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How to use a TENS units & EMS machines for joint pain relief? Placement of electrode pads

The joints are the points that allow the body to move, they allow flexing and stretching the joints to provide the maximum range of mobility possible, so regardless of whether you are a highly competitive athlete or an ordinary person performing everyday activities, the joints are constantly subjected to a considerable amount of stress.

It is for this reason that injuries to both knees and elbows, as well as other areas such as shoulders, groin, wrists and ankles, are very common. For situations like these, one of the best options are TENS and EMS electrostimulation therapies, and below, we will show you how to apply them to treat joint pain.

how to use a TENS machine to relieve joint pain?

Whether the joints of the upper or lower body, they are under constant stress, and can be injured relatively easily in contact sports, or high demand.

Therefore, these joints can take advantage of a large number of benefits, among which we can highlight:

  • Reduction of joint pain: the electrical impulses emitted by the TENS unit influence the nerve endings located in the brachial, radial and ulnar nerves in the arm joints, and the superficial peroneal, femoral, tibial and sural nerves in the leg joints, and their respective branches, mitigating the sensation of pain.
  • Increased resistance to pain: throughout the sessions, the nerve endings become progressively numb and the patient's pain threshold increases, providing a sensation of relief of variable duration once the session is over.
  • Nociceptor suppression: nociceptors located in the nerve endings of each major nerve in the extremities are responsible for the sensation of joint pain. The electrical shocks of the therapy suppress these nociceptors, temporarily numbing them throughout the duration of the session and for several minutes afterwards
  • Relaxation of fibrous tissue: the electrical stimuli cause relaxation of the tendons and ligaments that make up most of the articulation points of the extremities, causing an analgesic effect on the patient.

TENS unit therapies have a large number of benefits that allow the relief of pain in the joint caused by diseases that directly affect them, such as bursitis or gout. However, it is necessary to emphasize that TENS is not a method to heal injuries or cure diseases, but to treat the symptoms caused by them. The application of this treatment in the field of physiotherapy must be supervised by a specialist.

Best TENS machines for joint injury recovery

The effectiveness of TENS therapy for the treatment of pain in general is widely proven, which is why different devices have been created, among which there are machines dedicated to the treatment of joint pain. Among these we can mention the following:

Quad Stim - Portable Combo TENS/EMS muscle stimulator with 4 different channels for pain relief
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes/Programs: 32 Modes
  • Intensity: 100 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: 4 AA Batteries
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 5.4" x 3.1" x 1.1" - 0.6 lbs
  • TENS+EMS combo
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Includes user manual
  • No heat therapy
  • No battery life specified
  • No touch screen included
The QuadStim brand electro stimulator is an incredibly versatile electrotherapy machine that combines the benefits of TENS currents and EMS electrostimulation, allowing you to treat a wide range of ailments while applying high-intensity electrical impulses to increase muscle fiber development and build muscle strength.

It has 8 customizable modes of use, of which 5 apply TENS current and 3 apply EMS current. It also has different levels of intensity, frequency and pulse radius, making it one of the most versatile electrostimulation machines on the market.

AUVON - Dual channel TENS unit with 20 modes and 8 electrode pads of different sizes
  • Type: TENS
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 20 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: Yes
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 10 hours)
  • Electrodes: 8 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 4.12" x 2.24" x 0.43" - 1.54 lbs
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Includes user manual
  • Portable and small size
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Not for muscle hypertrophy
  • No heat therapy
  • No touch screen included
The AUVON electro stimulator is at the forefront of electro stimulation technology, combining TENS and EMS stimulation technologies to obtain one of the most complete treatments for acute and chronic pain, caused by injuries or illnesses, as well as an incredible complement for physical conditioning thanks to its muscle stimulation technology.

It has 20 modes of use that apply different types of massages oriented to treat a wide variety of ailments, and with its independent channel control mode you will have the possibility of configuring different programs for each of the channels individually, to apply different types of massages in various areas of the body.

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.

Belifu - 4 channels TENS EMS machine with 24 modes and 30 intensity levels
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes: 24 Programs
  • Intensity: 30 Levels
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable (20 hours of use)
  • Electrodes: 10 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes carrying bag
  • With 30 intensity levels
  • 24 modes
  • With 10 pads
  • Timer option
  • No heat therapy
  • No size specified
The Belice brand has one of the most powerful and versatile electrostimulation units available on the market, which comes in a package with everything you may need to apply a successful electro massage therapy, from the reusable pads to a travel bag to take your device with you wherever you go.

