Compex Electric Muscle Stimulator with TENS Blog
Get Stronger, Faster, Without Working Harder.
All-in compression for all out performance. Feel the power of compression in your recovery routine – Compex® AYRE™ Wireless Compression Boots
Muscle soreness can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level or activity. Soreness can occur after you try a new workout, push your intensity level, or increasing the duration of your workout, and is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. But good news, Compex AYRE can help aid the relief of DOMS.
The microscopic damage made to the muscle tissue during activity causes a buildup of lactic acid. The compression treatment provided by the Ayre boots will help work to break up these small molecules and send stimulus to your nervous system. These compression boots are designed to help improve blood flow and circulation in the legs by mobilizing lactic acid, access fluids, and other toxins. Compex Ayre uses a dynamic pulsing compression up the limbs in waves for the duration of its use, which helps promote quick healing.
Rest, ice packs, over-the-counter pain relievers, and massages can only take you so far on your road to recovery. Accelerate the healing process by incorporating a 60-minute compression session that can help prepare you to go all-out the next day. Don’t worry about tethering your recovery to a space near a power outlet either. The Compex AYRE boots are wireless and rechargeable for easy use anywhere, anytime. Simply find a comfy spot to sit, put on the boots, and enjoy the compression recovery for up to 60 minutes.
Individual Results May Vary
The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the views of any other party. Individual results may vary. Neither DJO Global, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries dispense medical advice. The contents of this blog do not constitute medical, legal, or any other type of professional advice. Rather, please consult your healthcare professional for information on the courses of treatment, if any, which may be appropriate for you.
This article was written by Daniel Girodano, a physical therapist at Bespoke in New York. Their therapists have the highest levels of expertise through first class education and elite experience. It is their passion that drives them to design the very best and customized treatment programs to optimize your recovery and performance.
“COMPEX is a muscle stimulation AKA neuromuscular electrical stimulation, NMES, unit that works by sending electronic pulses to your motor nerves in order to create muscle contractions. It can be used to improve blood circulation, reduce muscle spasms, decrease pain, decrease edema or swelling, and improve strength by initiating muscle fiber recruitment.
There are many ways that you can use muscle stimulation. During the course of my day, I will use muscle stim on patients during their warm-up, strength, and/or their recovery portion of their treatment.
As a warm-up I will use the Compex PreWarmup setting (7 Hz) in order to help warm up the muscle you are targeting by improving blood circulation, bringing blood and oxygen to the muscle, in order to prep the muscle. For example, if my patient is feeling very tight in his or her calves prior to activity, I will use the Compex pre-warm up on his or her calf muscles as we move through a dynamic warm-up. Using muscle stim in combination with your warm-up will make sure you are ready for sport.
Have you ever had trouble understanding where you be feeling the exercise or having trouble ‘activating’ a muscle? Have you just wanted extra recruitment in the quads during squats? These are all perfect times to use the Compex Resistance Setting. During the workout, I use the Compex Resistance Setting (around 70 Hz with rest intervals) on a specific muscle group in order to recruit more muscle fibers. This will help you understand the contraction better by using the muscle stim to help feel the muscle contract or to help improve strength by making the training more effective and efficient.
Using muscle stim for recovery is probably the most common way of using muscle stim, but why? I tend to use the Compex Active Recovery (9 to 1 Hz intervals) or the Compex Pre Warmup setting in order to improve circulation and bring fresh blood and oxygen to the targeted muscles. By improving circulation, you are facilitating toxin removal and speeding up your recovery
If you have any questions about NMES contact your local physical therapist before application. Avoid placement of electrodes across the chest, anywhere above the neck, or near your genitals — also avoid open wounds, rashes, or infected, red, or inflamed areas More often than not, I personally see people using it completely wrong on their own. Educate yourself prior to using the machine, everyone is different and not everyone can handle the same amount of stim.”
Dan Giordano, PT, DPT, CSCS
Join some of the world's premier athletes and represent a global leader in muscle stim and recovery technology. Be your best and help make others better.
Members of the Compex Ambassador team will apply directly through the websie provided below and be given the opportunity to partake in an exchange program. You will receive a Compex product in exchange for a social post. We will post regular exchanges which opens up the opportunity for you to receive a wide variety of our products.
We would also like each ambassador to request to be a part of our private facebook ambassador page:(https://www.facebook.com/groups/221670228891145/?source_id=109540435357 where you will be able to access to product information and training, and other tools and tips to support success, both as an athlete and as a partner with the world-renowned Compex brand.
Ambassadors are required to apply to the program by clicking the link below:
Once you have applied you will be notified with our first exchange opportunity. At that point you can submit to be a part of that exchange. You will choose a date that you will post to social media and the product will be shipped to you.
We would like you to post to Instagram and share it to your Facebook feed as well, if you have one. Make sure to share your post in the Compex Ambassador Facebook as well. Use the hashtags #CompexAthelete #CompexUSA in your post.
You must follow all conditions outlined in the Ambassador program documentation with respect to product claims, product presentation, branding, personal conduct, and product category exclusivity. Specifics are shared in the brand guidelines provided in the link you will apply to (Find Your Influence)
WHO SHOULD APPLY
Self-motivated and upstanding members in the fitness community who have a broad network and who represent themselves in a positive light. A few descriptions that come to mind are:
- Fitness Oriented
- Health & Wellness Focussed
- Gym Junkies
- Team Sports Athletes
- Individual Sport Athletes
- Hard Working Indviduals
All Compex Ambassadors must be based in the United States.
Please feel free to reach out to our marketing director Katie Loughridge for any questions regarding the ambassador program.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Compex Family!
Your body contains 650 different muscles that provide your body with the strength, shape and tone to deliver ultimate athletic performance, from explosive dunks to sprinting several meters in a matter of seconds. Building muscle can be something of a mystery. You lift weights, you maintain the right diet, and your muscles grow, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Whether you’re hitting a plateau or just not getting the results you’re looking for, building and maintaining strength and muscle mass sometimes requires that extra push. That’s where muscle stimulators come into the picture. What are muscle stimulators? What does a muscle stimulator do? Read on to learn more.
While you know your muscles contribute to strength, mass and every basic movement and activity that you perform, they are also essential to maintaining good posture and transporting blood and other fluids throughout the body.
The average human body has 650 known, scientifically named muscles, though this number can grow to over 800 if you break down some of the individual muscle groups. These muscles typically make up one-third to one-half of your total body weight. There are three main types of muscles. Visceral muscles are found inside blood vessels and some organs. They are the weakest muscles and work to move things through your system. Visceral muscles in your intestines, for instance, move food through your digestive system. These are involuntary muscles, meaning you can’t consciously control them.
