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How to use a TENS units & EMS machines for calf pain relief? Placement of electrode pads (UK)

The legs make up the largest muscle group of the human body and all the muscles that integrate it are of vital importance for the performance of daily activities. Among these muscles, the soleus and gastrocnemius, commonly known as calf muscles, make up the calf musculature and fulfill a wide variety of functions, both mobility and stability.

For this reason, keeping these muscles in proper condition is of great importance to avoid subsequent injuries in areas such as the knee and ankle. To this end, TENS and EMS electrostimulation therapies can be effectively applied to keep the muscle healthy, relieve pain and prevent injury. Below, we will explain the optimal method for using each of these therapies.

How to use a TENS machine to relieve calf pain?

Injuries occurring in the calf muscles can be very painful, although fortunately they can be treated with the application of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS.

The main benefits of the application of this therapy are the following:

  • Increases the pain threshold: the electrical discharges applied by the TENS unit directly affect the pain receptors located in the tibial nerve and the sural nerve, resulting in an increase in pain resistance that remains active during the session and generating a sensation of relief that lasts for several minutes after the session.
  • Suppresses the cells that produce pain: the application of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation suppresses the reproduction of the group of cells around the twins responsible for generating the sensation of pain, causing instant relief in the patient that will remain even after the electrodes are removed.
  • Increases the production of endorphins: electrostimulation generates a physiological response that results in a discharge of endorphins into the bloodstream, a hormone with analgesic effect produced naturally by the body, which greatly reduces the sensation of pain.
  • Promotes blood circulation: the electric shocks on the calf muscles cause dilation of the blood vessels integrated in the muscle, generating a sensation of local analgesia and facilitating recovery.

All these benefits provided by the application of TENS therapy, make it an excellent option for patients dealing with muscle pain produced by injuries such as:

  • Tears
  • Muscle strain
  • Fiber rupture
  • Arterial claudication
  • Varicose veins

It is necessary to emphasize the fact that, despite its popularity, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is not a method of treatment for diseases and injuries, but to relieve the patient's pain. You can use it to make the recovery treatment more bearable, but the latter should be supervised and controlled by a specialist.

Best TENS machines for calf injury recovery

Now, we present you a list with some examples of the best transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation or TENS therapy units and devices, which will be very useful to reduce the pain of calf muscle injuries.

Med-Fit - Rechargeable 4-channel wireless TENS machine with 9 clinically validated programmes
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes: 9 Programmes
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Electrodes: 16 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Wireless Device
  • Includes 16 electrodes of 4 different sizes
  • 4 independent channels
  • Promotes tissue healing
  • Reduces pain and improves blood circulation
  • Few modes/programs
  • No battery life specified
  • Does not specify intensity and size
The Med-Fit electrostimulation unit is the best option to increase the efficiency of workouts, thanks to its incredible 4-channel function, through which you can apply different modes of use to different areas of the body. It includes 9 clinically proven training programs and each of them has a predefined duration time of 3 hours.

It uses a combination of TENS and EMS stimulation technologies, which are completely safe and natural methods to alleviate various types of ailments and improve physical condition by stimulating the growth of muscle fibers. It is the best option for long-term management of chronic pain, allowing you to lead a completely normal life and perform all your daily activities.

Med-Fit - Dual channel TENS machine with 30 programmes and 16 pads
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 30 Programs
  • Intensity: 99 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 12 hours)
  • Electrodes: 16 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 839 gr
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Includes user manual
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Does not specify measurements
  • Not suitable for muscle hypertrophy
  • Does not include touch screen
This is one of the most versatile electrostimulation devices you will find. The electrostimulation machine is fully rechargeable and has a dual channel function that allows you to apply electrostimulation to various areas of the body. It contains 30 preset massage programs through which you can relieve different types of ailments as well as strengthen muscles.

This electrostimulation unit is completely digital for an effective and reliable treatment. It has an LCD display and a user-friendly system that allows you to set the functions in seconds. In addition, the purchase includes 16 reusable electrodes of high quality and for all budgets.

