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How to use a TENS units & EMS machines for muscle spasm & cramps? Placement of electrode pads (UK)

Muscle cramps and spasms are a very common type of muscle injury in high-impact athletes, and although they are not serious, their appearance is usually inopportune and limits the athlete's performance. But it can also appear regularly in middle-aged and elderly people with certain clinical conditions, which affects their quality of life negatively.

The pain generated by cramps can be treated in several ways, but undoubtedly the healthiest and most effective is with electrotherapy. Whether in its TENS or EMS modality, with it you will be able to relieve this ailment and have a less traumatic recovery.

How to use TENS machines to relieve pain due to muscle cramps?

The procedure for using TENS electrostimulation machines is a little more complex than simply placing the electrodes and turning on the device. It requires some knowledge of how the machine works and where the pain is centered in the muscle.

Where to place the electrodes?

For effective relief of pain caused by muscle spasm, you should position the electrodes on an area of the skin, on each side of the muscle to be treated, where the sensation is normal, making sure that the electrodes do not touch each other.

For example, a calf cramp, one of the most common, can be treated with a TENS device by positioning one electrode just below the popliteal fossa, while the second electrode should be positioned below the affected muscle, at the level of the calf tendon.

Which current to use?

Muscle spasms can produce very sharp pain, depending on the intensity of the muscle contraction. So a high frequency is required to deal with the violence.

Usually, this type of muscle contractions are treated with a frequency between 80 and 120 Hz, which is ideal for the treatment of acute ailments caused by cramps and muscle spasms. Afterwards, it is a good idea to use an intensity not exceeding 35 Hz, in order to relax the muscle once the contracture has passed.

Best TENS units to treat muscle tension

Each model of TENS device has its own characteristics, and while most can work for relief of ailments caused by muscle spasms, it is always a good idea to know which ones best cover this injury. For the treatment of muscle cramps and contractures, you can use the following devices:

Med-Fit - Dual Channel TENS Machine for Pain Relief and Pain Management Therapy
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 3 Modes
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: 2 AA Batteries
  • Electrodes: 16 Pads
  • Display: No display
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes user manual
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • No intensity levels specified
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • Display not included
The Med-Fit TENS unit is presented as the most viable and sophisticated option for the treatment of ailments of any kind, thanks to its innovative dual-channel function that allows you to treat the symptoms of diseases such as sciatica, arthritis, and muscle injuries in different areas of the body simultaneously.

Its electrostimulation method allows you to relieve chronic ailments through the application of mild electrical stimuli that inhibit pain signals and stimulate the production of endorphins. The best results are obtained when using this unit for 60 to 90 minutes. The use of this device is widely recommended because it does not interfere with any medical treatment and is completely safe.

QUIWILL - Dual Channel TENS Machine with 24 Modes 8 Pads and Rechargeable Battery
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 10 hours)
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 330 gr
  • Includes user manual
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • No measurements specified
  • Does not include carrying bag
  • Not suitable for muscle hypertrophy
The dual channel electrostimulator brought to the public by QUIWILL has revolutionized physiotherapy with electrostimulation thanks to its dual channel function, through which you can apply the TENS electrical impulses on different areas of the body simultaneously, through the 2 pairs of electrodes. All you need are daily sessions of between 15 and 20 minutes to obtain all the benefits of this complete electrostimulator.

It features 16 different massage modes with variable intensity in 16 levels, which can be adjusted individually in each of the channels to treat different ailments in different areas of the body. Its electrodes pads have a specialized design that maximizes conductivity and can be reused multiple times. The device is compact, portable and can be used very easily.

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.

Patterson Medical - Dual Channel TENS Machine with self-adhesive electrodes for pain relief
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 3 Modes
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Battery
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: No display
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Includes user manual
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Battery type not specified
  • No size and weight specified
  • No intensity levels specified
The Patterson Medical Premier Plus electrostimulation unit is one of the most complete and functional devices you can find, thanks to its simple design focused on ease of use and its great versatility when applying TENS electrostimulation, it is designed with an analog operation system that makes it considerably easier for anyone to use it.