The cardiac muscle is what keeps your heart ticking, allowing it to pump blood throughout your body. Cardiac muscle tissue is also involuntary and controlled by a combination of hormones, brain signals, and its own internal systems. As you can imagine, cardio exercise is good for cardio muscles.
Skeletal muscle is what you know and love. These muscles connect to (usually) two bones across one joint, allowing them to move. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscles. They are responsible for every conscious movement you perform and are susceptible to growth and muscle atrophy based on use or disuse.
How Muscles Grow
Each muscle is actually comprised of hundreds of thin fibers known as myofibrils. When you lift weights, do a pushup or otherwise perform an activity, those fibers contract and retract. If the weight you are trying to lift is heavy, your brain sends signals to your muscles to generate the force necessary to lift the weight up.
If the object is heavier than you’re used to or if you perform the action repeatedly, you essentially expose your muscles to stress, which creates a controlled muscle tear. This explains the soreness after a solid workout. When your myofibrils have torn, the body activates the immune system to repair the damaged fibers, often making them stronger and larger in the process.
Unfortunately for your muscles, the human body is good at adapting. That means that maintaining the same workout routines day after day is good for keeping your muscles in shape, but it won’t do much in terms of building up your muscle mass.
Another component of muscle growth is metabolic stress. Metabolic stress results in the increase of components called metabolites, like lactate, phosphate, and hydrogen. If you’ve felt that burning sensation during or after a workout, you’ve experienced metabolic stress. The accumulation of metabolites essentially causes cells around the muscle fibers to swell. This form of muscle growth, known as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, makes your muscles look bigger, but it does not actually contribute to your strength.
The fact is, while we know how muscles tear and rebuild themselves to get bigger, research still isn’t sure of the best, most optimal way to build muscle mass through exercise. That gets even more complicated taking into account the fact that everyone has different metabolic and muscle growth rates. Some people do better with fewer reps and heavier weights, while others might be better with moderate weight and more reps.
The Role of Electric Muscle Stimulators
So what do muscle stimulators do? Do muscle stimulators work? As the label says, these are devices that work to stimulate muscles through electrical impulses. Most electric stimulators comprise of a main device that creates the electric impulse and a series of electrodes consisting of pads that are attached to the skin, near the muscles that you want to stimulate.
Electric muscle stimulation (EMS), sometimes known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), involves delivering controlled pulses of electricity to your motor nerves. These pulses are meant to simulate the same signals sent by your brain to your muscles, thus causing a muscle contraction.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is similar in concept, but this specifically aims toward stimulating nerves, not necessarily muscles. Put another way, EMS and NMES target motor nerves, while TENS targets sensory nerves.
Benefits of Electric Muscle Stimulators
There is a wide range of benefits to electric muscle stimulators as well as applications for athletes and exercise enthusiasts of all experience levels.
Applying electric muscle stimulators during training offers an extra level of workout for your muscles. Electric muscle stimulators can engage a greater percentage of muscle fibers at once, allowing you to get even more out of every rep and set. That’s just plain efficient and ultimately equates to:
- More muscle mass
- Increased strength
- Improved endurance and physical stamina
Electric muscle stimulators also allow you to engage muscles that may not normally receive much attention. That can provide greater physical support and stability.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Warming up your muscles before you exercise is essential to more effective workouts. Warming up is also known to reduce the risk of injury during workouts and physical activities in general. Electric muscle stimulators give you an easy and efficient way to warm up your body so that your muscles are plenty ready for the crux of your routine.
Once you have finished with your workout, muscle stimulators offer an easy tool for a cool-down session. Cooling down your body post-workout can keep stiffness and soreness to a minimum and keep the blood flow circulating through your muscles.
On its own, electric muscle stimulation likely will not have a huge impact on weight loss, which generally requires exercises that engage your heart, lungs, and multiple muscle groups, all at once. However, when combined with your existing cardio training regimen, electric muscle stimulation can give you the extra edge to burn more calories and fat, leaving you leaner and stronger.
One of the hardest parts of any workout is the recovery period, but it’s also necessary to building your muscle fibers back up. Electric muscle stimulation can help to facilitate the recovery process. The gentle stimulation can help to bring blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the muscles while expediting the flushing away of toxins. All of that equates to faster recovery. The process may also help to release endorphins, which can help to dull any soreness or pain.
Proponents also suggest that EMS works via the gate control theory, which states that the non-painful input from the muscle stimulator can prevent pain sensations from traveling to your central nervous system. That may essentially keep any muscle pain or soreness at bay for an easier recovery process.
Using Your Electric Muscle Stimulator
Using a muscle stimulator is generally easy. Simply apply the adhesive pads and follow the instructions for the most optimal settings. Compex muscle stimulators offer a wide range of unique programs for every step of your workout. Beginners should start with the lowest, easiest settings until they get used to the system.
What are muscle stimulators used for? Muscle stimulators are by no means a replacement for traditional workouts or getting in a “workout” while you’re lounging on the couch. They are a complement and enhancement to your existing training and exercise routines, helping to support your recovery while building muscle strength, stamina and speed. Shop through our Compex muscle stimulators and see the results for yourself.
First, let’s ask the question, what is a muscle stimulator? While once reserved for rehabilitation and physical theory, electric muscle stimulators have become more widely used by professional athletes and amateur enthusiasts alike, offering a new tool to enhance workouts and deliver greater physical performance. Of course, considering the sheer amount of fad diets, health trends, and fitness gimmicks, some healthy suspicion is appropriate. Do muscle stimulators really work? Read on to learn more.
How Your Muscles Work and Grow
While your body is also home to cardiac and smooth muscles, skeletal muscles are what you care about. These are the muscles connected to your bones that help you lift, push, pull and perform all of the other movements in your everyday life. Skeletal muscles are the muscles that you can consciously control.
Contraction is the basic movement of any skeletal muscle. That contraction starts with a signal sent from your brain to motor nerves that tell your muscles to contract. For example, performing a basic curl begins with the brain signaling the nerves in your bicep to contract.
You get the basics of how a muscle works, but how do muscles grow? Muscles are actually comprised of hundreds of thin fibers known as myofibrils. Working out causes those myofibrils to expand and contract. Lifting something heavier than you’re used to or otherwise putting your muscles through intense exercise creates enough physical stress in your myofibrils to actually damage and tear them. That’s why your muscles feel sore after a workout.
Your immune system notices that damage and begins the process of repairing and rebuilding those fibers. However, instead of bringing those fibers back the same as they were, muscle fibers get fused together, forming new protein strands that also happen to be thicker, denser, and higher in number. That leaves you with increased mass, improved tone, and a general increase in muscle strength.
