic - Mini massager dual channel TENS unit with 6 massage modes and timer
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: 2
  • Modes/Programs: 6 Programs
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 20 hours)
  • Electrodes: 8 electrodes
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes user manual
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Portable and small size
  • Long battery life (up to 20 hours)
  • Includes carrying bag
  • No intensity levels specified
  • No heat therapy
  • Does not specify dimensions and weight
The compact electrostimulator of the iRest brand offers a combination of electrostimulation modalities, combining the benefits of TENS and EMS therapy, providing its users with a safe and drug-free method to treat ailments caused by different injuries or diseases, through the application of low-intensity electrical impulses.

It has 6 modes of use that emulate different types of massages to achieve different objectives, along with 10 levels of intensity that provides greater effectiveness. The package includes 1 control, 2 large electrodes, 2 small electrodes, 2 guide cables, 1 user's manual, 1 cable case and 1 treatment guide.

Neocarbon - Dual channel TENS/EMS muscle stimulator with 16 pads and travel case
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 10 hours)
  • Electrodes: 16 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Portable and small size
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • No heat therapy
  • No touch screen included
The Neocarbon electrostimulation kit includes everything you could need for the treatment of ailments, thanks to its device incorporating TENS and EMS electrotherapy modalities, and dual channel function combined with 24 modes of use and 20 levels of intensity, which means that you can apply complete treatments to different parts of the body simultaneously.

The use of TENS and EMS that this device provides will allow you to use them to apply relaxing massages that relieve any ailment in a natural way, stimulating the production of endorphins and blocking the body's pain signals, as well as electrical discharges that stimulate muscle movement, creating contractions that encourage the growth of muscle fibers, increasing the tone and strength of the muscles.

TENS 7000 - TENS unit for pain management, back pain and rehabilitation with 4 electrode pads
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 5 Modes
  • Intensity: 10 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Battery
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 8.8" x 2" x 7.8" - 1.15 lbs
  • Includes user manual
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Non-universal electrode replacements
  • Not suitable for muscle hypertrophy
  • Few types of programs
The TENS 7000 has one of the most complete models of electrostimulator, which includes a wide variety of functions and accessories. It is a digital unit that combines TENS and EMS technologies together with an innovative dual channel function that allows you to apply these electrostimulation modalities on different parts of the body simultaneously.

The TENS 7000 muscle stimulator includes one of the most complete electrical stimulation therapy packages you will find. It includes 1 TENS 7000 unit, 2 guide cables, 4 packs of reusable pads, 1 9-volt battery, 1 instruction manual and a hard case to carry your electrostimulation equipment wherever you want.

SPACEREST - 4-channel rechargeable Tens unit with 24 modes and 24 reusable electrode pads
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable (10 hours of use)
  • Electrodes: 24 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • 4 outputs with 2 separate channel configurations
  • Includes 24 different pads
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Large display
  • 24 massage modes with 20 intensity levels
  • No adapter for non-US plugs
  • No size specified
Spacerest offers its users its newest model of electro stimulator that combines TENS and EMS technologies in a dynamic and compact device that includes 24 reusable electrodes of excellent quality and an incredible 4-channel function that will allow you to apply different modes of use to 4 different areas of the body, or even to 4 different people.

It has an incredibly portable size that will allow you to take it anywhere, and a high-powered rechargeable battery that will give you up to 20 hours of continuous use. It can be connected to AC power through its AC adapter, or to an external battery or laptop through its USB charging port.

How to use EMS to strengthen muscles and avoid stiffness?

EMS can be a way to avoid the appearance of stiffness. Especially in people who are injured for long periods and do not want to lose their muscle tone. You can strengthen your muscles in isolation without compromising the injured area and all without leaving your home.

Where to place the electrodes?

The placement of the electrodes in this case is done according to the size of the muscle you are going to train.

What intensity to use?

The intensity can vary between 10 Hz and 100 Hz, and as in the previous case, the choice varies according to the size of the muscle group. For small areas such as the biceps or deltoids, a frequency lower than 50 Hz is used, while for larger areas frequencies between 50 Hz and 100 Hz can be applied. Keep in mind that the smaller the volume of a muscle, the lower the work intensity it can withstand.

Best EMS electrostimulators to train our muscles

If you have already made the decision to purchase an EMS machine, here is a list of the best options on the market today.

Compex Sport Elite 2.0 - Combo TENS/EMS with 12 electrodes pads and 10 programs
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes/Programs: 10 Programs
  • Intensity: 5 levels
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Electrodes: 12 electrodes
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 5.38" x 3.75" x 1"
  • Includes user manual
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Good quality
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Few intensity levels
  • No weight specified
The Compex Sport Elite 2.0 comes to the market as one of the most versatile and complete options to increase the results of physical conditioning and reduce the negative effects of the same through its TENS stimulation technology which allows an adequate management of the odor, reducing the intensity of the same and increasing the mobility and functionality of the muscles.

