Muscle Stimulation & Ankle Injuries

By CaraL

Nearly everyone has experienced the sharp pain of a twisted ankle, the result of an awkward stumble over an unseen object or a bad landing out on the playing field. Traditional treatment for ankle injuries includes icing, mobility exercises, and elevation, but when the pain lingers and the swelling stubbornly refuses to go down, more drastic measures may need to be taken. Relief for chronic pain stemming from an ankle injury can be found in the tingle of electrical muscle stimulation, better known as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation).


TENS, according to, is a method of providing pain relief through the application of electrical current to an affected area (see Reference 1). For an ankle sprain, a number of small electrodes are placed on the injured ankle, where a specific frequency of electrical current is administered. The electrical stimulation of "mechanorepectors" within the muscle overrides the impulses emitted from irritated pain nerves, resulting in what is known as the "pain gate mechanism" and providing relief. TENS machines have three main variable settings that will depend on the type and severity of injury; these include frequency, intensity, and pulse width (see Reference 1).


There is evidence of electrical muscle stimulation being used in ancient times. Present-day TENS, however, is a relatively new medical venture. According to Verity Medical Co., TENS was contrived by the notion of gate control theory researched by Melzack and Wall in the 1960s (see Reference 2).

Benefits states that, "It is thought that TENS can provide pain relief in the region of almost 70% of cases suffering from an acute injury" (see Reference 1). With few side effects, easy availability and such a high success rate, the benefits of electrical muscle stimulation are obvious. Where other and potentially more harmful treatment plans have failed, TENS, when used correctly, offers relief without the pain and worry of further damage. Pain should be minimal; a tingling sensation can be expected as electrical currents are administered to the muscle, but discomfort should not be an issue.


As always when engaging in a home treatment system, a health professional should be consulted. TENS should not be used if the potential patient has a pacemaker, circulatory problems or skin conditions, is epileptic or pregnant or is a child (see Reference 1). A doctor can correctly guide you in the positioning of electrodes in order to ensure the most effective placement for treatment and can also advise you on the frequency, intensity, and pulse width settings to ensure maximum relief.


TENS machines can be purchased from various retail specialists, such as or from BioMedical Life Systems for anywhere from $30 to several thousand dollars. Different models with multiple variations will need to be researched in order to best ascertain the right choice for the type and severity of the injury; this can be done by consulting a professional.


About the Author

CaraL is a student at the University of Louisville entering her last year, with a major in English. She has been a "closet" writer most of her life, and has been part of the publications of Western Kentucky University's English recruitment materials . She plans on going on to get her master's degree, and hopes to become a writer for an outdoor/sports magazine.

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