Research has yet to know the most optimal way to build muscle, and considering we all have different metabolic rates and fitness needs,
Do Muscle Stimulators Work?
How do you use a muscle stimulator, and are they effective? Muscle stimulators comprise of electric muscle stimulation, also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation, works off all the same principles that go into basic muscle movement. EMS devices generally comprise a machine that generates electrical impulses and a series of electrodes that attach to your skin. The electric impulses mimic the same signals that your brain sends to your motor nerves, causing your muscles to contract. Settings on the muscle stimulator allow you to control the intensity of these electric pulses, which affects the level of muscle contraction.
So electric muscle stimulators are at least effective in getting your muscles to contract, but can they do more than that to improve your fitness? In a meta-review, researchers looked at 89 different trials related to the use of electric muscle stimulators and their effects on trained and elite athletes. The results of the study found that EMS was resoundingly effective in enhancing physical performance parameters, which included improvements in:
- Maximum strength
- Speed strength
- Vertical jump height
- Sprint times
Another study looked at the effects of electric muscle stimulation on jump height in teenage athletes. Over an eight-week training program that combined EMS with plyometric exercises, the teen athletes showed statistically significant improvements in vertical jumping abilities.
This all shows that electric muscle stimulators do really work. It’s also important to understand that the best results come when muscle stimulators are used in conjunction with existing workout routines and training regimens. While some studies do show that electric muscle stimulation can help with weight loss when used on its own, the effects are limited and tend to taper off. Muscle stimulators on their own have an isolated effect compared to lifting weights, running laps, or performing any other full-body workout that involves strengthening the heart, lungs, and multiple muscle groups.
How Muscle Stimulators Can Help You
Electric muscle stimulation benefits you when used in conjunction with an existing workout. But, how can the treatment specifically help you?
Enhanced Muscles and Strength
Adding electric stimulation to your training engages a higher percentage of muscle fibers, essentially maximizing your muscle effort to get the most out of every single repetition and movement. That ultimately equates to a more efficient, well-balanced workout.
Your skeletal muscles are comprised of two different types of fibers. Type 1 is known as slow-twitch fibers. These are more efficient at using oxygen to generate fuel for steady, extended muscle movements and can go for much longer without fatigue. This makes slow-twitch fibers much more attuned for extended endurance and stamina. Type 2 fibers are known as fast-twitch fibers. These tend to fatigue more quickly, but fast-twitch fibers are capable of generating greater force and firing more rapidly, equating to greater power and explosive muscle strength.
Training these different muscle fiber types isn’t always easy or particularly well understood. Higher reps and exercises requiring slower movements can target slow-twitch muscles, while fast-twitch muscles thrive on fast movements and power exercises. However, many electric muscle stimulators, like those from Compex, work out both types of muscle fibers to give you the best of both worlds: muscular endurance and explosive power.
As mentioned, EMS on its own generally won’t have an extended effect on weight. In terms of physical activity, weight loss and maintenance requires cardio and full-body workouts. Muscle stimulators are far too isolated on their own to have a huge effect on calories, but incorporating EMS into your training can put you over the edge and add an extra level of intensity to burn calories and reduce fat.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Warming up before a workout has been shown to not only prepare your muscles for a better workout but also reduces the risk of injury. A proper workout gets the blood flowing to the muscles, increases your heart rate, and loosens up the joints. With an electric muscle stimulator, you can warm up more efficiently and optimally, allowing you to prepare your body for your workout.
Cooling down following your workout is just as important. Going straight from working out to resting is like slamming the brakes in your car. Instead, you want to gently and gradually bring your body back down. This reduces your heart rate, decreases muscle spasms and cramping, and removes the buildup of lactic acid and other waste products in the muscles. Cooldowns can also reduce muscle soreness and support recovery. A muscle stimulator can provide an easy and effective means of cooling your body down after your exercise routine.
The hardest part of building muscle is the recovery period. While it’s a necessary step in rebuilding your muscle fibers to grow bigger and better, it also involves a lot of downtime. Electric muscle stimulators can speed up your muscle recovery by supporting greater blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscles while encouraging the flushing of toxins that contribute to soreness and cramping.
EMS can also help to keep pain from muscle soreness down, which won’t necessarily speed up recovery, but it can make getting through your day-to-day a lot easier. Part of this comes from muscle stimulators encouraging the release of endorphins, which make you feel good and dampen pain. Muscle stimulators may also relieve pain through the gate control theory. This states that the electric pulses from a muscle stimulator may actually interrupt the pain signals sent to your brain.
Do muscle stimulators really work? Many studies and anecdotes show that electric muscle stimulators are effective in strengthening and improving physical performance at all skill levels, but it’s important to understand that EMS shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a solid workout. Combine your training with a muscle stimulator for the best results. If you want to see for yourself, take a look through the Compex store to find the right muscle stimulator for your needs.
Improving your strength, muscle mass, and endurance often comes down to how hard you grind and the nutrition you put in your body. For years, athletes of all skill levels and backgrounds have been leveraging one tool to give them the edge in improving muscular tone, size, and strength: electric muscle stimulators. They are easy to use and support more efficient workouts. Learn more about how to use electronic muscle stimulator devices below.
How Electric Muscle Stimulators Work
From professional ballers to at-home yoga enthusiasts, electric muscle stimulators help to build muscle and make training sessions much more efficient and effective. If you are asking, what is a muscle stimulator, and how does it work? Well, the design of electric muscle stimulators is deceptively simple. Most muscle stimulators comprise a device that sends electric pulses through a series of wires into electrodes. These electrodes are attached to your skin, transmitting the electric pulse directly to your motor nerves. The mechanics mimic the way that your brain sends signals to your muscles, which cause the muscles to contract, resulting in muscle flex and movement.
On their own, electric muscle stimulators have received mixed results, but when combined with existing training regimens, these devices have offered positive results. In a fairly comprehensive meta-study, researchers looked at 89 trials involving electric muscle stimulators in trained and elite athletes. Study periods ranging from three to six weeks showed significant gains and improvements in several parameters, including:
- Maximum strength
- Speed strength
- Sprint times
- Vertical jump height
What’s interesting is that, despite their already high level of fitness, these trained, elite athletes improved their strength to the same degree as untrained subjects used in the control group.
How to Use Electric Muscle Stimulators
The best part about electric muscle stimulators, aside from their proven effects, is how easy they are to use. Start by attaching the pads to the muscle or muscle group that you want to target. For example, if you are working on your biceps, attach the electrodes to your bicep. Use our electrode placement guides to determine where exactly you should be attaching each electrode. Proper pad placement will provide the best results.
