If you’re an active individual that is concerned about their fitness, you have likely experienced the inevitable soreness and muscles aches that set in after an intense workout.
While that’s completely normal, you have probably heard that a muscle stimulator could be the key to getting rid of sore muscles after working out and recovering faster. And you would be right!
The truth is, unlike foam rollers and massage guns, muscle stimulation is not new. It’s been used for years in rehabilitation clinics to help people recovery faster after surgery or post-accident.
A research study found:
The use of EMS can also prevent people from injuries, especially for those inclined to injuries in the lower back, knees, shoulders, and muscles. EMS is very gentle on the joints and reduces the risk of injury due to the absence of weights.
Rehabilitation purposes aside, EMS and TENS units are also an extremely popular choice for those that suffer with sciatica, back pain, or any other nerve related condition. Used at the correct frequency, these devices provide palliative relief not found from other modalities.
So now that you understand that, here is a list of the best muscle stimulators you can buy.
As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I’ve worked extensively in the workout, recovery, and rehabilitation realm. From athletes to chronic pain sufferers, I’ve seen first hand the benefits of using an EMS or TENS unit to not only eliminate pain, but also condition and facilitate muscle growth in certain conditions.
Each of the muscle stimulators mentioned below have been carefully tested and reviewed for their overall efficacy and have been shown to be excellent choices for the average consumer.
Best EMS and TENS Units Summary
- Best Wiress Muscle Stimulator: Playmakar Pro
- Most Advanced Features EMS: PowerDot 2.0
- Best Wired EMS/TENS Muscle Stimulator: Compex Sport Elite
- Best Mid-Range EMS: Compex Edge 3.0
- Best Budge TENS Unit: iReliev ET-1313
Best Wireless Muscle Stimulator
The Playmakar PRO offers a full suite of both EMS and TENS presets without the wires. While it lacks smartphone integration, the Playmakar offers the same power and rehabilitative programs to maximize your recovery and reduce post workout muscle soreness. Easily one of the best wireless EMS units for athletes.
The Playmakar Pro comes in either a 2 or 4 POD configuration depending on your needs. Inside the box they include a total of 6 electrodes (2 Large and 4 Small), a tote bag and detailed instructions.
Read our full review here.
- Package Dimensions: 6.18″ x 1.85″ x 0.61″; 0.2 Pounds (remote)
- Item model number: PRO-1000-2
- Batteries: 260 mAh Lithium polymer (LiPo) battery
- Manufacturer: Playmakar
- Price: $199.95
Best Advanced Muscle Stimulator
Imagine reaping all the benefits of EMS controlled directly through your smartphone. That’s the beauty of the PowerDot 2.0 system. The Bluetooth-enabled PowerDot 2.0 Smart Muscle Stimulator is an advanced, go-anywhere tool to help athletes recover faster, perform better, and feel their best–all controlled from your smartphone nonetheless.
This customizable system comes in two convenient package options (Uno and Duo), with simple snap-on electrode pads, cables, and carrying cases included standard in both.
- Package Dimensions: 60.4 mm x 43.5 mm x 13.6 mm; 25 grams
- Item model number: Powerdot 2.0
- Batteries: Built-in Li-Ion (Up to 20 hours)
- Manufacturer: Therabody
- Price: Starting at $199
Best Wired Muscle Stimulator
The Sport Elite electrode device includes four active training programs and five additional programs to help you maximize the benefits of a workout from warm-up to recovery.
No matter your goals, this revolutionary technology lets athletes choose the type of electro-stimulation they want and to safely target the muscle groups that need it.
- Package Dimensions: 140x80x25mm, 210g
- Item model number: Sport Elite
- Batteries: Built-in Li-Ion (up to 8 hours)
- Output: 80 mA
- Manufacturer: Compex
- Price: $349.99
Best Mid-Range EMS
The Compex Edge 3.0 may not have all the advanced features of the Compex Elite, but it is still a very capable muscle stimulator.
Whether used as a muscle warmup before activity or as a pain reliever for sore muscles after a workout, this EMS is a sure thing. It allows athletes choose the type of electro-stimulation they want and target the muscle groups that need it most.
- Package Dimensions: 140x80x25mm, 210g
- Item model number: Compex Edge 3.0
- Batteries: Built-in Li-Ion
- Manufacturer: Compex
- Price: $199
Best Budget TENS Unit
While it lacks the muscle strengthening and recovery features of the other TENS units, the iReliev ET-1313 is perfect for those on a budget.
