E-Stim: What is it and How Can it Help You? – A Definitive Guide

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There seems to be a lot of confusion around the idea of electrical stimulation (e-stim); what is it, how does it work, and are there any real benefits?

We are going to shed some light on the facts vs fiction surrounding this physical therapy method and answer some other commonly asked questions.

What is E-stim?

E-stim usually comes in the form of either EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) or TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) devices and is in the category of physical therapy.

These devices use electrical current to stimulate your muscles and nerves, and can be very beneficial and effective in reducing pain, increasing blood-flow and strengthening your muscles.

This practice is used in hospitals and sports clinics all over the world. They are helpful to people who suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoporosis and more.

Additionally e-stim usage has been shown to improve the results of physiotherapy and athletic training, again, mostly due to improving blood flow and muscle strength.

e-stim device

How Does E-stim Work?

E-stim works through stimulating the movement of ions, electrolytes and metabolites across cell membranes.

This creates a tiny electrical current that e-stim devices use to stimulate the muscles.

But how does this benefit you?

This process will help improve blood flow, which means faster healing from injuries and less risk of injury from exercise due to an increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissue.

It is also been found that e-stim helps with the breakdown of fatty tissue through lactic acid production during sessions, meaning a reduction in body fat.

E-Stim is typically used for pain relief, and the primary way in which e-stim relieves pain is by blocking the signals from the brain to the nerves in the affected area.

When is E-Stim Used?

As mentioned previously, e-stim is commonly used along with other treatments to relieve pain and improve muscle function.

These units can usually be used during almost any activity or exercise, this includes sitting, standing, walking or even sleeping. It should not interfere with your sleep patterns as it uses an extremely low current which does not generally cause the tingling sensation over the skin.

This form of physical therapy is typically used as either a treatment for some sort of issue that users are dealing with, or as a routine maintenance practice (similar to foam rolling, compression, stretching etc.).

The E-Stim Process

Generally, TENS units and EMS machines are relatively easy to use.

For the difference between EMS and TENS, see here.

The session usually starts by placing electrode pads on the area you are looking to treat.

You will then be able to set the intensity or power level that you desire – this usually ranges from a small ‘flicker’ which gives a tingly type of sensation, all the way up to a very powerful shock which can result in a fairly sizeable muscle contraction.

Of course, we recommend starting on the lower side of the spectrum and gradually increase the intensity as you feel more comfortable.

That’s really it!

Length of session depends person-to-person and also on the area being treated, however usually falls between 5-15 minutes.

EEE stim

What Can E-Stim Help With?

E-stim has been found to help with a number of different conditions. Here we will go over the main ones.

It has commonly been found to benefit those suffering from arthritis, a condition where the cartilage lining the joints breaks down.

It can also stimulate the production of new cartilage cells and tissue regeneration, which in many cases, users have recorded an improvement in muscle function as well as reduced pain typically associated with arthritis.

It also has been known to help those with chronic back pain by increasing blood flow to the troubled area, which reduces inflammation and eases strains.

Other conditions include (but not limited to):

  • scoliosis
  • fibromyalgia
  • urinary incontinence
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • osteoporosis

Essentially, e-stim is most useful in scenarios where users are suffering from general muscle and nerve damage.

Clinicians are even currently working on ways in which e-stim can be used to help treat multiple sclerosis patients.

Is it Expensive?

A major benefit of EMS and TENS units over other physical therapy devices is that they are predominantly on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

Lower end models can go for $20-30 and even the higher end devices are a few hundred dollars.

Are there Risks?

For e-stim devices, risks are generally minimal.

You may experience some discomfort at the site of the pads (similar to what you would experience through physical therapy) ie. some skin irritation, muscle contraction, etc.

Although risks are minimal, there are certain scenarios where e-stim can pose more of a risk, in particular when referring to heart health. More specifically, electrical stimulation should not be used for people with pacemakers or other implanted heart devices.

As always, it is a good practice to consult with your doctor before trying out any new type of physical therapy.


In conclusion, e-stim can be a great addition to your fitness/recovery routine.

It is generally fairly cheap, poses minimal risks and has a fairly sizeable bank of research that supports its ability to relieve pain and discomfort and even help regenerate tissue.

It also helps that e-stim devices are extremely easy and straightforward to use!

1 thought on “E-Stim: What is it and How Can it Help You? – A Definitive Guide”

  1. The next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, however I truly believed you would have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you can fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

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