Its incredible dual channel function allows you to set different modes of use for dual channels A and B, so you can massage separate areas of the body simultaneously. Its compact size makes it incredibly portable, and it includes a belt clip that allows you to use your electro stimulator whenever and wherever you want.

PowerDot 2.0 - Wireless TENS & EMS smart device controlled by mobile app (black)
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: -
  • Modes/Programs: 15 Programmes
  • 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
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Includes user manual
  • Rechargeable battery
  • No battery life specified
  • No intensity levels specified
  • Does not specify dimensions and weight
PowerDot has launched for its consumers one of the best wireless electrostimulation devices on the market, consisting only of smart electrodes directed through a mobile application that you can find for Android and iOS operating systems, making the PowerDot 2.0 one of the most versatile devices on the market.

It has over 400 customised modes of use divided between EMS and TENS muscle stimulation, functions dedicated to the relief of all types of ailments and physical conditioning. The box includes 2 pre-charged pods, 2 sets of electrodes, 2 connection cables, 2 USB chargers, along with a carrying case ready to charge everything wherever you go.

How to use EMS to strengthen muscles and prevent muscle spasms?

Although the best way to avoid cramps is to maintain healthy doses of mineral electrolytes and hydration, muscle conditioning plays a very important role in preventing this annoying ailment, and EMS stimulation can be a very useful tool in this regard

Where to place the electrodes?

As a general rule, one electrode of the EMS muscle stimulators should be positioned on the medial head of the muscle to be trained while the second electrode should be located on one of the lateral areas of the muscle, so that the electrical stimulation covers the desired area.

Following these instructions, the training of muscles such as the calf muscles would be performed by positioning one electrode on the muscle belly of the gastrocnemius, while the second electrode would be located at the level of the soleus muscle, causing a general stimulus in the entire calf area.

What intensity to use?

The degrees of intensity required for optimal muscle strengthening, in order to avoid contractions, injuries and cramps, vary according to each individual, and there is no specific consensus on an optimal range.

However, most studies have shown great effectiveness when applying currents between 20 and 150 Hz on the muscle groups to be worked. This frequency promotes the formation of muscle fibers and reduces the possibility of injury during high-impact activities.

Best EMS machines to improve our musculature

The popularity of EMS electrostimulators is so great in the world of fitness and sports that it is possible to find devices in many forms, presentations and intensity levels, which adapt to all users' needs. Among the best EMS machines to improve our musculature and avoid contractures, spasms and cramps, we can highlight the following:

Compex Sport 2.0 - EMS muscle stimulator with 4 channels and 4 electrodes pads
  • Type: EMS
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes/Programs: Not specified
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Electrodes: 4 pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Portable and small size
  • Includes user manual
  • Does not specify measurements and weight
  • No specified modes or programmes
  • No intensity levels specified
Among the most effective options for muscle conditioning offered by the Compex brand, the Compex Sport 2.0 electrostimulation unit stands out in particular, designed specifically to promote fat burning and the recovery of muscle fibers, allowing you to tone your body and strengthen your muscles, while promoting physical recovery and relaxation.

It has all the basic functions of Compex electrostimulators, plus the innovative MI technology, which greatly increases the effectiveness of treatment by keeping records of the sessions performed. It is the perfect device for athletes who practice their disciplines between 1 and 2 times a week. It has 7 conditioning programs, 3 recovery massage programs, 6 pain management programs and 4 training programs.

TensCare Flexistim - Combo TENS/EMS unit for pain relief and muscle rehabilitation
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 53 Programs
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes user manual
  • TENS+EMS combo
  • Battery life not specified
  • No size and weight specified
  • Intensity levels not specified
The TensCare Flexstim multifunction device is one of the most complete and versatile electrostimulators you will find. Brought to you by the TensCare brand, this device combines a variety of electrostimulation technologies designed to treat different types of ailments. TENS, EMS, Micro Currents and IFT technologies allow it to relieve acute and chronic ailments, deep muscle pain and promote the rehabilitation and regeneration of muscle fibers.

It includes 53 massage programs in total, which are designed to treat a wide variety of ailments. Additionally, some of these programs have modifiable parameters that allow you to create the perfect customized programs for your own needs.

