Electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) are both forms of electrical stimulation therapy that are used for different purposes.

EMS is used to stimulate muscle contractions. It is often used in physical therapy and rehabilitation to help improve muscle strength, endurance, and overall fitness. It is also used for pain management and muscle recovery.

TENS, on the other hand, is used to stimulate nerve fibers to help manage pain. It works by sending electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the skin, which can help to decrease the sensation of pain by blocking the pain signals sent to the brain. TENS is often used to manage chronic pain, such as back pain, arthritis, and neuropathic pain, as well as post-surgical and labor pain.

Both TENS and EMS are considered to be safe and effective treatment options when used as directed by a healthcare professional. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to avoid any side effects of using these devices. It is also import before starting any new treatment to ensure it is appropriate for your individual needs and medical history.


TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It’s a form of electrotherapy that uses electrical impulses to stimulate nerves and muscles. TENS is used to treat pain, muscle spasms, and other symptoms by stimulating the nervous system. This can help relieve pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, or back problems.

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EMS stands for Electrical Muscle Stimulation. These devices, such as EMS belts use small electrical currents to stimulate the muscles to contract or relax. EMS units penetrate much deeper into the muscle tissues to begin their stimulation, which allows them to deliver more muscle contractions than TENS units.

The combination of multiple pulses over time also allows EMS units to produce involuntary muscle contractions in patients with certain medical conditions such as chronic back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Electronic Muscle Stimulation

EMS may also be called neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) or electromyostimulation. These units can penetrate much deeper into the muscle tissues to begin their stimulation, whereas TENS units remain on top of the skin. This is why EMS units tend to be used for muscle growth.

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The electrical impulses from an EMS unit can stimulate several different types of muscles depending on where it’s placed and what purpose or condition it is being used to treat. It may also be used to stimulate nerves that control involuntary body functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure

EMS uses very high-frequency electronic pulses to create involuntary muscle contractions in patients with certain medical conditions. EMS can be used to treat muscle weakness and muscle atrophy. It can also be used for chronic pain management but they do not burn a significant amount of fat.

Because it does cause muscle contractions, EMS is only recommended for use by healthy individuals looking to strengthen their muscles or aid in their recovery after injury.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

TENS devices use surface electrodes to stimulate the superficial nerves in your skin. This is a different stimulation than that of an EMS machine, which uses a different wavelength to reach the deep muscles beneath the skin.

TENS unit

A TENS unit sends these pulses through a wire connected to adhesive pads (electrodes) that are taped or clipped onto your skin at points near where you feel pain.

If you’ve ever taken TENS therapy, you might have noticed that it makes your muscles feel a little tingly. This is because the brain releases endorphins when you’re in pain. Endorphins are natural painkillers; they make exercise and sex feel good, and even eating chocolate can release them from within your brain.

The purpose of TENS therapy is thought to be twofold: firstly, by applying electrical pulses through the skin on top of an area where someone has been injured or feels pain (like the lower back), then it can stimulate nerves around those tissues and trigger endorphin release—which may provide some relief from discomfort or pain.

Secondly, some people report that prolonged use of a TENS unit over several weeks or months alongside other forms of rehabilitation like physical therapy or massage therapy also helps build new neural pathways between different parts of their body. This may help relieve chronic conditions such as low back pain caused by sciatic nerve impingements (sciatica).


Because it doesn’t stimulate muscle contraction, TENS can be used by patients in any condition or health. EMS is a bit more complicated. If you’re an athlete, it could be beneficial to use an EMS machine. If you’ve had surgery or an injury, EMS may also help with your recovery. However, if you have a medical condition that affects the nerves or muscles of your body (i.e., diabetes), consult with your doctor before using either machine.

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An important note: while both machines are considered safe and effective methods for pain relief, they aren’t meant as a replacement for traditional medical treatment options like medication and physical therapy.

A TENS machine focuses on giving a low level of electrical strength at a higher frequency; over 50Hz with short pulses or below 10Hz with longer pulses but at an intensity below motor contraction. The number refers to the number of times per second that the pulse is sent through the patient’s skin. Low frequency means 100-300Hz and high frequency means 300Hz or higher.

Both machines have different waveforms and varying pulse frequencies that can be adjusted according to your pain tolerance and needs. TENS are square waves, while EMS are sine waves.

TENS machines use a higher frequency than EMS machines and also provide a constant current throughout the treatment session. EMS, on the other hand, uses intermittent pulses with varying intensities at a slower pace.

Final Thoughts

TENS machines are generally used to relieve pain. EMS is used to strengthen muscles, whether they’re injured or not. TENS can be used by anyone in any condition or health, but EMS should be avoided if you have an injury that you need medical care for (like a shoulder injury) or have a pacemaker.

For example: if you’re using the machine because of an injury, then it’s best that you avoid using any other devices on top of your EMS machine—such as acupuncture needles or magnets—while under treatment with EMS.

There are many different types of electronic physical treatment devices available to users. Not every device will be suitable.