How to Use E-Stim

Written by cindy day
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How to Use E-Stim
Seeing a doctor is a necessary first step before proceeding with electrical stimulation therapy. (doctor image by from

E-stim, short for electrical stimulation, has many applications in the fields of medicine, physical and sports therapy and athletic training. It can be used to treat pain, reduce swelling, help injured muscles recovery, stimulate muscles and treat spasticity in people with neurologically based conditions. Electrical current, applied by specialised units via electrodes on the skin, cause muscles to contract. This is a simple way to build muscle. There are two primary types of electrical stimulation units used for most medical and athletic purposes: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and interferential current.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Electrical stimulation unit
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton ball
  • Blow-dryer
  • Connecting lead wires
  • Clean electrodes
  • Timer

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  1. 1

    Consult a physician to determine whether you are a good candidate for electrical stimulation therapy. This is a necessary step because there are several health conditions that need to be ruled out before you can do e-stim safely. If you do not have an e-stim unit, a prescription is needed for insurance coverage.

    How to Use E-Stim
    Seeing a doctor is a necessary first step before proceeding with electrical stimulation therapy. (doctor image by from
  2. 2

    Make an appointment with a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer with electrical stimulation training. If you are using an older e-stim unit, these professionals will check the unit to make sure it is emitting electrical current in beneficial doses. They also will identify the size of electrodes needed and their exact placement to benefit your specific needs, advise you on current settings and tell you how frequently to use e-stim to achieve your goals.

    How to Use E-Stim
    A therapist or trainer can help evaluate the efficacy of e-stim therapy for your specific needs. (massage therapist at work image by MAXFX from
  3. 3

    Clean the skin surface where the electrodes will be placed using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. Dry the area briefly with a blow-dryer. This will prevent any lint being left behind, extending the life of your electrodes. Also wash and dry your hands.

    How to Use E-Stim
    Wash and dry your hands also before handling electrodes to minimise the accumulation of body oils on the electrode adhesives. (washing hands image by JASON WINTER from
  4. 4

    Place the electrodes on your skin as directed by the therapist or trainer. Electrodes should be positioned to enable the current to pass through the painful area or along the nerves leading from the pain.

    How to Use E-Stim
    Proper placement of the electrodes is critical. (electrodes image by Albert Lozano from
  5. 5

    Adjust the unit for electrical current specifications. The settings determine whether the current will result in a strong muscle contraction or a gentle one.

  6. 6

    Attach the e-stim lead wires to the electrodes, as specified by the therapist or trainer.

  7. 7

    Turn on the e-stim unit and set the timer for the specified length of time.

    How to Use E-Stim
    The therapist or trainer will advise you how long your e-stim sessions should be and how frequently will be most beneficial. (plug in timer image by leafy from
  8. 8

    Turn off the unit and remove the electrodes at the end of your session. Adhere the electrodes to a clean plastic surface between uses and store them in an airtight plastic bag.

Tips and warnings

  • Your electrical stimulation unit may have a manual that shows where electrodes are placed for many conditions and the current settings prescribed most often for each. If you don't have a manual, check the manufacturer's site online to see whether one is available for download.
  • E-stim should not be used with patients who have pacemakers, any cardiac condition or a seizure disorder.

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