It includes 10 electrostimulation modes divided into 3 recovery modes, 2 warm-up modes, 1 TENS massage mode and 4 strength training modes. It also has 5 levels of progressive intensity that will help you improve your strength, endurance and combat various ailments caused by exhaustion.

Massage Therapy Concepts - Dual channel TENS and EMS combo unit with 12 modes and 6 electrodes
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 12 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 6 Pads
  • Display: Touch
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes user manual
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Portable and small size
  • No carrying bag included
  • No heat therapy
  • No battery life specified
Massage Therapy Concepts presents its TENS/EMS electrostimulation machine, which combines the best qualities of both technologies to generate a viable option with which to treat pain caused by various injuries and diseases, as well as stimulate muscle mass to increase strength and definition. All this integrated in 12 modes of use with different intensities and levels, designed for different types of ailments.

Its dual channel function allows you to treat multiple areas of the body simultaneously, and its easy to use mode allows you to set the massage modes without any problems. It has a timer that you can set up to 60 minutes, and an LCD display that allows you to visualize all the procedures very easily.

TechCare - Dual channel TENS & EMS device includes 24 modes and 8 electrodes with touchscreen display
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 20 hours)
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Touch
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes user manual
  • Long battery life (up to 20 hours)
  • Portable and small size
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Does not specify intensity levels
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • Does not include carrying bag
This multifunction electrotherapy device is one of the most complete and versatile electro stimulators you will find. Brought to light by TechCare Massage, this device combines the most commonly used electrostimulation technologies to treat different types of ailments. The TENS and EMS technologies allow you to relieve acute and chronic ailments, deep muscle pain and promote the rehabilitation and regeneration of muscle fibers.

It includes 24 massage programs in total, which are designed to treat a wide variety of ailments. Each of the modes has 4 different options to choose from, and comes with all the accessories you may need, from electrodes and guide wires to a user guide and an electrode positioning guide.

NURSAL - Rechargeable dual channel TENS and EMS machine with 24 modes and 12 pads
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Lithium Rechargeable (up to 20 hours)
  • Electrodes: 12 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Long battery life (up to 20 hours)
  • User manual included
  • Some electrodes dry quickly
  • No heat therapy
  • No touch screen included
The Nursal electrostimulator has several features that make it stand out from other devices of this type. One of these is its function of 4 independent channels that allow you to individually treat different areas of the body. It has 24 massage modes that allow for a wide range of ailment relief.

This amazing electric massager includes 12 reusable self-adhesive conductive pads and 3 sets of guide wires. The electrodes are coated with a layer of adhesive that gives them perfect adhesion to the skin, and with proper care, can withstand a large number of uses before they need to be replaced.

iReliev - Rechargeable TENS and EMS unit with 24 modes large display and 6 electrode pads
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 14 Modes
  • Intensity: 25 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 6 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Portable and small size
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes user manual
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • Battery life not specified
  • Does not include touch screen
The iReliev electrostimulator is one of the most practical and complete options for the treatment of ailments and physical conditioning, since it combines in its compact size the most advanced TENS and EMS technology, making it the number one option for the relief of ailments of any kind, thanks to the 14 predefined treatment programs available.

The compact size of the device makes it incredibly practical and easy to carry, so you can use it anywhere you like quickly and discreetly. It is FDA approved, so it is completely safe to use, and its LCD screen gives you a full display of all settings so you can easily adjust your requirements.

Video: How to place the electrodes pads to relieve stiffness pain?

Electrodes for arms

Electrodes for arms
Electrodes for arms
Electrodes for arms

Electrodes for forearms

Electrodes for forearms
Electrodes for forearms

Electrodes for back

Electrodes for back
Electrodes for back
Electrodes for back

Electrodes for buttocks

Electrodes for buttocks
Electrodes for buttocks
Electrodes for buttocks

Electrodes for legs

Electrodes for legs
Electrodes for legs
Electrodes for legs

Electrodes for calf

Electrodes for calf
Electrodes for calf
Electrodes for calf

More types of EMS electrostimulators and TENS machines you should know about

What are DOMS or stiffness and what are the causes?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a type of muscle soreness that appears between 12 and 24 hours after training. It is characterized by being intense, deferring to the entire muscle or muscle group, and limiting the muscle's contractile capacity.

The reason why they appear is due to the stress to which the muscle fibers are subjected, causing them to break at a microscopic level. This is something that usually occurs mainly in eccentric contractions of the muscle, very common in strength and hypertrophy training.

However, as we train, this post-training damage becomes less and less, so stiffness is usually minimal or imperceptible.

