What is Muscle Recovery Important?
As you engage in physical activity, training, or working out, your muscles become strained and/or broken down becoming gradually weaker. It’s during the post-exercise recovery period when the body heals itself. Strength and conditioning gains are made during this critical time.
If you don’t completely recover before your next training session or competition, you won’t gain the full benefits of your last workout.
Additionally, your muscles will not be ready to perform at the expected level to get maximum results.
You may have noticed some combat athletes stand in between rounds of fighting, or have their legs massaged. They do this to improve blood flow, and theoretically, electrical stimulation works in the same way. Some of your capillaries, which are the blood vessels between arteries and veins, are so small that blood cells have to travel through single-file. When you exercise the muscle tissues start to swell, and when this happens, blood flow to these tiny blood vessels can be cut off.
These effects on blood flow can reduce both acute recovery and between-workout recovery. Metabolic waste products can back up in the muscles and valuable nutrients can’t get in. Besides simply waiting it out, athletes can alleviate these issues in a few ways. Treatments that reduce inflammation, like ice baths and other cold temperature treatments, might help, as can the use of mechanical action.
Mechanical action treatment assists the heart in getting blood through trouble areas. The aforementioned standing in between rounds allows the muscles themselves to help, whereas massage uses an outside force to move blood through. Myofascial release is another common mechanical action treatment. Electrical stimulation would function like a combination of external and internal mechanical action.
Electrical stimulation devices (ESD) have been used for decades in physical therapy clinics and hospitals. Mostly used to reduce chronic pain and to train strength, physical therapists relied on them for years.
Its effectiveness is widely studied and although ESD’s have been shown effective in reducing chronic pain, the effect was not long lasting. This caused patients to visit the therapist very often, with the introduction of portable devices many patients suffering from chronic pain bought a ESD to use at home. With this the ESD’s used to alleviate chronic pain (mostly TENS) slowly disappeared from the clinics. ESD’s for muscle strengthening are still used in clinics and hospitals when patients are unable to exercise.
But ESD’s have made quite a comeback since recent years, and are now being marketed to promote recovery after training and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Maybe it’s time to add a new tool to your recovery kit.
Chiropractors and professional athletes have long used electrical stimulation of both muscles and nerves to alleviate pain and speed recovery. Electrical muscle stimulators send low electrical signals to activate different muscle groups to help aid circulation; they’re often used as an alternative or complement to massage and have become popular recovery products. Nerve stimulators work on a higher frequency to help “reset” neurons that might be causing painful spasms; they target specific soreness and are often used in medical pain relief therapy.