Posted by Barry Greenleaf on 8/2/2011
We have come a long way from the sponge and carbon electrode era. There are many different types of electrodes available today. You have a variety of shapes and sizes to select from, so what make's one electrode better than another? There are three aspects of the electrode that determine the integrity of the current being delivered, and the longevity of the electrode. The first one is the backing of the electrode. Most electrodes come with either a foam or cloth back. The foam backed version should be considered if the electrode is exposed to heat to help maintain the integrity of the electrode gel. Cloth back electrodes are more flexible, and therefore are a good choice for difficult applications. The second is the median for dispersing the current. The two main conductors are carbon and silver. While silver, or versions of it, offer promises of greater current distribution, the carbon electrode still dominates the market due to its value. The third aspect of an electrode, and arguably the most important is the gel. The gel is where many manufactures tinker with to save money. The quality, and quantity, of the gel is most likely the cause of stimulation discomfort, irritation, and wasted money. Surprising the cost of quality electrodes can be found for the same price as the lower quality electrodes. You just have to know what and where to look, and the internet has not made that job any easier. There are plenty of "cheap" electrodes out there, but if you look hard enough there are quality electrodes that are inexpensive.
Did you know there is a wrong way to reapply the electrode back on the plastic liner for storage? One side is treated so the electrode is easier to remove. If you look at the liner it will be marked with a word or phrase letting you know which is the correct side to apply the electrode to.
No doubt electrodes are much easier to find and use than in years past. The safe bet is to go with one of the top producers of gels when determining which electrode to use. Axelgaard and Covidien are the top two trusted names when it comes to quality electrode gels. Most likely if you are using a quality electrode the gel is made by one of these two companies. For example the Richmar electrode gel is manufactured by Axelgaard.
So what ever electrode you decide to use, make sure it is the best backing, conductor, and gel for your situation. Peel, stick, and stimulate!