Active integral electrostimulation: side effects
Innovative and revolutionary techniques, such as active integral electrostimulation, or electrofitness, might trigger different reactions. There is a group of professionals who see it as a danger because it can be used by people without proper education or specific qualifications, while the vast majority of the population accepts its benefits without hesitation. The latter are sometimes a bit exaggerated (miracles don’t exist), but in a general way, the effectiveness and safety of electrofitness is already proven.
Despite being a practically harmless treatment, there may be cases of side effects after training, such as the following:
1- In general, during 24 – 72 hours after training you might experience muscular fatigue, stiffness or tightness in certain muscles.
2- Some people with sensitive skin might experience skin irritation under the electrodes after a stimulation session. In general, this rash is healthy and disappears after 10 or 20 minutes after the training session.
3- There are rare cases of particularly emotional people who can develop a vagal reaction. Such reaction has a psychological origin and is related to the fear of electrostimulation, as well as the surprise of seeing one of your muscles contract without the control of the will. The vagal reaction results in a feeling of weakness and hypotension (lipothymia), a decreased heart rate and low blood pressure. If this is the case, you need to stop the training and lie down with your legs up for a time period necessary for the feeling of weakness to disappear (from 5 to 10 minutes). This reaction can also be related to errors in the breathing process or not being used to physical exercise.
Obviously, you must follow a series of safety guidelines that are based on recommendations to consider before performing training, such as:
- Ensure your body is hydrated.
- Don’t eat right before a training session.
- Perform a physical fitness test before starting the sporting activity, if you don’t have enough experience.
- Do warm-up exercises before the training.
Another important thing is that a professional in charge of the active integral electrostimulation training must at all times ensure the safety of the user, taking into account that if necessary, they should interrupt the training if symptoms such as respiratory distress, dizziness, strong muscular pains or discomfort of any kind appear.
Many opponents of electrostimulation base their opinions on the effects published in studies that were carried out on bodies in a passive state, as for example the research by Maffiuletti and collaborators in 2005, where it was observed that after a training session with passive electrostimulation of the triceps surae (calf muscle, the gastrocnemius and the soleus), the maximal voluntary contraction of the muscle was slightly decreased. Or the study by Jubeau and Maffiuletti in 2007, where alterations of activation in the nervous system were observed. And finally, the experiments carried out on rats, where a decrease in voluntary contraction was noted.
Keep in mind that the defence mechanisms of the body are activated when it is in a situation of potential danger of muscle or joint injury. During an active electrostimulation training session, the muscles and the joints are safe, but those mechanisms are not cancelled, since the action of muscle contraction, in addition to the impulse of the current, is also performed through the central nervous system, thanks to repetitive voluntary movements.
Electrofitness: basic principles
There are basic principles that govern physical exercise, such as the “Principle of the size”. This principle consists in a certain order of motor units employment in a submaximal isometric contraction, where the fibres of smaller size (type I fibres or slow fibres) are activated first, and later, when it is necessary to make more effort, larger fibres are activated (type II fibres or fast fibres).
To ensure the effectiveness of an electrostimulation training session, several basic principles are always taken into account:
- Principle of effective stimulus:
While performing an electrofitness training session, the stimulation program offered must be personalized according to the characteristics of the user and apply appropriate intensity. The amount of stimuli required depends on the level of fitness of the user.
- Principle of workout increase:
The physiological adaptation produced by the effect of training is of great importance. A progressive increase of the workout intensity will produce surprising results.
- Principle of workout variation:
The stalemate of physical activity can be prevented by varying the workout. This can be achieved by selecting different programs, subjecting the user to periodic changes in training programs.
- Principle of workout change:
It can be done by modifying the selection of training exercises. Thus, an inexperienced user can start with isometric exercises and progress to dynamic exercises, preventing the stagnation of the physical condition caused by the monotony and repetitiveness of the stimulus.
- Principle of the optimal proportion between stress and recovery:
Any user must take an adequate amount of recovery time. At the beginning, the ideal training frequency is 1 or 2 times per week.
In the long term, side effects, risks or complications have never been observed, taking into account that electrostimulation, and electrotherapy in general, have existed for many years.
In conclusion, correctly supervised active integral electrostimulation training won’t be in any way harmful for the neuromotor system, without risks for the joints and practically without the side effects of electrostimulation training.