Electronic muscle stimulation (E-Stim) is a technique used by health professionals to force muscles to contract. The idea behind this technique is that the contraction and release of the muscle will exercise the muscle and eventually cause it to relax to a point that it will help relieve the pain in a specific area of the body. Foot pain is a common pain that can be caused by a variety of things, and electronic stimulation is a common way physical therapists and doctors alike treat the pain.
About Electronic Stimulation
Electronic muscle stimulation is a therapeutic technique often used by doctors and physical therapists, as well as others in the rehabilitation field. An electronic pulse is generated through the body, causing the muscle to contract. The pulse is directed through electrodes hooked to wires placed on the body near the muscle that is affected. By placing the electrodes on each side of an affected muscle, the pulse will course through the muscle, forcing a contraction. The repeated contraction and release of the muscle results in muscle adaptation, which will cause different muscle fibers to contract at certain times depending on what type of fiber they are (fast or slow twitch). E-Stim is also used to help build up the muscles' endurance. The repeated contract/release of the muscle will help it resist fatigue, so when used on its own, the muscle will be able to endure more training.
Background on Foot Pain
Foot pain is extremely common. There are many types of foot pain, including bone spurs, arthritis, hammer toes, club toes, tarsal fracture, heel spurs, pronation (and supination), ingrown toenails and plantar fasciitis. Bone spurs and arthritis usually take place more in the joints of the foot, while hammer toes, tarsal fractures and heel spurs take place in the bone. Pronation (flat foot) and supination (high arch) are structural problems within the foot that can lead to pain over time from not being able to walk properly. This can be corrected easily with corrective footwear or shoe inserts. Plantar fasciitis is a tightening of the muscles along the sole of the foot that cause the foot to cramp up and can sometimes make walking painful.
How E-Stim is Used to Relieve Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the fascia found on the bottom (plantar) side of the foot. This can lead to pain within the muscles that attach to this fascia as well. Plantar fasciitis is usually caused from over-pronation of the foot while walking, so excessive walking will tend to exacerbate the problem. In some cases, walking without proper arch support will lead to the plantar fasciitis, and in turn, may cause heel spurs to form. The heel spurs can cause more foot pain than the fasciitis alone.
E-Stim is used to help relieve plantar fasciitis by first placing a medicinal patch on the sole of the foot, and then placing the electrodes on each end of the medicinal patch and running a current through the foot. The electric current causes the muscles to contract and release, which helps strengthen the foot and relieve the pain. Putting the electrodes over the medicated patch help to push the medicine into the body more quickly, since E-Stim increases blood flow to the affected area and therefore speeds up the metabolism and ability to absorb medicines.
Portable E-Stim Units
Patients with chronic pain can ask their doctors for a portable E-Stim unit they can use at home. While it may be costly, most health insurance will cover at least a portion of the E-Stim unit, and it may save money in the long run since the patient will not have to take trips to the doctor or physical therapist to get treatment. The E-Stim units can fit into a pocket and be attached at anyplace, anytime. The patient must be trained by the doctor or physical therapist on how to use the unit properly and should not use it to treat any other part of her body or anyone else's body except for exactly how the health care professional tells her to use it.
The ReBuilder is a fairly new portable E-Stim system that is used to promote blood flow and muscle strengthening by running a current through a more generalized area of the body. This can be used to target the feet, however, as the electrode-filled socks run a current through one foot, up the leg, down the opposite leg, and through the opposite foot. The treatment lasts 30 minutes and is said to relieve nearly all the pain during the course of treatment.
Benefits of E-Stim of the Foot
Electronic Muscle Stimulation of the foot can be beneficial. It helps to relax the muscles of the foot, which will stretch the plantar fascia, helping to alleviate the fasciitis. It will also work to strengthen the muscles of the foot, so they will be able to endure more work in terms of walking, running or standing. E-Stim helps promote blood flow to the injured area, which helps repair the muscle and promotes muscle growth and development.