Although not new, muscle stimulators like the PlayMakar Pro have been increasing in popularity over the past couple years. Promising to not only help alleviate pesky aches and pains, muscle stimulators are also promoted to increase athletic performance and/or decrease recovery time.
Sound too good to be true? While they’re not a magical silver bullet, muscle stimulators are actually backed by science and used extensively in physical therapy and doctor’s offices around the world. While your results may vary, the potential benefits are polarizing.
In this review, we go hands on with the PlayMakar Pro wireless muscle stimulator to see for ourselves if muscle stimulation lives up to the hype.
What Is TENS/EMS?
In order to fully appreciate the PlayMakar Pro, it’s important to have a basic grasp of what a TENS/EMS device does.
In the simplest of terms:
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines stimulate the nerves exclusively for the purpose of relieving pain, whereas Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) machines are designed to stimulate the muscles for the purposes of strengthening and rehabilitating them. (1)
The electrical impulses target specific receptors of the nervous system and by so doing, are able to shut off or stimulate pain signals or create muscular contractions.
Muscle stimulators are pretty neat because in essence, you’re artificially biohacking your body to produce certain results.
Traditionally, most TENS/EMS units use wired electrodes that stick to the body to transmit the signal. While effective, being tethered to a machine for 5-20 minutes has always been a pain point. That is, until now.
PlayMakar Pro Wireless
The PlayMakar Pro offers all the same great benefits of a professional grade TENS/EMS machine, without the wires. And we’ve gotta tell you, it’s pretty fantastic!
First of all, if you’re a little worried you might not know how to operate it, put those worries to rest. The PlayMakar Pro is very easy to use. The included instructions are very simple to understand and will guide you step-by-step.
From the moment we opened the box to turning it on, it took all of 5 minutes to familiarize ourselves enough with the general operation to use it comfortably.
The PlayMakar Pro offers a total of 14 different programs designed to help build strength, improve endurance, expedite recovery, or diminish pain. 6 of those programs are EMS, while the remaining 8 are dedicated TENS programs. Again, a quick reference to the manual will outline the specifics of each setting in greater detail.
The Playmakar Pro is available in either a 2 pod ($199) or 4 pod ($249) configuration. Each rechargeable pod has a 3-5 hour battery life and the included hand control should net you 5-10 hours. Battery life of course will vary based on the level of intensity you choose.
Our demo unit came with 2 pods, which included 4 smaller electrode pads and 2 larger ones. The pads are reusable, but take our advice and follow the maintenance instructions carefully. Eventually the adhesive on the pads will wear off and a new replacement set will run you $16. That’s perhaps the only gripe we have with the PlayMakar Pro. But to be fair, that complaint applies to all TENS/EMS machines since they all use similar electrodes.
As we said before, operating the PlayMakar Pro is a breeze, but to save yourself some headaches, read the manual first. Don’t forget the medical precautions too!
To power on the hand controller and pods, press and hold the power button for about 3 seconds. Once the blue lights come on, the pods will automatically sync to the controller. It’s about as seamless as it gets and you don’t have to worry about a laborious pairing process.
The controls are a pretty basic affair too.
The ON/OFF button also act as +/- toggle switch and the SET button selects the options. To get started to you choose either a TENS or an EMS mode. Then chose a preset therapy program, the amount of minutes, and then select the intensity.
It’s all very intuitive once you’ve taken a moment to click through the menu.
How Does It Feel?
If you’ve never used a TENS/EMS machine, it’s sort of difficult to fully explain exactly what it feels like. Depending on the mode, it varies from a tingling/prickly sensation to an all out massage. Regardless, you can dial in the intensity based on your own preference. We recommend you start off slowly to gauge your tolerance levels.
Interestingly enough, as we were testing the PlayMakar Pro, we found that every person that tried it experienced something different. What felt amazing and soothing to one person, felt outrageously intense to another. Goes to show you the intrinsic nature of how the human body responds differently to stimuli.
Does Muscle Stimulation Work?
Besides our own subjective opinions, we really had no concrete scientific means to measure whether or not the Playmakar Pro actually worked. However here are a few of our observations:
For pain relief, it works surprisingly well. To our delight, but not his, one of our writers happened to hurt his lower back standing up earlier that morning. Like flies on honey, we enthusiastically placed the PlayMakar Pro on his lower back.
Encouragingly, after 10 minutes on the P2 TENS mode, said person reported a significant decrease in perceived pain which lasted throughout the rest of the afternoon. Some residual pain crept in later that evening and once again, after a 10 minute session his pain levels plummeted to zero.
On a recovery basis, each of us used the PlayMakar Pro following some sort of exercise. It was the general consensus amongst all of us that we felt less soreness or strain throughout the rest of the day. That same feeling carried over to the next day too. We all felt a diminished need to “warm up” prior to working out.
Regarding the claim that muscle stimulation can help build muscle is still unclear. We felt like we would need several more weeks of trial to draw any finite conclusions.
From our hands-on experience, we came away pretty impressed with the PlayMakar Pro. In fact, the more we used it, the more benefit we seemed to draw from it. Not only that, it just felt really good to use.
For our entire testing period, it functioned precisely how it was supposed to. Not once did we experience any weird operating quirks. We honestly half expected to shock ourselves, which did not happen.
When it was all said and done, throwing the PlayMakar Pro wireless muscle stimulator in our recovery routine just came naturally.
Would we recommend it? Yes we would.
PlayMakar is a Texas based company that sells a variety of FDA compliant recovery products. If you haven’t heard their name before, that’s because they’re a relatively new company that launched in 2018.
Their primary drive and passion is to help athletes of all walks of life to perform at their absolute best. At the highest level, PlayMakar has already managed to secure numerous professional athlete endorsements, Kavon Frazier of the Dallas Cowboys being one of them.
Be sure to check out their other recovery products here.