Fitness Test: Compex Muscle Stim Devices

Check out the review in Men’s Health and Fitness on the Sport Elite and Wireless Device by  Brittany Smith.  Complete article here http://www.mensfitness.com/life/gearandtech/fitness-test-compex-muscle-stim-devices

YOU CAN ZAP your muscles—literally send an electric current down to nerve fibers, fire your motor neurons, and stimulate a strong muscle contraction. It’s called NMES, neuro-muscular electrical nerve stimulation; more specifically, we’re talking about two NMES stimulators from Compex, a company that’s been in the business of electrotherapy for over 20 years. So why should you want to try it out? For one, NMES can help you heal quicker if you’re coming back from an injury. But, it’s not just for guys who have been sidelined. It can also help you recover faster after a brutal WOD and even boost your performance in workouts by better activating bodyparts.

And it doesn’t hurt—aside from some alien tingling sensation you quickly get used to. I can attest to this; I tested both the Compex Sport Elite Muscle Stimulator Kit and the Compex Wireless USA Muscle Stimulator Kit.

But before you read what I thought, check out everything you need to know about personal NMES devices first.

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A Lesson in Lactic Acid: Active Recovery with Compex

Virtually every human being has experienced the bodily responses associated with strenuous activity or physical exertion. Heavy breathing and muscle fatigue are not unique to athletes alone, although high-performance individuals certainly experience strain to an exceptionally higher degree. Regardless of intensity, however, the science is the same and a basic biological understanding of how our human bodies respond to physical stress is important to understand how to best recover.

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What is E-Stim and How Will Compex Help My Training?

Electric muscle stimulation, or neuromuscular electric stimulation (NMES), is a common modality of physical therapy and rehab treatment. For serious athletes, however, it is also used as a powerful tool for training and physical recovery to optimize performance. More commonly referred to as e-stim or muscle stim, an NMES device delivers electronic pulses to motor nerves through electrodes placed on the skin, causing a motor response to achieve a number of desired results.

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TENS VS. NMES: What’s the Main Difference?

Whether looking for a tool to boost your fitness and strength or recover from an injury quickly, electric muscle stimulation (EMS) can help you achieve your goal. With that comes many questions, like what exactly is NMES and TENS? This is a common question we get at events when we are demonstrating the Compex’s uses and benefits. To avoid further confusion, we want to clarify the differences between NMES (NeuroMuscular Electrical Stimulation) and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). Many people have been in physical therapy and may have had an experience with TENS and NMES devices, but were not educated on the difference between these types of stimulus.

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Introducing Compex Wireless USA

Introducing the first FDA-cleared wireless electric muscle stimulation device designed to enhance performance and speed recovery. For over 20 years Compex has been the global leader in electrotherapy, with products beneficial for muscle recovery, injury prevention and intense training programs. Now with the release of the Compex Wireless USA athletes can experience freedom from wires which raises the training experience and allows athletes to take their workout to the next level.

Professional athletes of all sports from running, functional-fitness and cycling, to basketball and football can integrate Wireless USA into their daily training routines to achieve peak performance and desired results.

From fast recovery to muscle-strength gains and endurance improvements, the use of Wireless USA provides athletes and fitness enthusiasts with an intelligent tool to supercharge their performance and prevent future injuries. The device recruits specific motor nerves by targeting muscle fibers that cannot be reached through traditional workouts and training.

“Compex has been a key tool to enhance my performance since I started training,” said Josh Bridges, 2014 CrossFit Games Competitor. “It allows me to activate all my muscle fibers, dig deeper and ultimately get stronger for competition day. With the introduction of Wireless USA, I’m now able to have more freedom and increase the usage of NMES in my training.”

Additional Compex enthusiasts include: Chad Mendes (UFC), Steve Weatherford (NFL), Andy Potts (Ironman), John Wellborn (Strength Coach), among others.

 

World Champion Triathlete Timothy O’Donnell credits Compex muscle stimulation for recovery during training

Training for a triathlon is no easy feat and there are many elements that come into play when you’re working to become the best athlete possible. World champ triathlete, Timothy O’Donnell recently spoke to Outside Magazine about how he prepares for these strenuous races and credits Compex’s portable electrical stimulation machines during training.

“I have a lot of calf issues,” O’Donnell says in the magazine article. “When they get tight, I hook up the machine and it sends electrical pulses into the muscles.”

