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
With the new Compex wraps, targeting bodily pain becomes easier and puts treatment into the hands of individuals. With specially designed wraps for both the low back and knee, users that suffer from injuries to these common areas can seek relief. The anatomical fit of the Compex wraps maximizes the efficiency of the TENS device and eliminates the need for electrodes while also providing compression. No cords and sticky pads to worry about! These wraps also have two levels of heat control to increase blood flow to the affected area. The wireless device fitted to the Compex wraps feature an easy-to-use touch screen to choose the program, intensity level, and control heat functions. Portable and lightweight, it’s an easy add-in to your gym bag or travel pack when on the go!
What’s the Difference? TENS vs NMES
Though both TENS and NMES may appear similar, the use of either device serve very different purposes. An NMES device targets muscle fibers, exciting muscle tissue much like regular exercise would. This stimulation allows muscle growth and can aid in recovery from training by bringing blood flow back to sore or damaged tissue. On the other hand, a TENS device targets the sensory nerves, inhibiting the reception of the “pain signal” to the brain. This function “tricks” the mind into ignoring pain for a period of time and is also believed to release endorphins that further aid in shutting off pain. Sufferers of bulging discs or even arthritis often benefit greatly from the use of TENS.
More effective and usable than ever, Compex’s most recent expanses offer considerable benefit to both training, recovery and re-cooperation. Gone are the days of relying solely on therapists for relieving pain and treating injury - it can happen right from your gym bag, right where you are!
Your Compex device, which utilizes NMES, can be used to help build muscular strength and endurance, promote muscle relaxation and decrease recovery time. But could it do more? We think so! Our new device, Compex 2.0, offers a TENS program to further the benefit of your device by affecting the sensory nerves to help treat pain. If you’re experiencing pain from an injury or event, the Compex with TENS can help to maximize your training and recovery.
So what’s the difference? Though both NMES and TENS may appear the same at surface level, they actually offer very different stimuli.
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
A TENS device is designed for treatment of pain by inhibiting the receptors that our brains perceive. By targeting the sensory nerves, a TENS device is able to “trick” the mind into ignoring pain for periods of time. TENS units are also believed to release endorphins to further fight the mechanisms of pain. A TENS device might be used to treat individuals who suffer from chronic back pain, or who are managing acute injury.
NMES (Neuromuscular Electric Stimulation)
An NMES device uses frequencies that activate actual muscle fibers. By exciting the tissue, an NMES device causes similar stimulus to the muscle as would a workout. Depending on the frequency, NMES devices can target either slow or fast twitch muscle fibers. This means that a certain program could help to enhance endurance-based musculature versus those necessary for a power athlete. This allows a user to mimic and add to training to gain muscle size, strength and reduce risk of injury through proper warmup.
TENS and NMES devices work differently based on the types of nerves they target in the body. Where TENS targets the sensory nerves responsible for transmitting pain to our brain, an NMES device targets the motor nerves which allows for benefit to training and recovery through the muscle. Where you may have needed two different devices for these effects before, Compex 2.0 maximizes the functionality of your device with both TENS and NMES functions.