From there, select your training program of choice via the device’s settings. These can vary but should usually comprise some combination of:
- Active recovery
Workout with the device until the training program finishes. If you find the settings too intense, adjust the levels. Most beginners should start with the lowest settings. Remember that, while the muscle stimulator should provide an extra level to your workout, it shouldn’t be actively painful or cause discomfort.
Electric muscle stimulators are not meant as a replacement for a workout, meaning that you should be incorporating the muscle stimulators into your existing training routine.
Most experts also recommend not using muscle stimulators for extended periods of time. Everyone has their own limits for how long the muscle contractions occur. Furthermore, using an electric muscle stimulator too long and too often can make your muscles grow accustomed to them, resulting in plateaus.
What Muscle Stimulators Can Be Used For
Muscle stimulators benefits you because they offer incredibly adaptive use that extends through every step of your workout.
A proper warm-up before your workout is essential to getting your body ready and has been shown to reduce injury. Unfortunately, too many fitness enthusiasts leap right into exercise without warming up beforehand. With an electric muscle stimulator, warming up is easy and efficient. It can prepare your muscles, get your heart rate up, and keep the blood circulation flowing through your body for the workout to come.
Efficient Training for Better Gains
Adding electric muscle stimulators into your workouts engages a higher percentage of muscle fibers, optimizing your workout so that you get the most out of every single repetition. Muscle stimulators can also help you exercise both types of muscle fibers, slow-twitch and fast-twitch.
Slow-twitch fibers, also known as type 1 fibers, are better at using oxygen for fuel, allowing for steadier muscle contractions over a longer period of time. Physically, that equates to muscles with greater endurance.
Fast-twitch fibers, or type 2 fibers, are not as efficient with how they use fuel, so they tend to fatigue more easily. However, they fire more rapidly and generally have more power than their slow-twitch counterparts. That makes them better suited to strength and explosiveness.
While certain people may require one over the other—marathon runners, for instance, benefit more from slow-twitch fibers—most athletes could use a good balance of both. Some evidence suggests that muscles will switch between the two types based on training, though research still isn’t sure how this happens. However, working out with a muscle stimulator may engage both muscle fiber types, allowing for a more balanced workout.
Similar to warming up before a workout, cool down once you have finished training. This can play an important role in your fitness and muscle recovery. Going from intense training straight to a resting phase can be jarring for your system. A cool-down period allows your breathing and heart rate to return to normal while preventing blood and toxins from pooling up in your muscles. It’s ultimately a more pleasant, comfortable way for your heart and muscles to ease out of a training session. Muscle stimulators offer a gentle cool-down that can keep your muscles from cramping or stiffening.
Recovery is a necessary step in training. It allows your body to rebuild and repair any damage to muscles, ultimately contributing to their mass, density, and strength. While everyone can benefit from the occasional passive recovery, most athletes opt for active recovery, which simply involves low-intensity exercise.
Active recovery encourages blood flow to the muscles and joints and can help to reduce the buildup of lactic acid, the compound responsible for causing muscle soreness and fatigue. Active recovery also keeps up your heart rate, ensuring that you don’t lag on your conditioning.
Using a muscle stimulator during your active recovery period can speed up the process. Integrated with active recovery exercises, EMS can bring fresh oxygen and nutrients to your muscles while promoting the flush of toxins.
Some muscle stimulators also incorporate TENS systems. While it may seem similar to electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is designed to target sensory nerves and is more often associated with physical therapy and rehabilitation. EMS targets motor nerves, which activate muscle contraction. TENS targets sensory nerves, which determine how something physically feels. TENS programs can help provide pain relief by triggering the release of endorphins, your natural feel-good chemical.
TENS programs may also dampen pain via the gate control theory. When you experience pain, a signal gets sent to your brain to denote the sensation. However, the electric pulses from a TENS program can actively interrupt these signals from ever reaching your brain, blocking that pain altogether.
While dampening pain won’t make your muscles heal any faster, it can help during your recovery periods by allowing you to go through your day without focusing so much on muscle soreness and chronic pain.
Electric muscle stimulators offer benefits for athletes and physical fitness enthusiasts of all skills, sports, and experience levels. While they can be intimidating to the uninitiated, learning how to use electronic muscle stimulator devices is actually easy and opens up a whole new world of efficient training sessions and improvements to physical performance. If you are curious and want to try a muscle stimulator for yourself, take a look through the Compex store for a wide range of devices perfectly suited for you.
While electrical muscle stimulation was more commonly used in physical therapy and rehabilitation, it has quickly become a trade secret among elite athletes, bodybuilders, and exercise enthusiasts of all skill and experience levels. Whether you have hit a plateau or just want to add an extra level of enhancement to your workouts, electric muscle stimulators offer a wide range of benefits for your muscles and general health and well-being. Learn more about some of the benefits of muscle stimulator device below.
Improving Your Strength and Muscles
Unsurprisingly, one of the main benefits of muscle stimulator devices is their effect on your strength and muscles. Electrical muscle stimulation, sometimes referred to as neuromuscular electrical stimulation, works just the way the label says it does. The muscle stimulator device sends an electrical pulse through a series of wires into electrodes, usually comprising pads attached to your skin.
Contraction is the basic movement of any skeletal muscle. The trigger for that contraction is an electrical impulse, so for instance, when you think about moving your arm via your bicep, your brain sends electrical signals through the motor nerves in your bicep, making it contract. The amount that the muscle contracts depends on the strength of the signal.
Electric muscle stimulators mimic this exact same action. The electric pulses from a muscle stimulator engage your motor nerves and create muscle contractions. Used in conjunction with your existing workout, that means a more intensive and optimal workout. Muscle stimulators can engage a larger percentage of muscle fibers, allowing you to get the most out of every single action you perform. That equates to more efficient workouts and bigger, stronger, and denser muscle mass.
Certain muscle stimulators, including Compex products, go a step further by targeting the two different types of muscle fibers. Skeletal muscle comprises two types of muscle fibers. Fast-twitch fibers contract faster, have a higher anaerobic capacity, and can develop greater force. These fibers can impact your general strength, power, and explosiveness. Slow-twitch fibers develop force more slowly, but they also have a higher aerobic capacity and can maintain muscle contractions for longer periods of time. These have more of an effect on your muscles’ endurance and stamina.
Working out both types of muscle fibers with a typical workout isn’t always feasible, but by including a muscle stimulator, working on both fast- and slow-twitch fibers is much easier. That gives you a more efficient training regimen or workout session, which equates to more balanced fitness and muscles that are not only strong but also ready for whatever gets thrown at them.