Triathlons require stamina and endurance leading up to and during the race so it’s important to maintain strength and health. The Electro Muscle Stimulation maximizes your muscle recovery so you can realize all of your fitness goals. It also flushes lactic acid by increasing blood flow to fight against the sensation of heavy legs, keeping you on top of your game. Compex recovery products also help to stimulate your endorphins to deliver pain relief, further relax muscles and even reduce anxiety.

O’Donnell will be competing in the Ironman Kona October 11on a 140.6 mile journey and we wish him all the luck. For the full article, click here.

Compex Recovery Series: Plantar Fasciitis

FootPain

If you feel a sharp pain in your heel when you take your first steps in the morning, you might have a condition called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is one the most common causes of heel plain and approximately 2 million patients are treated for it every year.

Plantar fasciitis is caused when the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed. The plantar fascia connects your heel bone to your toes and is designed to act like as a shock absorber, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension on it becomes too great, small tears can occur in the fascia. Plantar fasciitis is often common in runners and people who are on their feet for extended periods of time.

If you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, you’ll notice a stabbing pain after you get out of bed in the morning and begin walking. The pain may subside once you walk around a bit and your foot loosens up, but it may return standing or getting after sitting down for a while or when you go up stairs. If your are experiencing foot pain at night, you may have a different problem. Consult with your doctor as you may have arthritis or tarsal tunnel syndrome, not plantar fasciitis.

There are several additional factors that may increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. This condition is most common between the ages of 40 and 60. In addition to runners, risk is increased for dancers, particularly ballet dancers because dance can increases stress on the heel and attached tissue. Dancers may also have high arches, another factor. If your job requires you to be on your feet all day, your risk of plantar fasciitis increases as well.

TREATMENT

Despite it being a painful condition, most people recover from who plantar fasciitis recover in just a few months with treatment. First and foremost, resting and getting off your feet for a while is recommending. The following can also help soothe the symptoms and prevent plantar fasciitis in the future.

Medications

Taking ibuprofen or naproxen, common pain relievers, may ease pain and reduce inflammation.

Stretches

Just like with your Achilles tendon, stretching out your calf muscles can help to reduce the stress on your fascia by allowing more flexibility in your foot.

  • Calf stretch
    • Try leaning forward against a wall with one knee straight and the heel on the ground. Then place the other leg in front, with the knee bent. Push your hips toward the wall in a controlled fashion and old the position for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this exercise 20 times for each foot. You should feel a strong pull in the calf during this stretch.
  • Plantar fascia stretch
    • Sit down and cross your affected foot over the knee of your other leg. Grab the toes of your painful foot and slowly pull them toward you in a controlled fashion. If you cannot reach your foot, wrap a towel around your big toe to help pull your toes toward you. Place your other hand along the bottom of our foot. The fascia should feel like a tight band when stretched. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds then release. Repeat it multiple times per foot. For best results, try this exercise in the morning before standing or walking.

Night splints

Just like with the exercises listed above, a split may help stretch your calf and the arch of you foot. Night splints do this for you while you sleep by holding the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight that helps them stretch out.

Supportive Shoes and Orthotics

Supportive inserts like heel cups or custom arch supports can help reduce pain by increasing foot support and distributing your weight more evenly. Also, wearing worn out running shoes actually increases your risk of plantar fasciitis as well as aggravates it so make sure you are wearing shoes with proper fit and support.

Electric Muscle Stimulation

Using an electric muscle stimulator Compex can also help you recover from plantar fasciitis by breaking up adhesions without impact. Here is how to use your Compex unit to help with recovery:

compex-plantar-fasciitis-recovery

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/definition/con-20025664

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/plantar-fasciitis-topic-overview

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00149

Compex Recovery Series: Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles Tendon

If you have pain along the back of your leg near your heel, you may have Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury that commonly occurs in runners and “weekend warriors”.

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. Named after a tragic hero from Greek mythology, it connects your calf muscle to your heel bone to allow you to jump, run and walk.

