Electrical muscle stimulation is a form of therapy that speeds up the healing of muscle spasms, sports injuries and more. Patients are hooked up to a muscle stimulation machine and the electrical pulse settings are adjusted to target their individual condition.
How does electrical muscle stimulation work?
Dr. Jeffery Clark: Well, again, explaining this in a conversation is hard without maybe some diagrams and so on, but I will do the best I can. First of all, it works to help with relief of pain, muscle reeducation, promotes or mimics the action potential coming from the central nervous system. That may have sounded like, “Well, that is a bunch of technical stuff,” but, for example, if we are stimulating an injured muscle and we stimulate it, well, that will cause the muscles to get more blood supply to it. It will start to relax more and it will actually help break down scar tissue. For example, muscle reeducation. Let’s say someone has some paralysis. Well, that will help stimulate and remind the muscle what it is supposed to do until the nerve function increases. Again, there is a lot of things of how it works, and we just use it according to what we are trying to treat.
What does this treatment feel like for a patient receiving it?
Dr. Jeffery Clark: There are several different ways of hooking someone up on a muscle stim machine. A lot of people think of the little TENS unit that you see, or I have seen them trying to sell them on TV. They are the size of a transistor radio, and they run off a 9-volt battery. Now, those are fine with someone with chronic pain that they want to just use some home relief, but the actual muscle stimulation machine here, obviously, it runs off of 110. It is a lot stronger. It depends on what we are trying to do. It can just tingle a little bit and patients will feel a tingling sensation. It might be a little more irritating, and actually, it can be a little painful.
I just got done having some therapy for my shoulder from my chiropractor, and quite frankly, I did not really like it. It irritates me, but it made a big difference. I would go in there, and he would have to do it, put it on me, and I did it for a couple of weeks, and along with adjustments and I am fine now. I am one of those, I do not really care for it, but I know it works well and so we use it in our office. Again, you try to not so a patient’s in pain when you use it. You go up to a patient’s tolerance. Once they feel like that is about all they can take, then that is where we stop the stim.
What conditions do electrical muscle stimulation help to heal or improve?
Dr. Jeffery Clark: Well, just about all sorts of spinal related problems including muscle and skeletal problems. For example, neck pain, back pain, arm pain, leg pain. Most people use it, for example, for muscle strains, sprains, spasms, paralysis. Each thing requires a different frequency and duration, so it really depends on the condition, but let’s say someone comes in with a lower back pain and their antalgic. Now, when I say antalgic that means they are in such stress and the muscles are in such spasm they are leaning to the side and they can’t straighten up. Well, we would put that on a different setting then when someone else who just had back pain, they did not have all the spasms. The setting would be different accordingly. Again, it treats a variety of conditions. In our office, probably 25% of the time we use a lot more other therapies, but we have it available if anyone needs it.
How do electrical muscle stimulation treatments help with sports recovery?
Dr. Jeffery Clark: Quite a bit and a lot, I would say. For example, we see a lot of athletes here in Omaha from the different high schools and even a couple of the colleges that are close by. For example, if someone pulls a hamstring. We would put the muscle stim on the hamstring and we would start to stimulate it to get that fired up again.
A lot of times when people pull a hamstring they do not realize it is not just back where the back of their leg is up to their pelvis. It can all the way down their leg. As far as pain, I had a guy here a few weeks ago that had pulled a hamstring, could barely walk in. Of course, I do my examination. He was black and blue from his lower back all the way down to his ankle from pulling a hamstring. Again, we do the muscle and we are aware of how we have to put it on. We have them do ice therapy. We use that a lot with sports injuries.
How often should someone get electrical muscle stimulation treatments?
Dr. Jeffery Clark: Well, first of all, not everyone gets it. There are some people we just do not use it on. They do not need it. They are not having that acute, chronic, aggravating pain that is going on with a lot of spasms. A lot of people maybe just have a disc involvement with a pinched nerve. I may not use it for that, but if someone comes in having a lot of spasms we will. Let’s just talk about that patient that we use it on.
During the first week if they really have a lot of spasms and they can hardly stand up straight I may use that on them every day for five, six days. Then we will start using it three times a week, and then down to maybe a couple times a week, and then pretty much after that then we are done. We just continue to adjust them, but we do not do the therapies every time you see them. After they get stabilized then we just adjust their spine. We do not do any more muscle stim after that. It is not something you do it every time you see someone like those maintenance patients what come in one month. We do not use it on them. It is mostly for early on in care and condition based.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Jeffrey Clark, visit www.theomahachiropractor.com or call (402) 393-0566 to schedule an appointment.