You shock your muscles into new levels of growth with different training methods. Well, sometimes you need to do the same for muscle recovery. A literal shock to specific tissues can help injured athletes get back to training quicker than they would by recovering solely with traditional methods, according to a new study from the Society for Experimental Biology.
Researchers applied low-frequency shock waves via Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT), a non-invasive method used to treat musculoskeletal conditions—like Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, and other tendon and ligament damage—to injured volunteers. During the low-energy ESWT session, probes delivered shock waves to the patients' injuries at a low frequency (roughly 1 pulse per second).
"ESWT uses shockwaves to reduce pain, promote healing, and in some cases, resorb tissue and work with acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain as well as bone healing," says Armin Tehrany, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care. These shock waves stimulate your muscle tissue, which recruits stem cells to kick-start repairs, so muscle fibers form.
Years ago, ESWT was used for plantar fascia treatment in an out-patient setting, under local anesthesia, taking up to 30 minutes. Now it can be done without anesthesia in a physician, physical therapist, or orthopedist's (among other specialists) office in 10-15 minutes. It easily complements traditional recovery regimens, like physiotherapy and ice; and there are no adverse side-effects.
But, say you want to get your own comparable at-home device. Can electrical stimulation devices fit the bill?
Electrical Stimulation At Home
A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit uses an electric current to stimulate your nerves (create muscle contractions) often to relieve pain and promote healing, Tehrany says.
"Personal units are suitable for chronic aches and pains in addition to heat, ice, massage, and physical therapy," he says. But talk to your doctor before getting one. "If you plan to make an investment in one of these devices, it's best that you see a doctor that you trust to diagnose your condition properly and develop a proper plan," he adds.
You don't want to mask your pain with the device in case you're suffering an injury that needs a different treatment.
So, what should you look for in a device? "Safety, durability, and a company with years of experience in the business that can quote and demonstrate research to back up their claims of both efficacy and safety," Tehrany says.
Here are a couple of options on the market.
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