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What are the Different Types of Muscle Therapy?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The different types of muscle therapy include electronic muscle stimulation, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator, physical therapy, and massage therapy. Muscle therapy is used as a muscle treatment to combat muscle pain and help with pain management. Often muscle therapy is required when an injury has occurred and is typically used to help prevent more serious treatment such as surgery.

Electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) is a type of muscle therapy that involves sending an electrical impulse directly to the affected muscle to make it contract. The EMS device has electrodes that can be attached to the patient's skin via a small patch. When the device is turned on, the patient receives a small electrical impulse and the muscle will move similar to its natural movement and strengthens the muscle. EMS is most often used in patients who have suffered an injury which requires rehabilitation but is also used by some athletes for training purposes.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) is another type of muscle therapy that uses electrical stimulation. TENS works by sending an electrical pulse through the nerves of the central nervous system, which activates receptors. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is used specifically for pain management and is not used to strengthen muscles but instead helps to ease contracted muscles. Typically TENS is used in patients who suffer from osteoarthritis or severe musculoskeletal pain.

Physical therapy is used as a form of muscle therapy in patients suffering from either neurological or orthopedic conditions. A physical therapist will work with the patient by manually moving the legs, arms or spine so the person can increase strength and mobility. Often the physical therapy involves manipulating the muscles by having the patient grasp hand balls or work with balance balls to regain mobility.

Massage therapy is a type of muscle therapy used for chronic pain management most often associated with repetitious activities. Some examples include the muscles in the neck that get stiff due to performing desk duties several hours per day or a sore back due to heavy lifting. Massage therapists reduce the pain by massaging the affected muscles. Therapists are trained on how much pressure to apply and how firmly to massage the muscles to loosen muscle constriction and provide pain relief. By receiving regular muscle therapy through massage, patients may be able to avoid having to taking regular pain medication and may also improve their ability to perform their daily jobs.

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Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Mar 01, 2012

@cloudel – I'm sure that physical therapy will be his doctor's first recommendation. When my dad injured his rotator cuff, he had to have his arm in a sling for six weeks, but immediately after that, he began sessions with a physical therapist.

The therapist started out slowly, only moving my dad's arms gently in repetitive motions. He showed him some exercises to do at home, and my dad had to do them every day.

As he began to recover more, the therapist increased the resistance. He gave my dad a giant rubber band to use for his home workouts, and he remained dedicated to the program. Today, he is fully recovered and has full use of his arm and shoulder.

By cloudel — On Feb 29, 2012

What is the usual therapy for someone who has had a broken arm? My brother has had his in a cast for weeks, and though he can't do anything with it right now, I know he is going to need some type of muscle therapy once the cast comes off.

The thought of electronic stimulation frightens him. He says it would make him feel like a lab rat in some sort of experiment, being tortured with electrical shocks. I'm sure it's nothing like this, but he has his mind dead set against it.

I'm hoping that physical therapy will be enough for him. I think it would be far less traumatic.

By OeKc05 — On Feb 29, 2012

@StarJo – I'm sure that helps, but there is nothing that can compare to a professional massage. My sister got me a gift certificate to a spa for a half-hour massage, and I have been hooked ever since.

I do a lot of lifting at my job. I work in a garden center, and I have to lug around heavy potted plants and bags of fertilizer all day. I'm usually pretty sore by quitting time.

It does get expensive when you do it all the time, but I still manage to go in for an appointment every two weeks. Some people prefer to spend their money on eating out or entertainment. I would rather save mine up for a massage twice a month.

By StarJo — On Feb 29, 2012

I can't afford muscle pain therapy, so I do a few things at home to help ease my stiff neck and shoulders. After a long day at my computer, my neck and back really ache, but I don't have money to spend on a massage therapist.

So, I use my own hands to deeply massage my muscles. I do this for about ten minutes on each area, and it helps my muscles relax a bit.

Then, I heat up my homemade heating pad. It is simply a towel filled with rice and sewn shut all the way around. Since it is full of rice, it is very flexible, and it can curve to fit wherever it needs to go.

I put it in the microwave until it is very warm. Then, I lay it across my shoulders and let them absorb the soothing heat. This always loosens up my stiff muscles.

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