It has 24 modes of use and 30 intensity levels that you can program individually on each of its 4 channels, so you can apply them to different parts of the body, or even different people, simultaneously. Its high-powered battery will allow you to apply electrostimulation for 20 continuous hours, and is fully rechargeable through the current or from a USB charger.

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.

How to use an EMS muscle electrostimulator for joints?

Although muscle electrostimulators are contraindicated for the treatment of joint pain, it is possible to take advantage of a wide variety of benefits when applied to the areas adjacent to the joints, where the muscle groups that provide mobility and stability are located.

Among these benefits, we can highlight the following:

  • Increased joint stability: electrical discharges increase the strength and resistance of the muscles adjacent to the joints, providing greater stability to the joints. These muscles are the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, soleus and tibialis anterior in the case of the knees, and the biceps radialis, triceps, radialis, pronator teres and ulnaris anterior in the case of the elbow.
  • Improved physical performance: by strengthening the musculature responsible for providing mobility and stability to the joints, you will be able to perform heavier tasks with significantly less risk.
  • Increased blood flow: the heat applied by the electric shocks to the muscle tissue will result in vasodilation that increases blood flow, thus improving tissue oxygenation and nutrient absorption.
  • Prevention of future injuries: as a result of the increased strength and elasticity of the muscles surrounding the joints, these will be able to support heavier loads with a lower risk of suffering overload injuries.

Best EMS electrostimulators for strengthening joint muscles and tendons

EMS devices provide a great method for strengthening the brachial, hamstring and gastrocnemius muscles, which are in charge of stabilizing and mobilizing the knee, reducing the possibility of injury and improving physical performance in the extremities. To do this, you can use specialized EMS machines, such as those described below:

Compex Performance 3.0 - Combo TENS/EMS with 6 programs for improve muscle performance
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes/Programs: 6 Programs
  • Intensity: Not specified
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (8 hours)
  • Electrodes: Not specified
  • Display: LCD
  • Size: Not specified
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Accelerates recovery from sports injuries
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Long battery life (up to 8 hours)
  • Does not specify intensity levels
  • Measurements and weight not specified
  • 6 programs
The Compex brand offers one of its best electrostimulation machines: the Compex Performance 3.0, a muscle electrostimulator with TENS and EMS operation that facilitates physical recovery after exercise, in the same way that it can stimulate muscle growth through its high frequency electrical impulses, which generate contractions that activate muscle fibers.

It has a powerful rechargeable lithium battery that gives it an autonomy of up to 8 continuous hours, and 6 programs of use that are divided into 1 warm-up program, 3 programs for increasing output, 1 recovery program and 1 TENS program. It is one of the most complete options to improve physical performance and recovery.

Laspi - 4-channel TENS/EMS muscle stimulator with 20 modes and 8 electrode pads
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: 4
  • Modes: 20 Programs
  • Intensity: 40 Levels
  • Wireless: No
  • Heat therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Electrodes: 12 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: Not specified
  • Includes 40 intensity levels
  • Portable device
  • 12 pads with different sizes
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Features 20 modes
  • Somewhat slow charging
  • No size specified
The Laspi brand of products has an electrostimulation machine designed to maximize the results of your workouts through a complete massage therapy provided by TENS and EMS technologies, which will allow you to combat acute and chronic ailments, as well as increase the results of your exercises by stimulating muscle growth.

It has a function of 4 individual channels that will allow you to apply different massage programs in various areas of the body, in addition to 3 programs that together give you more than 20 options between TENS, EMS and recovery massages, 40 levels of intensity and time control function that will allow you to define the duration of each session.

PowerDot 2.0 - App-controlled wireless TENS & EMS smart device (black model)
  • 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
  • Reduces pain symptoms
  • Includes user manual
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Does not specify dimensions and weight
  • Battery life not specified
  • Does not specify intensity levels
This surprising and revolutionary electro stimulator from PowerDot presents one of the most comfortable and complete designs on the market. It is the PowerDot 2.0, an electrostimulation device designed to work by means of a convenient and simple mobile application, available for Android and iPhone mobiles. Its design and functionality is aimed at muscle recovery and pain relief through the application of electrical impulses to the nerves in the affected area.

With more than 400 modes of use and a variety of intensity levels, the PowerDot 2.0 is one of the most complete electro stimulators available, as its functions focus on muscle recovery, improved physical performance, and pain relief. All these features make it the leading choice for the immediate treatment of any pain, whether caused by injury or illness.