The general idea of weight loss comes down to using up more calories than you take in. That usually means working out more, dieting, or some combination of the two. In terms of physical activity, weight loss usually requires a full-body workout that engages your heart, lungs and several different muscle groups. That means that an electric muscle stimulator on its own likely won’t have enough of an impact on your calories to affect the numbers on your scale.
However, using an electric muscle stimulator with your current exercise or training routine is a different story. The extra bit of muscle engagement provided by the electric muscle stimulator could be enough to give you an edge in burning fat and calories.
The last thing you want is to get injured during a training session, which is why warming up beforehand is so important. A gentle warm-up before your workout gets your heart pumping and blood flowing while loosening up your joints, all of which ensure proper biomechanical function to reduce the risk of injury. Whether you’re low on time or in need of more efficiency, electric muscle stimulators can provide dynamic warm-ups that prepare your muscles for a more intense workout.
Along with warming you up before your workout, electric muscle stimulators help with the cool down process at the end of your workout. Cooldowns are just as important as warming up. Going straight from an intense workout to the showers isn’t good for you or your body. Gradually cooling your body down with a low-intensity exercise helps to bring your heart rate and breathing back to normal and removes lactic acid and other toxins from your muscles. A cool-down period can also help to reduce stiffness and soreness and prevents post-workout muscle spasms or cramps, all while preparing your muscles for your next workout. This also factors into improved recovery.
Speaking of, an electric muscle stimulator benefits you with a faster recovery from workouts. Muscle recovery is an essential part of building up your strength and increasing your muscle mass. Recovery time allows your body to repair and rebuild those torn muscle fibers and turn them into harder, denser and bigger muscles. Unfortunately, that usually also means a lot of downtime while your body’s immune system performs the necessary maintenance and repairs.
Electric stimulators work to enhance blood flow in your muscles, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients into every muscle fiber while flushing away harmful toxins contributing to muscle soreness.
Using an electric muscle stimulator can also keep any existing muscle soreness down and provide relief. Granted, alleviating pain doesn’t necessarily make your muscles recover faster, but it can help you get through your day and prevents the distraction while you’re working on other parts of your game. The electric pulses can stimulate the production and release of endorphins. These feel-good chemicals are naturally produced by your nervous system and can provide pain relief, boost your happiness, or in this case, dampen muscle soreness.
Muscle stimulators can also help you deal with sore, cramping muscles through the gate control theory. Essentially, when your muscles hurt, they send pain signals through the nerves into your brain. The electric impulses coming from the muscle stimulator actively interrupt the pain signals from reaching your brain, which can soothe soreness and keep it from distracting you for the rest of your day.
Now that you know the benefits of muscle stimulator devices, it’s time to use one. The process is simple enough. Just apply the electrodes to the muscles that could use an extra boost during your workout and apply the necessary settings on the device.
If you’re a beginner, start with the lowest setting. Going too high, too suddenly can be uncomfortable, painful and have the opposite effect of a good workout. Make sure you also read the label. There are parts of the body that muscle stimulators should not be attached to, and improper application can stimulate muscles in a dangerous way, like pulling joints in ways that they shouldn’t be pulled. You should consult your doctor or avoid using muscle stimulators if you wear a pacemaker, have a heart condition or are pregnant.
Above all, it’s important to understand that muscle stimulators are not meant as replacements for a workout. They shouldn’t be used passively. Instead, they’re a way to enhance your existing workouts and provide an extra edge for maximum efficiency.
Muscle stimulators offer a wide range of benefits, whether you are a pro-baller or a yoga enthusiast. From improving muscle strength and tone to providing more efficient, enjoyable and energetic workouts, the benefits of muscle stimulator machines know no bounds. Take a look through the Compex store for electric muscle stimulators suitable for all skill levels and start improving your physical performance today.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the medical term for when you feel sore following a tough workout. The soreness is part of the body’s healing response to micro muscle tears resulting from rigorous activity. Most active people have confronted DOMS and know firsthand that it can be as frustrating as it is uncomfortable. No doubt you will want to overcome the pain and get back at your full fitness level as quickly as possible. Find out how to relieve muscle pain after working out with these 10 tips below.
1. Get Cold
There has been some debate over the years as to when to use cold or hot therapy when your muscles are sore. The general consensus, based on recent studies1, is that cold therapy is generally better for acute healing periods, particularly the first 24 hours after an intense workout. The reason being that cold combats inflammation, the body’s protective response to injury. Cold therapy, known as cryotherapy, can make your muscles stiff, so be sure you are counterbalancing ice therapy by staying mobile while you recover. Icing with an ice pack is ideal for localized pain. If you need a full-body cooldown, consider taking a cold shower or bath at about 55 degrees. Cold therapy sessions should last about 15 minutes.
Elevating sore muscles above the heart can help to prevent sore muscles by combating inflammation and associated discomfort. Prop up your legs while resting on the couch or in bed. If you have just finished a leg-heavy anaerobic workout, like sprints or other explosive leg movements, elevate your legs right after cool-down. This will help recirculate the blood quickly and flush out lactate released during anaerobic exercise. You can sit next to a wall and simply raise your legs up the wall so they are perpendicular to your body. You can also do a free-standing leg inversion. A good example is the classic yoga pose shoulder stand. Lay on your back and lift your legs and hips off the floor, while supporting your lower back with your hands. This is also a great way to stretch your upper back and neck when you’re feeling sore.
You likely have seen compression garments on professional athletes and runners jogging around your neighborhood. Compression garments have become popular in recent years for improving athletic performance and facilitating recovery. Wearing compression garments after a workout alleviates discomfort and expedites healing by way of accelerating blood flow. Specifically, compression garments improve blood flow in the veins. By constricting the surrounding tissues, venous blood moves faster back to the heart. Metabolic waste is then removed more quickly and oxygen is delivered to muscles faster, both crucial components of muscle repair.
Taping has long been used in physical therapy to support injured muscles and soft tissues and prevent further injury. More recently, taping is used as part of recovery protocols to improve lymphatic circulation to sore muscles. A taping technique that lifts up the skin and decompresses the underlying fascia allows lymphatic fluids to better circulate through injured tissues for efficient metabolic waste removal. Kinesiology taping may also change the pain signals your nervous system sends to the brain, thereby reducing perceived pain associated with sore muscles. When an area of soreness is lifted and decompressed by the tape, a different signal is sent to the brain associated with a lifting of tension.