TensCare Sports - TENS and EMS device for pain relief as well as muscle strengthening
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 55 Programs
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium
  • Electrodes: 4 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 80 gr
  • Portable and small size
  • TENS+EMS combo
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes user manual
  • Includes carrying bag
  • No measurements specified
  • Battery life not specified
  • No intensity levels specified
TensCare has a wide range of products related to physiotherapy, including its TensCare Sports electro-stimulator, an electrotherapy unit that combines the best of TENS and EMS technologies, perfect for the relief of all types of ailments and the strengthening, rehabilitation and toning of muscles from the comfort of your own home.

It contains 28 preset programs and 8 manual programs that you can configure to suit your needs. This feature gives you fantastic coverage for natural pain relief of all kinds, and it has a powerful memory function that saves the last massage program that was used, so you can access it immediately.

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.

TechCare Massager - 2-output EMS & TENS muscle stimulator device with protective sleeve and 6 electrodes
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: 2
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 20 hours)
  • Electrodes: 6 electrodes
  • Display: LCD
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes user manual
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Long battery life (up to 20 hours)
  • Portable and small size
  • Good quality
  • Few intensity levels
  • Does not specify size and weight
  • Not suitable for muscle hypertrophy
The TechCare Plus 24 muscle massager is one of the most comfortable and compact models available on the market. It offers the best solution for any type of muscle pain through its electrotherapy massages, which are a combination of TENS and EMS modalities, which apply low intensity currents to greatly reduce the sensation of pain in the treated area.

It includes 24 modes of use that apply different types of massages focused on dealing with particular ailments. Its lithium battery allows continuous use for more than 20 hours, and has a session timer that can be set from 10 to 60 minutes. The purchase includes 1 mini Plus 24 electro stimulator, 1 carrying case, 6 large electrodes, 2 guide cables, 1 user manual and 1 USB charger.

Video: How to place electrodes for muscle cramps?

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

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

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

What are muscle cramps and spasms and what are the causes?

Although from a medical point of view both conditions are of the same nature, there are distinctions that will allow you to differentiate between a cramp and a muscle spasm, either in yourself or someone else.

Both cramps and spasms are involuntary contractions of the muscle, however, the cramp is a short contraction that occurs repeatedly and although it can generate discomfort in the affected area, it is not usually very painful.

Muscle spasms however, are prolonged involuntary contractions that can cause considerable pain, and completely prevent movement of the muscle for the duration of the contraction.

The most common causes of cramps of any type are as follows:

  • Muscle overuse
  • Muscle tension
  • Holding a position for a prolonged period of time
  • Dehydration
  • Low potassium levels
  • Low calcium levels

What are the most common types of muscle cramps?

There are several types of cramps, and they can occur at different times of the day and different parts of the body, although they are much more common in the legs.

The most common types of cramps are defined below:

  • Night cramps: this is the most common type of cramp and its occurrence is mainly associated with dehydration, low electrolyte levels or low blood supply to the muscles due to holding a position for too long. This type of cramps are very common during pregnancy.
  • Smooth muscle cramps: this type of cramp has a predominant cause, as it is mainly associated with menstrual cramps and is very common during the menstrual cycle.
  • Skeletal muscle cramps: cramps of this type occur mainly in the calves, thighs and arch of the feet, and is largely associated with excessive physical activity and prolonged use of the muscles. It should be noted that they can also occur in a relaxed state, and can be very painful.

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

Electrostimulation therapies have several modalities, although the most popular in the field of physical therapy are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

TENS therapy is a technique for the treatment of physical ailments based on the use of low intensity electrical impulses to numb the patient's nerve endings, reducing the sensation of pain and increasing pain resistance.

On the other hand, EMS is a physical conditioning tonic that uses medium to high intensity currents on the muscles, with the objective of causing activity in the muscles and strengthening them by stimulating the creation of muscle fibers.

Since the injury itself involves contractions in the musculature, the best electrotherapy modality to treat it is through TENS therapy, since its low intensity electrical impulses will provide relief from the pain caused by the contraction.

The use of EMS for muscle cramps and spasms is contraindicated, since its electrical discharges cause a much greater impact on the muscle, increasing the sensation of pain.

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 on the lower train and another on 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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