If you’re looking for ways to optimize your sporting performance, you may have heard about electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), or been encouraged to buy an EMS device.
EMS essentially stimulates the nerves and induces muscle contractions, mimicking the way your muscles contract during a workout.
Unlike TENS which is primarily used for pain management, an EMS device is used as a performance enhancing tool by athletes at all levels.
However there are many other lesser known advantages…
We’ve taken a look at all the research and discovered 28 powerful benefits of electrical muscle stimulation that might just persuade you to try it for yourself:
2: Accelerates Recovery from Injury
If you’re suffering with pain from an injury, you need a TENS unit. However if you want to speed up your recovery, EMS can help!
To understand how the treatment could help athletes recover from injury, 14 men were invited to take part in a trial.
Each respondent had to carry out repetitive elbow movements followed by an EMS session.
A significant reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness was observed, as well as improved range of motion.
Incredibly, electrical muscle stimulation has been shown to speed up recovery from a nerve injury.
A small scale study demonstrated how the nerve cells that would naturally regenerate, actually regenerated faster following EMS treatment.
3: Improves Sporting Performance
Massage guns, like the popular Theragun, are well-known tools for improving sporting performance, but did you know EMS can help too?
Exciting findings in 2012 demonstrated just how powerful it can be for athletes.
Conclusions, based on 89 separate studies, found that EMS enhanced physical performance.
Significant improvements were seen in speed, force, strength and power of the trained and elite athletes studied.
In fact, following just three to six weeks of stimulation, vertical jump height was improved by up to 25%!
Take a look at the video below, to see the workout tool in action:
There are 10 different EMS programs to choose from, plus TENS options for pain relief.
4: Offers Relief from Cramps
Spontaneous cramps can be seriously painful.
Calf cramps in particular were the focus of a 2018 project, which took 19 individuals who experienced cramping at least once a week.
Over the course of six weeks they used electrical muscle stimulation regularly on their legs, with fascinating results.
The number of cramps experienced was 78% lower than before the treatment, with the severity of their cramps also significantly reduced.
5: Retrains Muscles
There is a small amount of evidence to suggest that EMS is capable of retraining muscles following an injury.
Encouraging results from a project in Brazil, found some evidence that the therapy can increase voluntary function in partially paralyzed muscles.
6: Enhances Range of Motion
Research looking at 940 stroke patients, found that EMS was effective in improving range of motion.
29 clinical trials focusing on spasticity of the muscles following a stroke, were reviewed.
Electric muscle stimulation was applied on various areas of the body, with overwhelmingly positive results.
The findings led professionals to recommend the therapy as part of the care plan offered following a stroke.
7: Improves Cosmetic Muscle Tone
By causing the muscles to contract, EMS therapy helps to improve cosmetic muscle tone, giving you that all-important sculpted look.
Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, focused on facial muscle toning in particular.
They took a sample of 108 female participants and gave them an EMS facial device to use for 12 weeks.
80% of respondents reported improved firmness, tone and lift after the trial, with a quantifiable increase in muscle thickness.
8: Increases Aerobic Capacity
Fifteen healthy adults leading sedentary lifestyles took part in a study to evaluate how EMS could help to increase aerobic capacity.
Electrical muscle stimulation was chosen as a therapy, as it triggers a cardiovascular exercise response without putting too much pressure on the body.
After 29 EMS sessions, results showed respondents on a six minute treadmill walk could move faster and, on average, go 15 meters further than before!
9: Helps with Weight Management
Energy expenditure is so important when it comes to weight loss.
If you’re trying to shed some pounds then it’s responsible for between 60% and 75% of the calories we burn each day.
Published research in 2011 found that electrical muscle stimulation increases energy expenditure, with the percentage increase dependent on the intensity.
Further findings have also shown how EMS can help to reduce abdominal obesity in young women.
Researchers were keen to highlight that the treatment alone won’t lead to significant weight loss, but that it does have value as an additional intervention for weight loss programs.
10: Promotes Tissue Healing
A study in Sweden sought to understand how EMS could help to heal muscle tissue.
To make their initial investigations, EMS was used on 24 white New Zealand rabbits.
Scientists were fascinated to find that it regenerated muscle fibers across the test subjects.
It was concluded further investigation was needed to see whether the finding could be applied to humans.
11: Preserves Muscle Mass
For critically ill patients, preserving muscle mass can be extremely difficult while incapacitated, but essential to recovery.