5. Topical Treatments
Unlike the other mentions on this list, topical treatments do not directly assist with muscle recovery; rather, these treatments minimize or mask muscle soreness. Your local drug store likely has an entire shelf devoted to topical muscle soothers, from balms and creams to sprays and patches. These treatments typically produce hot and/or cold sensations that instantly and temporarily alleviate discomfort by altering or blocking pain signals. Formulas vary, but most topical therapies rely on menthol or camphor. Alternatively, all-herbal formulas are available and CBD-based topical treatments are seeing a boom in popularity.
6. Take a Magnesium Salt Bath
While there is no conclusive data on how effective magnesium salt baths are at relieving muscle pain, the anecdotal data can’t be denied. Many an athlete swear by the rejuvenating effects of a good soak in a magnesium salt bath. Despite its popularity, many people do not realize that there are actually two types of magnesium soaking salts: Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium flakes (magnesium chloride). Epson salts are the more popular and cost-effective of the two. However, magnesium flakes are thought to be more efficacious for topical absorption. Whichever soaking method you try, the warm water will help relax muscles, thereby reducing discomfort.
7. Drink Cherry Juice
Studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice following a workout can reduce muscle soreness and damage2. The antioxidant anthocyanins, found in tart cherries, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling and discomfort in over-worked muscles. You can simply add raw cherry juice to a smoothie, drink it straight, or take a tart cherry supplement. The idea is to get this naturally-occurring antioxidant in a concentrated form via juice or supplements, rather than trying to the equivalent in cherries.
8. Self-Massaging Tools
Massage is a powerful modality to relieve sore muscles, besides of course to feeling amazing. Having a self-massaging tool for use at home, in the gym or wherever you are in need of a massage, is a must for athletes of all levels. Specifically, massage reduces painful muscle contractions, spasms, knots, and nerve compression. Manipulating muscles also increases blood and lymphatic circulation to reduce inflammation and pain and help your muscles heal. Getting into the habit of massaging yourself with a massaging tool at least a couple of times a week can be a game-changer in your recovery routine.
Self-care massage tools can be divided into two general categories: non-electric and electric. Non-electric includes massage balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers. These tools help loosen tight muscle tissues, but have the downside of requiring physical exertion to use them. You may need to lay against the object, as is the case with a foam roller, or press the object against you, as is usually the case with a massage stick. On the other hand, electric massagers don’t require as much effort on the user’s part. They are also more effective at normalizing and penetrating deeper into muscle tissue.
A percussive massage gun expedites and enhances muscle repair by providing bursts of concentrated pressure. Look for models with adjustable intensity levels to accommodate your massage and recovery needs. Our Compex massager, for example, has three levels:
- Soft - good for small or over-worked muscles that can benefit from blood circulation and gentle manipulation.
- Medium - ideal for medium-sized or tired muscles that need some release.
- Firm - great for larger muscles or muscles that need deep tissue manipulation.
9. See a Massage Therapist
Seeing a massage therapist carries all of the benefits of self-massage: enhanced blood and lymphatic circulation, pain reduction and improved healing times. Additionally, there is a critical relaxation component to receiving a massage. Studies show that massages elicit an involuntary parasympathetic nervous system response that allows you to de-stress, conserve energy and reduce your heart rate3. In other words, receiving a massage puts you in a relaxed state of mind that is necessary for healing.
Regularly seeing a massage therapist is a cornerstone to any athlete’s recovery routine. It is a key step to reduce inflammation and in helping to recover quicker after workouts. Professional massage sessions should be supplemented with at-home care, including regularly using massage tools. It’s not a matter of either/or when it comes to professional massage and self-massage; think of the two working together to keep your body and mind balanced.
10. Keep Moving
A common mistake people dealing with delayed-onset muscle soreness make is to become sedentary while their body heals. It may seem like your sore muscles need a time-out, but you actually want to do the opposite and keep moving around, albeit lightly. This approach to helping relieve sore muscles is called active recovery. Rather than curling up on the sofa for a day or two, which can cause your muscles to stiffen and become more tender, choose a light form of exercise. Engaging in physical activity will keep the muscles and joints loose, thereby reducing pain as you heal. Choose an activity that has little or no impact, like walking or swimming. Yoga, pilates, stretching, and light resistance training are also great forms of active recovery. Just be sure to keep it at a low intensity.
How to Reduce Muscle Pain After Working Out
With these ten tips on how to reduce muscle pain after working out, you’ll be back to full strength before you know it. Keep in mind that these treatments are best used in combination, not in isolation. Using two or more of these recovery methods creates a synergistic effect that will dissipate muscle soreness faster than relying on one therapy alone.
1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx
2 D.A.J. Connolly, M.P. McHugh, O.I. Padilla-Zakour. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/40/8/679.short
3 Diego M.A., Field T. Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response. Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(5):630-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19283590
Stepping up the rigor of your workout, or working your muscles in a different way, can cause muscle soreness. This condition is medically known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The longer your muscles are sore, the more likely you will be sidelined from physical activity as your body takes time to recover. When active people find themselves in this situation, the question at the fore of their mind is usually: how to relieve sore muscles fast? To get you back to form, below are eight tips on how to help sore muscles recover as quickly as possible.
What Is DOMS?
As the name suggests, delayed onset muscle soreness is a condition characterized by muscle soreness starting 24-48 hours after unfamiliarly difficult physical activity. Many an athlete has had this happen: they give themselves a well-earned pat on the back after a tough workout, initially thinking soreness is avoided, and are hit with discomfort and reduced mobility a day or two later.
While DOMS can be uncomfortable and prevent peak performance for a few days, it does have an upside: it’s a sign that your body is becoming stronger. When you push your body with a higher intensity workout than normal or move differently than usual, the exertion causes micro tears to your muscle fibers. Your body responds to the micro tears by sending lymphatic fluids and electrolytes to the area to heal the tissue. The tissue ultimately heals stronger than before the micro tears. Unfortunately, the cost of this healing process is inflammation and soreness. DOMS lasts about two to four days. Any soreness longer than five days may be a sign of muscle strain or another injury.
How to Help Sore Muscles
Keep in mind that any recovery modality comes with a big caveat: don’t do it if it feels uncomfortable. As your body heals during DOBS, the intensity and location of muscle soreness can alter. Be aware of these changes. You can injure your healing muscles, rather than support them, if you pursue a therapy that hurts. In other words, listen to your body.
#1 Active Recovery
Actively recovering from DOBS can include stretching, light resistance exercises or low-intensity, low-impact cardio like walking, jogging or swimming. The idea behind active recovery is increasing blood flow to the affected muscles. Delivering oxygen-rich blood to assist with repair and encouraging lymphatic removal of waste connected to muscle-building expedites the recovery process. Active recovery keeps the muscles and joints moving too, preventing them from getting stiff. Light cardio exercises will also help maintain endurance levels.