NinetinGel - TENS and EMS machine with 16 pads and protective sleeve ideal for pain relief and relaxation
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: Not specified
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 16 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Includes user manual
  • Portable and small size
  • Does not specify dimensions and weight
  • No intensity levels specified
  • Battery life not specified
The UseeShine electrostimulator from NinetinGel is the perfect combination of TENS and EMS electrostimulation technologies, which gives it the ability to offer a complete cycle of massages designed to relieve pain, reduce tension and relax muscles through electrical impulses that promote the release of endorphins and the production of muscle fibers.

It is incredibly easy to use, and features an innovative dual-channel function that allows you to simultaneously treat different parts of the body with different settings, along with a memory function that stores the last massage program used. Its ergonomic and portable design allows you to take it anywhere and use it very discreetly.

Beurer - Digital dual channel TENS/EMS device with heat therapy, 70 programs and 50 intensity levels
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 70 Programs
  • Intensity: 50 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: Yes
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • With heat therapy
  • Incl. user manual
  • TENS+EMS combo
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • No battery life specified
  • Transport bag not included
  • Does not specify dimensions and weight
The physiotherapy brand Beurer offers its users one of the most versatile electrostimulation devices that can be found on the market. It is the Beurer EM59, which contains an incredible 4-in-1 function that allows you to apply therapeutic massage, muscle stimulation, nerve stimulation and heat therapy, providing a completely different level of relief to its users with its more than 70 programs and 50 intensity levels.

This powerful electrostimulation equipment offers immediate relief for almost any type of ailment using stimulation methods that stimulate the production of natural pain relieving agents within the body. It also works as an effective methods to accelerate muscle growth and regeneration, while combining with heat therapy to provide one of the most complete treatments you will find.

PowerDot 2.0 - Wireless TENS & EMS smart device controlled by mobile application (red)
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: -
  • Modes/Programs: 15 Programs
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: No display
  • Size: Not specified
  • TENS+EMS combo
  • Control from mobile app
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes user manual
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • No battery life specified
  • No intensity levels specified
  • Does not specify dimensions and weight
The PowerDot 2.0 is an intelligent electrical stimulation electrode that will allow you to apply TENS and EMS current shocks for both pain treatment and conditioning of different muscle groups. It includes more than 400 customised programmes that can be easily managed with the mobile app available for both Android and iOS.

The simple interface of the PowerDot app will guide you through everything you need to know to operate the electrodes efficiently. The purchase package includes 2 pre-loaded pods, 2 sets of electrodes with corresponding pads, 2 sets of cables and 2 micro USB charging cables, along with a carrying case so you can take your electrodes with you wherever you go.

How to use an EMS muscle electro stimulator for calves?

Being composed almost entirely of muscles and nerves, the calf area, specifically over the calves, is an ideal area for the use of muscle electrostimulation. This therapy uses electrical currents ranging from 70 Hz to 150 Hz to generate contractions that stimulate the development of muscle fibers.

This leads to faster recovery and improved strength and elasticity of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, making it an excellent option for physical rehabilitation therapies.

Among the main benefits of EMS for calf muscles, the following stand out:

  • Accelerates muscle recovery: muscle contractions caused by EMS shocks result in increased recovery of muscle fibers in the calf muscles, resulting in faster recovery.
  • Reduces the rate of muscle tissue loss: this is a consequence of age, sedentary lifestyle or chronic injury and can increase vulnerability to serious injury. EMS therapy activates the calf muscles to provide exercise.
  • Improves blood supply: electrostimulation results in vasodilatation which increases up to 20% the capacity of muscles to receive blood, oxygenating muscle tissue, thus strengthening the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles and generating greater stability for the Achilles tendon.
  • Avoids muscle fatigue: being a passive treatment, it generates a reduction in oxygen consumption, which leads to a considerable increase in muscle endurance of the calves and soleus, thanks to which the athlete can perform at maximum capacity for longer.

