Electrical massage is a very individualized and personal experience. One size certainly does not fit all! When you receive your power unit, spend some time experimenting with it to find what works for you.
First, familiarize yourself with the particular model of power unit you have. Actually read the instructions to know which buttons control the mode (the pattern of the electrical impulses), the time, and the intensity. Place two pads, one on each side of a sore area such as the lower back. Connect them to the pins of the leadwire plugged into the box. go through each mode to decide which you like best. Some will feel sharper, others will be more mellow. Start with a low power level, turn it up slowly until you can feel the stimulation begin and give it a few moments to absorb the feeling. It may be uncomfortable at first because it will likely be different than you have ever felt before. Don't give up in the first few seconds, give your body time to adjust to the sensations. Go through each mode this way. Don't turn it up too fast! If you experience anything overly uncomfortable simply unplug the leadwire from the box to stop all stimulation immediately.
You will find that after several minutes you won't feel it as strongly because the body slowly loses its sensitivity and needs to be turned up a little bit to get the same strength. This is completely normal. Recommended sessions are 15-20 minutes at a time, but there is no danger with continuing it for longer periods of time, even hours. After some time with it off, you will find that the sensitivity has returned and you can start near the same beginning level each time.
Equipment available on the market today is either TENS based units (the medical use of electrical stimulation aka e-stim for pain relief) or other electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) units. TENS units are designed specifically to stimulate nerves to reduce sensation to relieve pain. (Federal law also designates TENS units for sale by physician prescription only). EMS units are primarily to stimulate muscle movement but there is some overlap between the two treatment modalities.
E-Stim equipment basically consists of 3 items, the power box, the leadwires, and the electrodes. Everything else, although still important, is secondary. (Batteries, skin prep, conductive gel etc.)
You might be tempted to buy everything at once, but a more realistic approach is to purchase a power box and a few electrodes as recommended by your physician. Find out how you personally respond to different things. Then gradually, as your experience and knowledge increases you can expand your collection.
Electrodes come in many shapes and sizes. The most common are self-adhesive pads you simply stick where you want them and then remove, and can be used again. Some are silicone or carbon pads requiring adhesive or some other method to keep them in place but never wear out over time as the cloth self-adhesive ones do. There are electrodes meant to be inserted into body openings, clamps, shoes, sleeves made of conductive cloth to slip over joints, gloves, and many other varieties of accessories, all referred to as "electrodes".
Electrodes (aka 'trodes') made for E-Stim fall into two types, unipolar and bipolar. Basically, in order to feel anything from E-Stim you need two points of contact. The electrical current generated by the power box flows between these two points and that is felt as a sensation. A unipolar electrode has a single contact, so two of them are needed to create the current pathway. A bipolar electrode, however, has two points of contact built into it. So the bipolar electrode creates a small, more local pathway surrounding it. The pathway of two unipolar electrodes can be much larger/longer.
Surface area of the electrodes makes a difference! Smaller electrodes will feel much stronger than larger ones because the current is concentrated in a smaller space. So if something feels too sharp, try different modes in combination with different pad sizes and places to find what is comfortable for you. You might need more lubrication in the area. Over time as the electrodes lose their stickiness, you might feel "hot spots" as areas come loose and thus decrease the surface area in contact with the skin. You can secure them with tape or a wrap of some sort to help with this problem, especially in some of the more curved areas of the body. Flatter surfaces tend to have fewer issues.
Electrode pads will last the longest if the skin is wiped clean prior to application, and the electrodes themselves are kept clean after use. The average life of an electrode is 8-10 applications. You can extend this by rinsing the surface with a little water. You can also apply Tensive or Tac adhesive gel to make them sticky again. Discontinue using them if they start to fray or the conductive rubber coating is missing or cracked.
Electrodes are to a certain extent a very personal choice, and that choice is dictated by cost and anatomy. Our unique shapes and sizes of gel pads will ensure you can find exactly what you need to reach the peak of effectiveness time and time again. Regarding insertables, some have contacts on the side, some on the top and bottom; some have a flanged base to ensure they don't go in too far, and others are designed to be simply big.
- Place electrodes on either end of a muscle you want to stimulate, or on either side of a pathway you want the electrical current to pass through. Contact points should be secure and if possible lubricated.
- Change the batteries frequently, and before they are completely depleted. Low batteries can cause variation of currents produced and may result in hotspots.
- Vary the controls and settings (both the frequency and voltage) to prevent numbing and loss of sensations.
- Be familiar with instruction manuals prior to using equipment.
- Make sure the power is turned off before placing or removing electrodes.