#2 Eat Right
A key element of any training program is nutrition. You probably already know that protein-rich foods like cottage cheese and fish provide muscles the fuel they need to repair. But you may not know that studies show a couple of cups of coffee can reduce muscle soreness by half. Recovering athletes may also want to reach for tart cherry juice, which reduces post-workout discomfort, expedites recovery time and minimizes muscle damage1. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, delivers similar benefits to cherry juice in improving muscle performance and decreasing muscular discomfort. Adding curcumin to your diet is easy, either by sprinkling turmeric on your food or taking a curcumin supplement.
#3 Ice Therapy
Icing sore muscles for 15-minute intervals sporadically during the days you are sore reduces inflammation and discomfort. Most at-home cryotherapy, or cold therapy, involves applying an ice pack to the affected area. If a head-to-toe ice-down is needed for full-body soreness, consider a cold bath or shower. No ice cubes are needed, as long as you can get the water temperature to the mid-50s.
#4 Compression Garments
Compression garments are tight-fitting clothing that, as the name suggests, compresses the underlying area of the body. By constricting the muscles and connective tissue, swelling is reduced and lymphatic and blood circulation is improved. There are different compression garments available for the lower and upper body, providing DOBS recovery support wherever you need it.
#5 Kinesiology Taping
This type of tape is designed to lift the skin, allowing lymphatic fluids to better circulate through the area to remove waste byproducts from muscle repair. The tape is worn for about a day. Taping also has the advantage of supporting the adjacent muscles, which may be weaker than usual as they heal, thereby helping to avoid injury.
#6 Self-Massage Tools
Massaging sore muscles is an effective post-workout recovery modality as any in terms of relieving discomfort and facilitating muscle recovery. Self-massaging tools come in all shapes and sizes. There are massage balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers on the non-electric side. On the electronic side, massagers may come in shiatsu, massage wand or massage gun styles.
It probably goes without saying that an electric massager requires less effort to use than a non-electric massager; you simply hold the electric device to the area of discomfort and it does the work. Non-electric massage tools, on the other hand, require you to physically exert yourself in order to create tension against the massage device. Besides being more relaxing, electric massagers are faster and more effective in breaking up tight connective tissue and relieving soreness. The most effectual electric massager will have varying speeds and specialized movements, such as percussion.
If you are considering an electric massager, and we recommend everyone have one from the not-so-active to the elite athlete, consider the following in the device you choose:
- Battery Operated - besides the convenience in not having to deal with cords while you use it, battery-operated massagers allow for go-anywhere portability. This is especially important for an active person wanting a handheld massager that can be brought to workouts or competitions. Be sure to review the battery life on the model. Some lower-end models have a short window of use before they need to be rebooted.
- Noise Factor - some massagers, especially massage guns, are excessively loud. A massager as loud as a blender isn’t going to provide a very enjoyable experience overall, even if it does massage you well. Consider a low-noise model for a more relaxing massage.
- Speed Variability - when your muscles are super sore, you’ll want a lighter touch massage than when your muscles are healthy. Your handheld massager should provide varying speed levels so you can get the exact massage you need when you need it.
#7 Get a Professional Massage
Spending time on the massage table is pretty much always a good idea. Having a professional massage therapist work out the knots, flush out toxins and improve the circulation in your muscles and soft tissues will go miles in hastening post-workout recovery, relieving soreness and loosening tight muscles. Keep in mind that if you are in the throes of DOBS, you should forgo a deep tissue massage. Too much pressure when you are still sore can end up hurting, rather than helping. A lighter massage will still confer the benefits of rejuvenation and improved circulation.
Pro Tip: Professional massages shouldn’t be a stand-in for self-care massages at home. The smart athlete knows to get a professional massage regularly and maintain a self-massage routine for best outcomes.
#8 Use an EMS/TENS Device
Applying low-frequency electric impulses to overworked muscles via an electric muscle stimulator (EMS) unit increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles. EMS devices emit frequency through stick pads that are applied to the area of concern. Portable EMS units with multiple programming capabilities allow for muscle recovery, as well as training purposes.
Many EMS devices also feature transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) functionality. Rather than sending electrical impulses that target motor nerves, as in the case of EMS, TENS electric impulses block pain signals and stimulate endorphin production and release. Since an EMS/TENS machine can be used for muscle relaxation, repair, and pain management, it is a favorite recovery modality among athletes. Maybe you have used an EMS/TENS device as a patient during physical therapy and experienced its benefits firsthand. You may want to consider getting one of your own. Being able to use this highly effective treatment whenever you need it, rather than only when you see your physical therapist, is a worthwhile investment in your health.
Combining Therapies for the Best Results
If you find yourself torn about how to let your muscles recover faster after a workout, try combining at least two of the recovery therapies mentioned above to reduce inflammation and muscle pain. It’s best to combine modalities, creating a multi-pronged approach to improving blood flow and lymphatic circulation to weary muscles. By going for a synergistic recovery process, you will feel better sooner and be back on top of your game faster.
1 D.A.J. Connolly, M.P. McHugh, O.I. Padilla-Zakour. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/40/8/679.short
Athletes of all stripes confront muscle soreness following an intense workout. Besides causing discomfort, sore muscles can compromise athletic performance and set back training schedules. To put you back on top of your game, below are our tips on how to relieve sore muscles after workouts and how to recover faster after workouts.
How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workouts:
- Use compression modalities, like taping or garments.
- Ice sore muscles, or take a cold bath or shower, after a workout.
- Go for a massage, or give yourself one with handheld massage machine.
- Use an electric muscle stimulator (EMS) machine to enhance healing and reduce inflammation and soreness.
- Try a TENS machine for temporary relief of localized discomfort.
The Science Behind Sore Muscles
In order to appreciate muscle recovery therapies, let’s take a step back and review why it is your muscles are sore in the first place. Despite those tales of lactic acid you might have heard in your youth, lactic acid is not to blame. Instead, it’s your body’s healing responses to the micro muscle tears that cause soreness.
Microscopic tears occur when muscles are pushed to perform at a higher level than usual, or are worked in a different way. This muscle damage causes an increase in fluids to the area, including the accumulation of electrolytes. Additionally, a type of lymphocyte called T-cells permeates the damaged muscles. These natural response mechanisms cause inflammation, but also repair each affected muscle tissue, ultimately building them up and making them stronger. Unfortunately, a side effect of this crucial healing process is muscle pain and discomfort.
Compression is an effective way to combat the inflammation and fluid build-up associated with muscle repair. Regardless of which compression modality you choose, it works by way of this principle: muscles are constricted to reduce swelling and fluid accumulation, while at the same time promoting lymphatic circulation and blood flow to increase oxygen delivery to affected muscles.