EMS therapy is focused on rehabilitation through muscle recovery rather than pain relief, making it an excellent choice for regaining muscle tone after injuries such as Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis

Best EMS stimulators for strengthening gastrocnemius muscles

The use of EMS will strictly depend on the type of injury and the level of pain presented by the patient, so in case of injuries it should be used strictly for physiotherapeutic purposes, since muscle contractions can be counterproductive for recovery if the patient presents intense pain.

Compex Sport 6.0 - Wireless Muscle Stimulator with 4 channels, 30 programmes and 4 electrodes
  • Type: EMS
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes/Programs: 30 Programmes
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Electrodes: 4 electrodes
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 31 x 34 x 15 cm
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Wireless electrodes
  • Includes user manual
  • Portable and small size
  • Includes carrying bag
  • No weight specified
  • No battery life specified
  • No intensity levels specified
The versatile Compex SP 6.0 electrostimulator is one of the best options for increasing physical performance thanks to its 10 conditioning programs and 5 fitness training programs, allowing you to increase both the strength and volume of your muscles quickly and naturally, through electrical impulses that stimulate the growth of muscle fibers.

It also has 5 recovery massage programs, 8 pain management modes and 2 rehabilitation programs, through which the Compex SP 6.0 facilitates rapid physical recovery and promotes muscle relaxation after exercise. It is the best electric massage unit for athletes who practice their discipline more frequently than 3 times a week.

NURSAL - DUAL CHANNEL TENS+EMS MACHINE WITH 24 MODES AND 12 RECHARGEABLE BATTERY PADS
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 10 hours)
  • Electrodes: 12 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes carrying bag
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Portable and small size
  • Includes user manual
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • No touch screen included
  • No heat therapy
NURSAL brings to its users its dual channel TENS electrostimulation unit, designed for the treatment of any type of ailments and muscle stimulation, which has 24 modes of use designed to provide different types of massages to treat a wide variety of ailments, whether caused by illness or injury.

You will be able to set separate modes of use for each of the two channels, so that you can apply the electrical impulses at the required frequency and intensity for different parts of the body. It also has an adjustable timer that will allow you to program your sessions between 10 and 60 minutes, and its integrated lithium battery will provide uninterrupted treatment for more than 20 hours.

Dioche - Rechargeable muscle stimulator with 16 modes and 4 adjustable channels
  • Type: Combo (TENS+EMS)
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes: 16 Programmes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable (300mAh)
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes carrying case
  • Includes 24 electrodes of 3 different types
  • Portable device
  • With timer
  • Few electrodes
  • Size and weight not specified
Dioche offers its users a powerful rechargeable electrostimulation machine that has a 4-channel function, through which you can obtain results much more quickly and efficiently, thanks to the fact that you can apply the therapies in various areas of the body.

It has 16 programs of use that apply different massage modalities focused on treating certain ailments, in addition to having 20 adjustable intensity levels that allow you to configure your therapies in the way that suits you best. It also has a rechargeable battery that you can connect to the mains via an AC adapter or USB charging, and will give you an autonomy of between 4 and 6 hours of continuous use.

MKNIUA - 4 Channel Rechargeable Combo Muscle Stimulator with 4 Reusable Pads & 16 Mode
  • Type: Combo (TENS+EMS)
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes: 16 Programmes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable (300mAh)
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes carrying case
  • Includes 24 electrodes of 3 different types
  • Portable Device
  • With timer
  • Few electrodes
  • Size and weight not specified
The best feature of the MKNIUA electro stimulator is its 4-channel functionality, through which you can use 8 electrodes to apply individual programs on each channel to different areas of the body, so you can assign a specific massage mode according to what each area of the body requires.

The package includes 4 reusable electrodes through which you can apply the electric massages. It also has a long-lasting rechargeable battery that gives you a great autonomy and a long useful life, so you can enjoy this versatile stimulator for a long time.

TensCare - Dual channel TENS and EMS device with 8 programmes and 60 intensity levels
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 8 Programs
  • Intensity: 60 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: 2 AA Batteries
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 120 x 60 x 20 mm - 75 gr
  • Includes user manual
  • Portable and small size
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Few types of programmes
  • No battery life specified
  • No heat therapy
TensCare offers its users its newest and most versatile electrostimulation device that combines the most cutting-edge TENS and EMS technologies, offering a massage experience designed to relieve all types of ailments naturally and safely, through electrical impulses that stimulate the production of endorphins, along with the most innovative muscle strengthening technology that facilitates the toning and regeneration of muscles from the comfort of your home.