Researchers in Greece worked with 26 critically ill people in intensive care, who received daily EMS treatments on their lower body.
Muscle mass decreased significantly less than previously observed. This has led professionals to recommend EMS as part of the rehabilitation program in intensive care units.
12: Stops Pressure Sores
An article published in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, demonstrates how EMS can prevent pressure sores.
By causing the muscles to contract, it improves blood flow in affected areas and builds muscle mass. These two actions combined can help to stop a pressure sore from forming.
It’s worth mentioning that the sample used in the research was small so further studies were recommended.
13: Prevents the Formation of Blood Clots
Another amazing benefit of electrical muscle stimulation is how it can help to prevent blood clots.
The electrical pulses increase circulation and improve blood flow, reducing the chance of clotting.
In fact, EMS is now an FDA-approved thromboprophylactic method.
14: Reduces Fluid Build-Up
With lifestyles becoming increasingly sedentary, fluid build up can be a problem for many people.
EMS has been shown to be effective in reducing fluid build up for those sitting for long periods of time.
By sending the small stimulation signals, your leg muscles are activated in a similar way to how they come alive when you’re moving around!
15: Improves Outcomes for Heart Failure Patients
It took just eight weeks for researchers in the UK to determine that EMS had a positive impact on outcomes for heart failure patients.
During the project 35 people with chronic heart failure were tested:
A number of markers that dictate the prognosis for heart failure patients improved over the course of the study.
It has led researchers to call for a larger trial, to fully understand the exact benefits it provides.
IMPORTANT! Manufacturers clearly state that you shouldn’t use an electrical muscle stimulator if you have an implanted device, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator. That’s because the electrical impulses could disturb the functioning of the technology.
16: Benefits for an Overactive Bladder
There have been promising results for experts looking for ways to help those living with an overactive bladder.
A major review Cochrane Incontinence Group, compared it to other treatment options, and found it to be more effective than pelvic floor muscle training and drug therapy.
17: Reduces Snoring
If you sleep next to one of the 90 million Americans that snore (or perhaps you’re the culprit!) electrical muscle stimulation could be the answer to your problems.
After just two weeks of intraoral electrical muscle stimulation, incredible results were recorded.
Patients’ snoring scores, determined by their tired bed partner, decreased by an average of 68%.
18: Supports People with Osteoarthritis
A systematic review of seven studies in to EMS and osteoarthritis of the knee, had a positive outcome.
Six of the seven studies reviewed showed improvements in a number of different factors including range of movement, circumference and duration of morning stiffness.
Though sample sizes were small, the results were certainly exciting for people looking for relief from the pain of arthritis.
19: Improves Tremors for Parkinson’s Disease Patients
When EMS is applied to the hand using a glove attachment, research showed it was effective in treating tremors.
This was an exciting development in the search for treatment options for those living with Parkinson’s disease.
20: Requires No Exertion
Electrical muscle stimulation is a good way to work your muscles when you’re unable to take part in any form of exercise.
Many studies have highlighted how it can be beneficial for critically ill patients, helping to preserve muscle mass.
However it’s also great for after a workout, when you’re exhausted and need to rest your body.
One huge plus of choosing EMS treatment is the fact that it’s non-invasive, so you can try it without any risks.
Though remember you should always speak to a medical professional before commencing your treatment.
22: Few or No Side Effects
When used correctly, there are very few side effects. If you do buy an EMS machine, pay close attention to the manufacturer instructions for guidance on that particular product.
There are a few people who shouldn’t use electrical muscle stimulation devices, so you should always check with your doctor before you commence treatment.
23: Use at Home
If you think electrical muscle stimulation sounds like something you’d like to try, then you can experiment in the comfort of your own home by buying an EMS unit.
Many will come with a range of programs to choose from and different intensities you can play around with.
You can literally carry an EMS unit around with you, to pop on when you want to enjoy a treatment.
PowerDot 2.0 turns your smartphone into a controller and comes with wireless electrodes, making it even easier to use on the go.
You can wear an electrical muscle stimulator without anyone even knowing!
Ab belts for example can be worn discreetly under your clothes, getting to work on your stomach muscles while you carry on with daily life.
Getting the benefits of EMS doesn’t need to cost the earth.
You can pick up a simple unit for between $20 and $30. Make sure to shop around and read reviews online to get the best deal.