Make E-stim more effective

Adding movements to your session can help you recover faster.

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Athletes often get electrical stimulation (e-stim) to treat injuries or pain. While most people lie down during e-stim—during which electrodes are put on their skin to cause a certain muscle to contract—physical therapists suggest it’s better in some cases to do exercises during the session.
“We combine electrical stimulation and exercise when an injury prevents the person from performing a regular muscle contraction,” says Christine Conroy, DPT, associate professor in the physical therapy program at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Illinois. “This occurs either because they’ve lost a great deal of strength or they continue to have some pain with the activity.” For example, if weak glutes are contributing to a knee injury, the e-stim could help stabilize and strengthen those muscles during resistance band squats.

In the right circumstances, the combo can aid muscle recovery by increasing blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients, and helping to flush out toxins, says Daniel Giordano, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. “It can also help jumpstart the motor nerves and fiber recruitment, helping the muscle fire or contract better after a surgery shuts it down,” he adds. “Once the muscle starts contracting again with the help of e-stim, the brain will relearn the movement.”


Conroy and Giordano have noticed that many post-surgical patients, and those with certain knee and Achilles tendon injuries, recover more quickly when they pair e-stim with exercise. Ask your physical therapist if you would benefit from the combination treatment.

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