TechCare Massager - 2-output pulse muscle stimulator device with protective sleeve & 6 electrodes pads
  • 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 massager is a dual-channel electrostimulation device with a rechargeable battery and a large number of functions dedicated to the application of TENS and EMS massages. It features an LCD display and various modes of use, along with a session timer, and an on-screen indicator of remaining battery time.

It has multiple modes of use and its A-B output channel allows you to apply two types of massage simultaneously, making it one of the most versatile devices available on the market. The package includes 1 control, 1 protective case for the TENS unit, 3 pairs of electrodes, 4 power output cables, 1 USB cable, 1 user manual, 1 plastic case and 1 belt clip.

Belifu - Dual channel TENS EMS unit machine with 24 modes for pain relief therapy
  • Type: Combo
  • Channels: Dual
  • Modes/Programs: 24 Modes
  • Intensity: 20 Levels
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Heat Therapy: No
  • Battery: Rechargeable Lithium (up to 20 hours)
  • Electrodes: 10 Pads
  • Display: Digital
  • Size: 3.7" x 1.9" x 1.9"
  • Includes carrying bag
  • Long battery life (up to 20 hours)
  • Portable and small size
  • TENS+EMS Combo
  • Improves blood circulation
  • No weight specification
  • No heat therapy
  • No touch screen included
The Belifu electrostimulator has several features that make it stand out from other devices of this type. One of these is its function of 2 independent channels that will allow you to individually treat different areas of the body. It has 24 massage modes and 20 intensity levels that allow for a wide range of ailment relief.

The Belifu electric massager includes 10 reusable self-adhesive conductive electrodes pads and 5 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.

Video: How to place electrodes pads on any joint?

Electrodes for knee

Electrodes for knee
Electrodes for knee
Electrodes for knee

Electrodes for elbow

Electrodes for elbow
Electrodes for elbow

Electrodes for wrist

Electrodes for wrist

Electrodes for hip

Electrodes for hip

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

Most common types of joint injuries

Joint ailments can occur for a variety of reasons and in various forms. They usually occur in isolation, in one joint at a time, due to strain, overuse or injury. However, certain disorders can cause simultaneous pain in wrists, elbows, knees and ankles at the same time.

Among the most common diseases that cause these effects, we can find the following:

  • Fibromyalgia: is an ailment characterized by muscular pain and pain in the fibrous tissue (ligaments and tendons). Although it is not a joint disease, the joints are usually points where the pain is concentrated. It does not have a specific cause, although it has been observed that it starts after bacterial or viral infections, or other diseases that limit the quality of life.
  • Arthritis: is a joint disease whose main symptoms are swelling, stiffness and pain, which usually worsen with age. It occurs naturally over the years as the cartilage that cushions the impact between bones when moving wears out.
  • Lupus: is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the joints. Its cause is unknown, although there is evidence of the influence of a genetic factor in the probability of developing this disease. Its main symptoms include muscle and joint pain, fever and hair loss.
  • Gout: is a common form of arthritis characterized by sudden attacks of pain, redness and swelling. It is caused by an excessive accumulation of uric acid in the joints.

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

The use of electrical stimulation therapies are highly recommended for joint ailments. However, and despite being similar in many aspects, TENS and EMS stimulation have crucial differences that are necessary to know before starting to apply them.

To begin with, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy, or TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) , is a physical therapy method focused on the treatment of pain caused by injuries or diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and others that affect the joints. For this purpose, this technique makes use of low intensity electrical stimuli that interact with nociceptors, reducing the sensation of pain in the treated area.

On the other hand, muscular electrostimulation, or EMS, is a physiotherapy technique mostly applied to physical conditioning and rehabilitation of muscular injuries of mild pain. It consists of the application of electrical impulses directly to the muscle groups surrounding the joints, stimulating with frequencies ranging from 70 Hz to 150 Hz, thus increasing the strength and stability of the joints.

With this information, we can conclude that the best technique to treat joint pain, whether caused by injuries or disorders, is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, since the electrical impulses produced by its devices are designed to suppress the nerve endings of the pain receptors located in the radial, brachial, femoral and tibial nerves, and all their ramifications, thus generating a sensation of relief in the extremities.

On the contrary, EMS therapy is not a method for the treatment of pain, so it is contraindicated to treat the symptoms of disorders such as arthritis. The goal of this technique is to increase muscle definition, strength and elasticity through passive training using electrical shocks that contract and relax the muscles. So although it is not a therapy indicated for the treatment of pain, it offers various benefits for the joints and extremities.

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 on each electrode should be connected symmetrically. That is to say, 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: you cannot use one electrode 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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