This highly customizable TENS unit can be programmed to easily target numerous different areas of the body.
- Package Dimensions: 5 x 2 x 7 inches; 0.75 Pounds
- Item model number: ET-1313
- Batteries: AAA
- Output: 80 mA
- Manufacturer: iReliev
- Price: $49.95
EMS vs TENS: What’s the difference?
Before you buy a muscle stimulator, it’s important to know what will work best for your needs. You’ve likely seen the terms EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) thrown around almost interchangeably. Is there a difference and if so, what are they?
Here’s a simple breakdown:
EMS: Acts by contracting the muscles to replicate the body’s natural pain relief mechanism of stimulating the muscles through central nervous system. This type of muscle stimulation is most effective for rehabilitative purposes.
TENS: Stimulates the nerves to prevent the pain signals from reaching the brain. This process can also cause the body to produce higher levels of endorphins. TENS units are effective for pain relief.
Still not sure what the difference between EMS and TENS is? Check out this explanatory video (and apologies in advance for the intro music):
How does a muscle stimulator cause muscle growth?
To understand how a muscle stimulator can cause muscle growth, it is first important to understand how muscles grow. Muscles grow in response to two main types of stimuli: mechanical tension and muscle damage.
Mechanical tension is generated when a muscle is forced to contract against a resistance, such as when lifting a weight. This type of tension puts stress on the muscle fibers, which causes them to grow in order to better withstand the force next time.
Muscle damage occurs when the muscle fibers are physically damaged, such as when you tear a muscle while lifting a heavy weight. This damage triggers the release of growth factors, which signals the muscle to repair and grow back stronger.
A muscle stimulator can cause muscle growth by providing one or both of these stimuli. For example, electrical stimulation can generate mechanical tension in the muscle, while ultrasonic waves can cause muscle damage.
The most effective way to use a muscle stimulator for muscle growth is to combine both types of stimulation. This will provide the muscle with the most complete stimulus for growth.
Is A Muscle Stimulator A Good Pain Reliever For Sore Muscles After A Workout?
As previously mentioned, a muscle stimulator, also known as an electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) device, uses electrical impulses to contract and relax the muscles. This can help to increase blood flow, reduce muscle soreness, and promote healing after a workout.
Additionally, the contraction and relaxation of the muscles caused by the electrical impulses can help to stretch and loosen tight muscles, which can further reduce pain and stiffness.
Overall, a muscle stimulator is considered one of the best pain relievers for sore muscles after a workout due to its ability to increase blood flow, reduce muscle soreness, and promote healing.
How Does a Muscle Stimulator help Back Pain?
The electrical impulses cause the muscles to contract and relax, which helps to relieve pain and increase blood flow to the area.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that supports the use of muscle stimulators for the treatment of back pain. In one study, published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, researchers found that electrical muscle stimulation was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with chronic low back pain.
Another study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, found that electrical muscle stimulation was effective in reducing pain and improving quality of life in patients with chronic back pain.
Overall, there is a significant body of evidence that supports the use of muscle stimulators for the treatment of back pain. If you are suffering from chronic back pain, it may be worth considering a muscle stimulator as a treatment option.
Which is better, wired vs. wireless electronic muscle stimulator?
The choice between a wired or wireless electronic muscle stimulator (EMS) will largely depend on personal preference and the specific features and capabilities of the device.
Wired EMS devices tend to be more powerful and may be able to deliver a stronger stimulation. They also usually have more control options and settings, which can be useful for targeting specific muscle groups or for adjusting the intensity of the stimulation.
Wireless EMS devices, on the other hand, tend to be more portable and convenient to use. They can also be less restrictive and allow for greater freedom of movement during your workout.
Both types of EMS devices have their pros and cons, so it’s best to research different models and determine which one is best for your needs and preferences. Additionally, it is important to consult a medical professional before using any electronic muscle stimulator, as they may not be appropriate for certain medical conditions or individuals.
Complimentary therapies to muscle stimulators: Massage Guns, Infrared Sauna, Vibration, Foam Rolling
Editor-In-Chief at Recovatech. Dr. Ben has been a Doctor of Chiropractic for over 10 years, specializing in structural and neurological imbalances with an emphasis in functional movement patterns, exercise performance, and muscle recovery. He has been the team chiropractor for professional baseball and soccer organizations, as well as collegiate athletes. In his personal life, he’s always been driven when it comes to athletics and personal performance. His mornings start by lifting something heavy and end spending time with family.