It has 6 programs specifically designed for various muscle groups of different sizes, as well as 2 customizable programs to suit your needs. It has functions specifically focused on user safety, so it has an open circuit detector, which means that if an electrode is detached from the skin, the current intensity will be set to 0 to avoid risky electric shocks.

Video: How to place the electrodes pads on the calves?

Electrodes for calf

Electrodes for calf
Electrodes for calf
Electrodes for calf
  • Placement of TENS electrodes: The gastrocnemius muscle is composed of two sides, which are called the external and internal calf. When positioning the pads, you should make sure that the area of pain is in between them, so if the pain is in the inner calf, you should place one electrode on the medial head of the gastrocnemius muscle, the section closest to the popliteal fossa, while the second electrode on the lower part of the inner calf muscle, just on the border with the soleus muscle.
  • Placement of electrodes for EMS: Since the goal of muscle electrostimulation therapy is to work on muscle strength and recovery, it is necessary to specify that the location of the electrodes for optimal training will depend on the muscle you want to strengthen. To focus on the calves, it is necessary to place the first electrode on the medial head of the gastrocnemius and the second electrode on the lateral head of the gastrocnemius.

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

Most common types of calf injuries

Due to the oval and elongated shape of the calves, and their attachment to the femur and ankle, they are among the muscles most prone to elongations and injuries resulting from this.

Among the most common we can highlight:

  • Overloads: overload injury is one of the most common injuries. It is the exhaustion of the muscle accompanied by pain and the sensation of upward displacement of the muscle. It is a very common injury among athletes, caused by excessive muscle tension or insufficient rest.
  • Tears: is the generic term used to describe fibrillar tears of the calf muscles, which is described by patients as a sharp pain similar to a pinch. It can occur when a sudden movement is made that causes excessive stretch in the muscle, such as jumping or making sudden changes in direction when moving.
  • Cramps: this is a neuromuscular alteration that causes an intense contraction of the muscle that can last for prolonged periods, in which the muscle relaxation disappears. They are caused by muscle overload and lack of hydration or minerals such as potassium and calcium.
  • Contractures: they are produced by overexertion exerted on the muscle, causing an involuntary contraction that produces hardening. It is very common in novice athletes who do not take rest periods for muscle recovery.
  • Achilles tendinitis: it consists of the irritation of the Achilles tendon, which is the one that joins the calf with the calcaneus or heel. It is very common in runners, soccer players or practitioners of mountain sports such as TRX or hiking, as it occurs due to excessive use of this tendon, which is used in all movements of the heel joint, although its appearance is more related to the loss of elasticity of the tissues due to age or poor hydration.

Differences between TENS and EMS: Which one to use for calf pain?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses currents ranging between 1 and 250 Hz, to intervene in the neurological signals of the tibial and sural nerves, which go from the lower back to the feet, responsible for generating pain, so that the patient can increase their tolerance to it.

EMS or muscular electrostimulation is different, and uses currents that act directly on the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles in such a way that a muscular contraction can be achieved in them. Thanks to this, a gradual strengthening of these muscles can be achieved, making it useful for recovering muscle tone after long-term injuries.

With this in mind, both TENS and EMS therapy have merit when it comes to treating calf injuries, since being an area composed mostly of muscle, it gives EMS electrostimulation ground to work on post-injury recovery and tissue rehabilitation, while TENS allows intercepting the pain receptors on the muscles to alleviate the ailments caused by these injuries.

Both modes of electrostimulation are favorably indicated for the treatment of calf muscle injuries, although it will depend on the objective of each treatment. If you are faced with a muscle injury that causes severe pain, the best option is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, since it is aimed at reducing pain. While muscle electrostimulation therapy is indicated for muscle rehabilitation and strengthening after injuries.

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, if we use two pads, we should use one positive and one negative pole in 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 affecting 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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