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Electric Muscle Stimulation (Electrostim)

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Updated March 31, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Electric muscle stimulation -– E stim or electrostim for short -- is a physical therapy modality that can be used to stimulate muscle contraction in an effort to control pain, strengthen muscles and manage inflammation.

When you have an E stim treatment, electrodes hooked up to an electric stimulation machine are placed around the affected area of your back or neck. The placement of the electrodes depends on the reason for which the electrostim is given, along with how deep or superficial your therapist intends the current to go. The way the muscle changes shape once it’s exposed to the current is another factor in determining E stim electrode placement.

The therapist will adjust the controls of the electrostim machine until you feel a prickly sensation that you notice but is not too intense. An electrostim treatment lasts about 10 or 15 minutes.

Electric Stimulation Therapy for Joint Stabilization

Electric muscle stimulation is sometimes used as an adjunct in a person's physical therapy program. Because electrostim ignites muscles and calls them into action, it may help increase spinal stability if used on the muscles that support your joints. Of course, the home exercise program your therapist teaches you will likely be the best way to achieve and maintain joint stability, but electrostim may enhance this process.

E stim may also help strengthen muscles and increase muscle endurance (how many times a muscle can contract before it fatigues).

Electrostim for Healing and Pain Control

Electric muscle stimulation therapy may enhance tissue healing and inflammation control. It works by reducing swelling and increasing circulation.

E stim may block nerve transmission at the spinal cord, thereby reducing pain sensations. Many back patients have good luck with TENS, a take-home E stim therapy.

Also Known As: E stim, electric stimulation, electrostim, muscle stimulation, nerve stimulation
Examples:
Electrostim may be given as an adjunct therapy for weak or painful back muscles.
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