Saturday, January 19, 2013

EMS - A Cure for Osteoarthritis?

EMS stands for Electro Muscle Stimulation. In simple terms an electronic machine is used to stimulate the muscles. In more complicated terms it is a low voltage waveform, applied through conductive pads, placed at strategic points on the body, to stimulate muscle motor nerves.

Normally when we exercise the brain sends signals via the spinal cord to nerve sensors which cause our muscles to expand and contract. As we continue to exercise lactic acid builds up in and around the muscle and we start to tire.

An EMS machine works by applying a controlled signal to stimulate the same nerve sensors, causing the muscle to expand and contract. The increased blood flow to the muscles helps deliver the essential nutrients for recovery, speeding up the rehabilitation process. The work relaxation cycle of an EMS machine also facilitates the removal of lactic acid from the muscles, allowing them to relax quicker.

The medical profession use EMS machines to treat a variety of conditions in rehabilitation units with encouraging results. Most treatments are specifically for conditions which require muscle stimulation. They are most commonly used on people whose muscles have weakened after long periods of bed rest.

Osteoarthritis of the knee, a condition more often found in older people, is usually caused by general wear and tear on the knee joint from normal day to day activities. Sometimes it can be the result of some old injury sporting or otherwise. Knee problems are often exacerbated by lack of proper support to the knee joint by the surrounding muscles. The end result is deterioration of the knee cartilage resulting in more pain.

Strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee is key to easing the pain of Osteoarthritis sufferers. Health care providers usually start off by having patients work on strengthen their quadriceps (the large group of muscles which run along the front of the leg from the knee to the hip). EMS is introduced as an additional therapy, along with a number of other non load bearing exercises, particularly for osteoarthritis patients, to improve muscle strength. EMS offers great benefits for the elderly, who tend to be the most common sufferers osteoarthritis, as well as other patients with limited mobility.

Another benefit of using an EMS machine is the TENs effect some programs have. (TENs stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation where transcutaneous means through the skin.) Low rate programs usually between 2Hz to 5Hz with a pulse width close to 200uS encourages the release of endorphins which in turn gives pain relief that can last several hours.

EMS machines come in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices, depending on whether they are used for medical or body toning. Most machines used for medical purposes are small compact and portable and will have 4 electrodes, while body toning machines use multiple electrodes and may not be portable.

EMS is a treatment option for a wide range of injuries or conditions caused by or related to muscle weakness, as well as joint, tendon, and nerve injuries. It has also found a place in many other walks of life from beauty treatment to bodybuilding, often with some too good to be true claims. While no EMS machine will give you an instant six pack by sitting around supping beer, it does have a many uses in athletics, rehab and bodybuilding.

EMS machines should only be used on the advice of a doctor or other health professionals. They may not be suitable for certain conditions. Always follow the manufactures instructions supplied with the machine. EMS machines should never be used by people who have a pacemaker or have heart problems. Pregnant women should avoid using EMS machines as the affects on the unborn baby are not known. Never place EMS electrodes on your head or neck

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