Electric muscle stimulation (EMS) is a method of treatment frequently used in chiropractic therapy to relieve muscle spasms and pain. During EMS, electrodes attached to an electric stimulation machine are placed on the patient’s areas of discomfort, transmitting mild electrical current to the region. These electrodes adhere to the skin with adhesive pads. The purpose of EMS is to decrease pain, strengthen muscles, and reduce inflammation. Patients who undergo electric muscle stimulation most often find it soothing and pleasant, something like a deep electrical massage.

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Once the electrodes are placed on the patient’s back, neck, shoulder, knee, ankle or wrist, the level of stimulation is adjusted according to the patient’s sensitivity. Normally the patient is advised to tolerate the strongest intensity that feels comfortable in order to reap the greatest benefit from the treatment. Patients may experience a tingling or prickly sensation, but EMS should never be painful.

EMS controls pain at the site of injury in two ways: by blocking nerve signals and by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. The electrical stimulation can also be made to cause rapid involuntary muscle contractions that simulate voluntary ones. These contractions help to rehabilitate and strengthen the muscles involved.

Electric muscle stimulation is an effective chiropractic tool, increasing circulation, reducing inflammation and relieving pain. For the great majority of patients, it provides relief from acute pain and eases muscle tension. EMS is a safe form of treatment. The only risks include possible allergic reaction to the adhesive on the electrode pads or, rarely, a burn to the skin because of too high an intensity level of electrical current.

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