The two most accessible and popular compression modalities are:
Taping - when correctly applied to lift the skin, compression taping, sometimes called kinesiology taping, facilitates lymphatic fluid movement to the affected muscle tissue. This means the white blood cells that remove muscle-building byproducts can do their job better. Taping has the additional benefit of supporting affected muscles and joints without compromising mobility. Compression tape is usually worn for 12-24 hours, during or after physical activity. The tape can be self-applied, but requires some know-how in order to maximize its benefits.
Compression garments - you likely have seen professional athletes wearing compression garments during competition, or eyed a fellow gym member in compression gear while working out. These garments are characterized by their tight fit and spandex-like material, often a combination of nylon and elastin. Like other compression modalities, the purpose of compression garments is to reduce recovery times and alleviate muscle stiffness. Compression garments come in just about every variety you can imagine:
- Leg sleeves
- Short sleeve shirts
- Long sleeve shirts
- Arm sleeves
When choosing a compression garment you want one tight enough to actually compress, but not so tight as to feel uncomfortable or restrict movement. If you will be wearing one during a workout, be sure that they have wicking properties to keep you dry.
Don’t let the fancy name put you off from trying this method - cryotherapy simply means cold therapy. The idea is to immerse muscles in cold temperatures to reduce muscle inflammation and soreness. Studies show that cryotherapy is particularly useful within the first 24 hours of an injury or intense workout1. The cold approach to combating sore muscles has long been used by athletes of all levels, whether competing in Olympic or high school stadiums. While easy to use and efficient, cryotherapy does have the downside of potentially being uncomfortable and causing stiffness.
You may have heard of elite athletes jumping into a cryotherapy chamber, which uses liquid nitrogen to lower body temperatures. Since most of us don’t have access to this high-tech therapy, below are at-home solutions that produce the same benefits. The key with all of them is to shoot for a session of about 15 minutes within 2 hours of your workout.
Icing - you have likely tried this method before. Simply apply an ice pack to the area of your body that is sore, or you can tell is going to be.
Ice Bath - your bath water doesn’t need to reach sub-Arctic temperatures to be useful. Just be sure it is down to about 55 degrees. Jumping into a lake or pool shortly after you exercise can also provide some anti-inflammatory assistance.
Cold Shower - start with a shower that is a comfortable temperature then slowly turn the temperature down as much as possible. If a head-to-toe cold shower is too much, just let the water run over parts of your body that feel strained.
When deciding how to recover muscles faster after a workout, consider getting a massage. Massage is a favorite muscle recovery tool for its dual benefits of being effective and feeling really good. Gently manipulating muscle fibers and soft tissues facilitates the biological processes connected with muscle repair. Traditional massages, like Swedish massage, and more intense massages, like deep tissue massage, both stimulate blood and lymphatic circulation. The oxygen-rich blood supplied to sore muscles speeds up their healing and minimizes soreness. Massage has also been shown to reduce swelling by way of suppressing the release of cytokines, a type of cell that regulates inflammation.
In other words, all types of massage confer substantial post-recovery advantages. The level of massage intensity is more of a matter of personal preference, rather than harder must be better. Athletes going for a massage within a day of rigorous exercise should consider a lighter touch massage since the muscles are in an acute recovery process. Sports massages and other deep tissue work are typically reserved for times when muscles are not sore or inflamed.
If you don’t have the time to see a massage therapist, there are plenty of massage tools to use at home. In fact, even if you do see a massage therapist regularly, it’s a good idea to augment your time on the massage table with one of the modalities below:
- Foam rollers
- Massage sticks
- Massage balls
- Shiatsu massager
- Electric massage handheld devices
Pro Tip: Electric massagers require less physical work to use than non-electric massagers, making them extra relaxing. If you’re serious about post-workout recovery, try a variable speed electric massager made for athletes.
Electric Muscle Stimulator Devices
Electric muscle stimulator (EMS) units release electric impulses through pads adhered to the body, causing adjacent muscles to twitch or contract. When applied at a low frequency, EMS devices increase blood flow to the nearby area and aid in the removal of waste products associated with muscle recovery. EMS also helps muscles relax, an essential to maximize muscle healing, and one that is often taken for granted. All taken together, an EMS unit is a powerful ally in speeding up muscle recovery time after high-intensity workouts.
You may have used an EMS unit in a physical therapy office or at a chiropractic practice. But having an EMS unit of your own can pay dividends in terms of accelerating the recovery process and easing discomfort. There are differences between the EMS units used in professional settings and what you want in a unit of your own. Here’s a couple of important considerations when choosing your own EMS unit:
- Useability - select a unit that you can easily wear around the house, office, gym, or anywhere else you may find yourself in need of therapy. Go with a unit that is battery operated for optimal portability, and one that gets high marks for its durability, quickness of set-up, ease of use and pad adherence. (Pads that don’t stick on are a big annoyance and not uncommon on lower-end units).
- Multiple Programming Capabilities - some muscle stimulator machines allow the user to adjust electronic frequencies within a limited range. This may be fine for non-athletes, but an active person in need of expediting recovery to get back to top form will want frequency programming flexibility.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units work much like EMS units in that electrical impulses are sent via pads adhered to the user’s skin. The main difference between EMS and TENS units is the type of nerves that are targeted. EMS devices influence motor nerves associated with motion and coordination, while TENS devices block pain signals to the central nervous system. TENS machines can also stimulate the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for relieving pain and stress.
While TENS machines do increase localized blood circulation, they generally do not facilitate muscular healing in the same way the other modalities listed above do - compression, cryotherapy, massage, and EMS units. A TENS unit is your best friend, however, in overcoming certain types of pain or discomfort, including muscle soreness.
The good news is that you don’t have to decide between an EMS or TENS unit. Many devices feature both types of electronic frequencies, giving recovering athletes the power of expedited muscle recovery and pain blocking. Compex offers a traditional tens ems unit, as well as units with combined EMS and TENS capabilities. Our TENS devices are programmable for low-frequency endorphin release, or high-frequency pain signal blocking. As a top of the line device geared towards athletes, our TENS machines feature extensive frequency customization so you can program the exact treatment that you need to get back on the playing field.
Finding the Right Recovery Modality for You
While all of the recovery therapies listed above have been shown time and again to relieve sore muscles and speed up muscle recovery time after workouts, choosing the right one for you is a matter of comfort and convenience. Keep in mind that none of these therapies are mutually exclusive. In fact, combining muscle recovery treatments can create a synergistic effect for faster recovery times than only relying on one therapy.
1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx