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What Exactly is Electric Muscle Stimulation Therapy?

Many Physicians and Chiropractors have begun utilizing the beneficial properties of the TENS machine and EMS machine for medical treatments. EMS stands for Electric Muscle Stimulation and its main purpose is to strengthen muscles through repeated contractions. When a muscle is used, it contracts, but only 30-40% of the fibers are actually engaged. The remaining fibers are in reserve in the event of muscle fatigue during which case they become engaged fully. EMS bypasses this with direct electric impulses causing the entirety of the muscle fibers to be active. A trained professional will know exactly where to place the adhesive pads (electrodes) for focused contractions most beneficial for the affected area. TENS machines work on a similar principle, but are more focused on opening nerve pathways for pain relief. Increased flow from one area of the body to another can help lessen the perception of pain due to the brain receiving more accurate signals.

The primary uses for these devices, over the last 50 years, have been to strengthen muscles in athletes to increase response, memory and performance. Only recently, the medical field realized that this same technique can be applied to patients with weakened muscles, damaged muscles and muscle atrophy. EMS can not only improve the strength of these muscles, but also reduce the time it takes for the brain to communicate with regions of the body. Generally, it takes nearly 10,000 iterations of a movement before the body learns how best to use a set of muscles for a certain task. Electric Muscle Stimulation can potentially accelerate this process allowing physical therapists to aid their patients in recovering more quickly. Muscle memory can now be formed in far less sessions of treatment than previously. The other applications for this device include patients who have had a stroke, severe injury, major surgery, constant muscle spasms or even decreased range of motion.

There are also many unsupported claims regarding use of these devices alone for faster weight loss, girth reduction and muscle gains. It can be used as a supplemental tool with a normal exercise routine to accelerate the process, but alone it will not achieve the results that many commercials claim.  Though FDA approved, without an experienced professional administering the technique, there is potential for pain, discomfort and burns from misuse.  It is also unwise to employ this device if the patient has existing electronic medical devices they use such as a pacemaker. If you are looking to reduce pain in a muscle group, strengthen muscles or increase range of motion, Electric Muscle Stimulation treatments may be a great avenue to pursue. Contact your doctor or Chiropractor and ask about using an EMS machine for your next session.