Achilles tendonitis is most common in middle-aged men, but it can happen to anyone who has a sudden increase in physical activity. The risk is increased if you also have tight calf muscles and/or a flat arch in your foot. Other risk factors include running in worn out shoes, cold weather, frequently running uphill or if you suffer from medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

There are two main types of Achilles tendinitis: insertional and noninsertional. Insertional Achilles tendinitis involves the lower portion of the heel, where the tendon attaches to the heel bone. Noninsertional Achilles tendinitis is when the fibers in the middle portion of the tendon have started to break down with tiny tears, swell, and/or thicken. This type is more often seen in younger, active people. Both types can also cause bone spurs.

Achilles tendonitis should be diagnosed by your doctor. However, if you experienced a sudden “pop” in the back of your calf or heel, this might be something more serious like a ruptured or torn Achilles tendon. If this happens, see your doctor immediately.

RECOVERY AND TREATMENT

More often than not, Achilles tendonitis can be treated without surgery. However, recovery may take a few months. The following will can help you recover and get back in the game.

Rest

Rest is always the most important thing when recovering from an injury. Your body needs a break to heal. While taking time off from exercise is recommended, if you just can’t ditch all physical activities, switch to more low-impact ones while you’re recovering. When resting your Achilles, try biking, swimming or using an elliptical machine until you’re fully healed.

Ice

Icing the injured area of your Achilles tendon throughout the day can help to reduce the swelling and pain. However, try not to ice it for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Medication

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication is recommended to help reduce the swelling and pain associated with Achilles tendonitis. These include such drugs as ibuprofen and naproxen. While they will reduce swelling, the do not reduce the thickening for the tendon. If you find yourself taking these medications for more than a month, speak with your doctor.

Exercise

Exercise might be the cause of Achilles tendonitis, but it can also help prevent it and aid in recovery. The following exercises can help reduce stress on the Achilles tendon:

  • Calf stretch
    • Calf tightness is a contributing factor to Achilles tendonitis. Strengthening and stretching your calf muscles can help. Try leaning forward against a wall with one knee straight and the heel on the ground. Then place the other leg in front, with the knee bent. Push your hips toward the wall in a controlled fashion and old the position for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this exercise 20 times for each foot. You should feel a strong pull in the calf during this stretch.
  • Bilateral heel drop
    • Stand at the edge of a stair with just the front half of your foot on the stair. Make sure you have good balance or hold onto a railing if necessary. Lift your heels off the ground then slowly lower your heels as low as you can go while still on the stair. Repeat this step 20 times. This exercise should be done in a slow and controlled manner, as moving too quickly can potentially injury the tendon.

Supportive shoes and orthotics

If you’re experiencing chronic Achilles pain, you may want to invest in supportive shoes or shoe inserts. These can be helpful if your Achilles tendonitis lasts longer than a few months.

Electric muscle stimulation

Electric muscle stimulators are great for helping sore muscles recover. Compex can be used to help relax the muscles, increase blood flood and decrease pain associated with Achilles tendonitis. Take look below to see what programs to use and the best pad placement for relief.

achilles-tendonitis-recovery-with-compex-muscle-stimulators

Sources:

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00147

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/achilles-tendinitis/basics/definition/con-20024518

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001072.htm

Debunking the Myths around Compex Muscle Stimulators

NMES Myths

There are many myths, misconceptions and concerns around electric muscle stimulators and rightly so. Using a device that sends an electric current through your body sounds dangerous and painful. But medical devices like the Compex Electric Muscle Stimulator are reviewed and approved by the FDA, designed to perform very specific functions that are mirrored after the body’s own processes and are very safe.

Let’s dive into some of the most common questions and concerns (for a full list of all FAQs, click here).

 

Q: What does a Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulator (NMES) like Compex do?

A: The principle of electrostimulation is very simple; it reproduces the processes that occur when our brain orders muscles to contract. It works almost like a relay race; when we decide to contract a muscle, our brain sends an electrical current down through our nerve fibers. Once it reaches the muscle, the terminal motor neurons fire and stimulate the muscle fibers to contract.

When you use an electric muscle stimulator, the signal is sent directly to the motor neurons using brain-like electrical pulses. In fact, muscles cannot tell the difference between a contraction triggered by the brain and one caused by a NMES device. The difference is that with a NMES device, you bathe the entire length of the motor neurons. The result is a more thorough and complete muscular contraction. There is also less impact on bones and joints since the stimulation is coming from the device and not from an activity such as weight lifting.

 

Q: Are there any side effects when using a NMES device?

A: Side effects are limited; Compex is a very safe device. However, if you are looking to build strength and start off with too high of a setting, you can experience soreness, the same way you would if you work out too hard at the gym. There has also been reports of skin irritation from the pads.

It should also be noted that improper use of a muscle stimulation unit can easily lead to skin burns, according to research published in “The Journal of Arthroplasty” in 2005. Dr. Daryl Lawson states that if a strong electrical current is delivered through a small electrode, the skin is exposed to a higher concentration of electricity per unit of area, which can cause burns. Again, start off slow and figure out what levels are best for you and that you’re most comfortable with.

 

Q: What about other NMES devices that claim they can help you lose weight? Some claim to give you six-pack abs!

A: While a NMES device may be able to strengthen, tone or firm a muscle, no NMES devices have been cleared at this time specifically for weight loss, girth reduction, or “six pack abs”. Both the FDA and FTC have cracked down on companies making false claims about their NMES products.

Using these devices alone will not give you “six-pack” abs. Stimulating muscles repeatedly with electricity will result in muscles that are strengthened and toned to some extent but will not, based on currently available data, create a major change in your appearance without the addition of diet and regular exercise.

However, in a study of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, there was a marked increase in their caloric output from using Compex. Because of their condition, regular exercise was not an option. While Compex does not entirely replace exercise, for patients who cannot engage in more strenuous activity, Compex can be used to strengthen muscle, increase definition and muscle size, and increase caloric output.

 

Q: Does using a NMES device give you an unfair advantage?

A: Not anymore than having a dedicated training and recovery program does. While the use of Compex has been proven to increase performance, it does so by increasing muscle actions that the body already performs during a workout. The difference is that they are much more targeted and allow for more muscle contraction of specific muscle groups and muscle fiber types. The body can’t tell if the signals for a contraction are from the brain or Compex. Compex stimulates the entire nerve vs. just part of it.

 

Q: Are there any sports currently banning / restricting their use?

A: At this time, the use of NMES devices has not been banned or restricted.

 

Q: Is the use of a NMES device a “quick fix? How soon will I see results?

A: Depends on your definition of “quick fix”. While the effects of recovery are felt instantly, using Compex to build muscle doesn’t happen instantly.

If you are using Compex for building strength, expect to start to feel and see results in 2-3 weeks. If you are looking to use Compex to increase the amount of enzymes needed to deliver energy for contracting muscle, it will take about 6 weeks. If you are using Compex to increase tone, you should see results in about 3-4 weeks.

 

Q: What if you only use NMES without exercising?

A: Even without exercise, NMES devices will strengthen your muscles. However, you will not receive the added benefits of an exercise program such as cardiovascular health. It is recommended that a NMES device be included as part of your overall health or fitness plan.

 

Q: Are there any side effects when using a NMES device?

A: Side effects are limited; Compex is a very safe device. However, if you are looking to build strength and start off with too high of a setting, you can experience soreness, the same way you would if you work out too hard at the gym. There has also been reports of skin irritation from the pads.

It should also be noted that improper use of a muscle stimulation unit can easily lead to skin burns, according to research published in “The Journal of Arthroplasty” in 2005. Dr. Daryl Lawson states that if a strong electrical current is delivered through a small electrode, the skin is exposed to a higher concentration of electricity per unit of area, which can cause burns. Again, start off slow and figure out what levels are best for you and that you’re most comfortable with.

 

Q: What parts of the body is NMES most effective on? Is there anywhere on the body where I shouldn’t use an NMES?

A: NMES units can be used on almost all parts of the body. However, stimulation should not be applied on the neck. A severe spasm of the muscles may occur and the contractions may be strong enough to close the airway or cause difficulty in breathing. In addition, stimulation on the neck could also have adverse effects on the heart rhythm or blood pressure.

The effects of stimulation of the brain are unknown. Therefore, stimulation should not be applied across the head and electrodes should not be placed on opposite sides of the head.

Electrodes used for electrical stimulation should not be applied across the chest because the introduction of electrical current into the chest may cause rhythm disturbances to the heart.

While we are discussing the chest, you should use caution when using a NMES if you have an implanted pacemaker. Implanted pacemakers and heart defibrillators can mistake EMI from the electrical muscle stimulator for a physiological signal coming from the body itself. This causes the devices to respond to the signal — pacemakers do so by changing their rate, and implanted defibrillators may deliver an unnecessary shock.