Among the reasons why you may be having them now we can mention:

  • Increased training weight: when we are in a strength phase in which we are constantly increasing the weight we lift each week, the body does not finish adapting to the effort, so the stiffness can appear regularly.
  • Increased intensity: the greater the intensity of the exercise, the greater the lactic acid produced, which generates more wear on the fibers and can generate stiffness on subsequent days.
  • Return from injury: if you suffered a serious injury recently, and your body was inactive athletically speaking, it is likely that the first few weeks after resuming training stiffness will appear while recovering the competitive rhythm.

What are the differences between stiffness and muscle injury?

One of the biggest fears when you have the first sensation of a muscle stiffness is being injured. Because the muscle pain of these is so intense at times, it is normal to think that we have hurt ourselves during the previous day, "I've gone too far!" is what you will think, but the reality is that there are several differences between a real injury and a muscle stiffness.

  • Pain zone: the damage we suffer when training extends throughout the muscle, so the pain of a stiffness is always throughout its structure. Injuries tend to be more localized, generating pain in a specific point, either in muscle tissue or in the joint.
  • Type of pain: stiffness is felt only when a muscle contraction is attempted or when stretching a muscle; it is an activity pain. When we are really injured, the pain may appear without doing anything, and instead of being felt in the muscle, it is channeled into the joint in the case of a tendon injury.
  • Limitations: While you may feel pain with DOMS when trying to move a limb, DOMS will never limit your range of motion at the joint, so you will be able to move without a problem. An injury, especially a joint injury, will limit the function of the joint and its mobility.
  • Healing: a stiffness will disappear with the passage of days without doing anything more than resting a little. A muscle injury may require treatment and physiotherapy to achieve a complete recovery.

Differences between TENS and EMS: Which is better for treating stiffness?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy, or TENS, uses biphasic currents to act on nerve functions. When you feel a stiffness, it is due to a process of transmission of noxious impulses that informs the brain of the damage that exists in the muscle, and it interprets it as pain.

What this therapy does is to manipulate this process, especially in the pain transmitters of the nerves, to increase the threshold of tolerance to an ailment, which in turn generates relief in a few minutes.

EMS or muscular electrostimulation, works in a similar way, but this current, having a different frequency, penetrates the skin and reaches the muscle directly. With this, what is sought is a contraction that mimics the one you perform when lifting a dumbbell in the gym.

Its usefulness is mainly aesthetic, since it focuses on muscle toning rather than muscle recovery. However, it also has certain benefits that can help prevent the appearance of stiffness.

TENS is the quintessential therapy used by athletes to relieve muscle pain, as it also benefits the cell regeneration process so that DOMS disappear as soon as possible.

EMS can be used, but as a way to keep the muscle tissue active when you cannot go to the gym, so that the appearance of stiffness is reduced over time.

Contraindications in the use of electrodes and electrotherapy

</p> <h3>Contraindications for electrode placement</h3> <p>
The placement of the electrodes is of utmost importance in electrotherapy, whether TENS or EMS, so here are some things to keep in mind before starting a session:

  • Symmetrical placement: the negative and positive poles of each electrode should be connected symmetrically. That is to say, if we use two pads, we should use one positive and one negative pole on each one, while if we use four, the equivalence should be two positive and two negative.
  • Do not cross the electrodes: one electrode cannot be used in the lower train and another in the upper train and more importantly, never cross the electrodes from the left side to the right side of the body and vice versa, since the current path can negatively affect the patient's health. For this reason it is always recommended to use the electrodes in a localized way.
  • Motor point: at least one of the electrodes, whether positive or negative, must be positioned over the motor point, which is the point where the greatest force is achieved in the muscle in question.
  • Control the intensity: the size of the muscle must be taken into account when choosing the intensity of the current, since the less volume and size the muscle has, the lower the tolerated intensity will be.
  • Be careful with the skin: EMS or TENS should not be used on recently depilated areas since the pores will be open and this could generate skin sensitivity. Do not use on irritated or reddened areas, open wounds or recent scars.
</p> <h3>Contraindications for the use of electrostimulation</h3> <p>
Being a therapy that applies currents to the body, it cannot be used for all conditions, therefore its use should be avoided in cases where the user suffers from the following conditions:

  • Epilepsy.
  • Cardiac pacemakers.
  • Circulation disorders and problems.
  • Abdominal or inguinal hernias.
  • Neurological disturbances.
  • Tendency to bleed.
  • Skin irritation, burns or wounds.
  • Diseases that affect muscle metabolism, such as diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome (diabetes, hypertension and obesity).
  • High uric acid levels.
  • Metabolic disorders and metabolic pathologies.
  • Inflammatory pathologies.

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