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TENS and EMS are both Estim machines and operate on the same principle of using electrical stimulation to relieve pain. However, they serve different purposes. 

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is used to manage various types of acute and chronic pain. TENS units are small, battery-operated devices that send electrical impulses through adhesive pads (also called electrodes) placed on the skin's surface to the areas of the body experiencing pain. The impulses block the pain signals to the brain providing pain relief. 

EMS stands for Electronic Muscle Stimulator. Like TENS, the EMS machine transmits electrical signals through electrodes that are applied to the skin. But the key difference is that the electrical impulses delivered by EMS cause repeated contractions of the muscles rather than affecting pain signals. These contractions strengthen muscles, reduce swelling, relieve pain, and help heal wounds. 

How does the TENS unit work?

There are two theories about how TENS works: gate control theory and the release of endorphins. 

Gate control theory of pain

The electrical current stimulates nerve cells that carry signals relating to touch. These signals travel to the spinal cord. On reaching, the spinal cord closes the gate on the pain signals and blocks them. As a result, the pain signals do not reach the brain to be perceived as pain. 

Release of endorphins

Another theory is that nerve stimulation promotes the release of endorphins, which are our body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. Endorphins block the perception of pain. 


TENS can be used to relieve chronic and acute pain from various conditions. Some of the conditions may include the following:

TENS Unit benefits

EMS Machine benefits

There are many benefits of EMS therapy. It helps reduce swelling and expedite the healing process of injured or damaged tissue. Electric muscle stimulation also helps reduce chronic pain. Other benefits include: 

Contraindications for TENS and EMS therapy

Electrical stimulation therapy is not recommended for certain conditions, including: 

Furthermore, the therapy should not be applied to the following: 


Category EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
Primary Purpose Muscle rehabilitation and strengthening Pain management
Mode of Action Stimulates muscles to contract and relax Modifies or blocks pain signals to the brain
Application Targets specific muscle groups Alleviates pain in various body areas
Intended Use Muscle recovery, prevention of muscle atrophy, muscle strengthening Chronic or acute pain relief, managing discomfort from injuries or conditions
Usage in Physical Therapy/Fitness Widely used for muscle training, rehabilitation, and recovery Less common, primarily used in conjunction with other therapies
Potential Benefits Improved muscle strength, muscle tone, blood circulation Alleviation of chronic or acute pain, drug-free pain management

TENS and EMS Machine Buying Guide

Channels: Channels are the term used to refer to the number of lead wires that can be plugged at a time. Most of the TENS and EMS units feature single or dual channels. However, some devices offer four channels. 

It all depends on the area you need to treat. You may need a dual channel if you need to treat wider areas like the back. For smaller areas like the knee, a single-channel device might do good. 

Timer: Most TENS and EMS devices feature preset timers during which they offer treatment and then automatically shut off the device when the time is complete. Consult your doctor to determine the treatment time required for your specific condition. 

Intensity levels: Estim machines feature different intensity levels, and the patient can decide which is the best for relieving their pain. Your physician or physical therapist can help you decide what intensity level would be best for your condition. Ensure that your model has at least three intensity settings low, medium, and high. 

Battery: Muscle stimulators are either rechargeable or battery-powered. Battery-powered devices are inexpensive, with the added convenience of no charging time. On the other hand, rechargeable devices, though costlier initially, can save you time and money in the long run. 

Size and weight: TENS and EMS machines come in various shapes and sizes. The size and weight of the device depend on several factors, such as the design of the unit and the features they offer. You might consider a portable machine if you use it often outside the home. 

Combo units: Some devices include both EMS and TENS capabilities. If you find combining both modalities beneficial, then a TENS EMS combo unit might be the right choice. 

Where to buy an Estim Machine online?

TENS and EMS units for sale offer safe, effective, and drug-free relief from various joint and muscular pains. At Health Products For You, a wide selection of TENS, EMS, and combination devices are available from various manufacturers such as Compass Health, Biomedical Life Systems, Bodymed, Chattanooga, etc.  

Articles and Research papers on E-Stim

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Zap It: TENS and EMS Therapy

Kevin Cleary Jun 30,2016

Our muscles work by receiving electrical impulses from our brain telling them to contract or relax. When they need a little help you can use electricity in a beneficial way. EMS therapy (electrical muscle stimulation) is a method of using