In addition, do not use Compex if you have the following medical conditions:

  • Epilepsy
  • Following acute trauma or fracture
  • Following recent surgical procedures
  • Critical ischemia of lower limbs
  • Abdominal or inguinal hernia
  • Cancerous lesions

 

Q: What sports tend to be benefit the most from NMES? Is it just for athletes?

A:  NMES units are for anyone looking to build strength, increase performance, or recover faster. You do not have to be an athlete; NMES units are recommended for anyone looking to achieve their fitness goals.

Compex is recommended for anyone participating in a sport that requires strength like lifting, endurance like triathlons, or anyone in a competitive sports league that needs to speed up recovery time between games or matches.

 

Q: Is there a particular age group that benefits the most from NMES?

A:  Compex has been used for children as young as 10 years old; however not without adult supervision. Compex can be used by young people for recovery but also to build strength. In some ways, it is safer than the weight room because there is no pressure placed on growth plates, bones or joints.

 

Q: Are NMES systems are really expensive?

A: No. Depending on which model you choose, they are relatively affordable. Compex models start at $399.99 USD.

 

Q: Can you use a NMES device everyday?

A: Yes, but remember with any training program, recovery is an important part of the process. Luckily Compex can be used for both training and recovery depending on setting.

 

Q: What is the difference between Compex Muscle Stimulators and ones used for medical purposes like muscle re education, physical therapy or to prevent venous thrombosis?

A: There are a lot of different types of electrical stimulators that stimulate nerves. Physical therapists often use one called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS. TENS units use a different kind of wave / frequency that stimulates sensory nerves instead of motor nerves like Compex. TENS units work with sensory nerves to block pain. When using a TENS device, you’ll feel a buzzing but no contraction of the muscle.

Compex is a NMES: Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulator. Compex works on a “all or nothing” principle. Once the motor neuron fires, the muscle fibers that it innervates will contract. The nerve cell and the muscle fibers it innervates is called a motor unit. One nerve cell will innervate anywhere from 10 to 1000 muscle fibers depending on the muscle fiber types, e.g. slow twitch vs. fast twitch. Either all of the motor unit fires, or none of it does. The strength of a contraction is determined by how many motor units fire synchronously.

When the pulse is sent, you will feel a twitch, a variety of twitches or very short contractions when running warm up or recovery programs. This type of response is common in the MarcPro unit, which is for recovery only. Compex not only delivers the recovery twitches, but also delivers twitches to warm the muscle up before an activity. On top of that, Compex has as many as four programs that contract the muscle for seconds at a time; enough so that when repeated throughout the length of a program, increased strength is developed after 10 sessions.

When you compare Compex with other similar products, the technology is the same, but the range of frequencies is different. Compex has 4 circuits. What that means is that four different muscle groups can be stimulated at the same time. A lot of muscle can be covered each time a program is run.

The muscle is the conduit for the current. At the proper frequency and pulse duration, it will stimulate motor nerves and only motor nerves. The Compex can be very powerful – more powerful than other popular NMES devices. It has the ability to penetrate deeply to contract more muscle than can be achieved with a maximum voluntary contraction. When the current penetrates more deeply, you stimulate more motor nerves and more muscle fibers. However, you choose the degree to which the muscle contracts. The stimulation levels are finely graded so you can select the exact level of current you want based on your comfort level.

Compex delivers a biphasic square wave of electricity. What that means is instead of a gradual build up, the current comes almost instantly so the nerve does not accommodate or hesitate. It sounds like it would be more painful this way however, this type of wave is actually more comfortable. Without the hesitation, the nerve and muscle fibers are stimulated at a lower level of energy.

 

Do you have more questions about Compex or electric muscle stimulators in general? Please ask away in the comments!

 

Sources:

http://www.shopcompex.com/training/warnings

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20437&page=2

http://www.medword.com/MedwordStore/PCP/EMS_truth.html

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/ucm142478.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/37127-electrical-muscle-stimulation-work/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/153338-muscle-stimulation-dangers/

http://www.activeforever.com/electronic-muscle-stimulators

http://www.acefitness.org/pressroom/256/electrical-muscle-stimulation-ems-claims-exposed/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_muscle_stimulation