Every once in a while, someone comes up with a brainwave to make money and uses as a tool. You may have heard of “magic” stones that are able to absorb cosmic energy and when worn as a necklace, they can transfer this cosmic energy to your body.  There is some other particular sleep pillow that claims to help you sleep better. The list is endless. There are also electronic devices whose makers or inventors make extra ordinary claims based on facts or demi-facts. Is the electronic muscle stimulator one such device or does it really work as sellers claim?

What is an electronic muscle stimulator?

The electronic muscle stimulator or the neuromuscular electrical stimulation system is an electronic device which generates electric waves in the frequency range of 1 to 130 Mega Hertz and voltage of about 3 V or less. This high frequency, low voltage, is delivered to muscles through electrodes which come in contact with the skin. An alternative electronic design may use a simple Integrated Circuit to generate waves at a lower frequency of about 40 KHz or less that are fed to a piezo electric or ceramic transducer put in close contact with the skin. Its main use is therapeutic but sellers also make claims that it helps in muscle building and also can be used as a cosmetic tool.


These electronic devices are used for:

  • Prevention of muscle atrophy that can happen when patients are bedridden due to injuries or illness;
  • Calorie burning, rock hard abs, toning and firming up of muscles; and,
  • I Improve muscle strength and stamina.

How it works

A user attaches the EMS electrodes to the skin using suction pads or belts. When switched on, the device generates high frequency pulses that stimulate muscles in the area being treated by the electrodes. The scientific principle behind this is that, voluntary contraction of muscles only results in a wave like motion and only the red fiber muscles are used in voluntary contraction. The high frequency voltage from the EMS causes higher and involuntary contraction of all muscle fibers, including white fibers. Voluntary contraction only activates fibers in sets or in relays while some muscle fibers are not activated at all. This device simultaneously activates all fibers. Further, voluntary contraction only activates red fibers whereas EMS stimulation activates white fiber first.

Claims for sports training

Manufacturers sell these devices to athletes and body builders as well. It is claimed that twenty five treatments delivered over a month or two months result in strength gain, increase in muscle mass, fat burning, toning up of red and white fiber muscles and greater strength as well as endurance. It is claimed that athletes can improve stamina and speed, with the use of electronic muscle stimulator. Voluntary contractions only result in a few repetitions. The high frequency waves generated by the EMS unit makes the muscles contract and expand thousands of times, bypassing the brain’s circuitry.

Therapeutic use

Perhaps this is the original purpose claimed by the manufacturers of making the machine. Trials have shown that use of EMS does help reduce pain and spasms. EMS has a host of therapeutic benefits:

  • It helps bedridden patients by keeping muscles toned to some extent and thereby preventing atrophy.
  • It also relieves stiffness in joints, back areas as well as legs when a patient or a bedridden ill person has to remain in that position for long period of time.
  • EMS also helps improve blood circulation for such bedridden patients.
  • It can help reduce inflammation.

Therapeutic use may be combined with a TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulator) device for greater relief.

Whether for sports purpose, to keep fit or for therapeutic use, it is better to buy FDA approved and certified EMS devices.


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