A man using muscle stimulators to treat his knee pain

What Does a Muscle Stimulator Do: 3 Benefits

Chris

Written by fitness expert Chris on December 7, 2019

A muscle stimulator uses electrical impulses to make your muscles contract, ultimately leading to improved strength and blood flow. It can also help with the healing of muscle injuries. If used in the right doses, a muscle stimulator can also significantly reduce your likelihood of suffering a tissue or muscle injury.

All the above are accomplished by using electrical stimulation to stretch muscles and increase blood flow through them.

What is Electrical Muscle Stimulation?

Electrical muscle stimulators are commonly advertised as miracle devices that can tone muscle and/or improve muscle mass. You’ve probably even seen an ad that claims an electrical stimulation device can get you a six-pack.

This is untrue.

In reality, an electrical muscle stimulator uses electrical currents at low levels to stimulate muscles and cause them to contract and stretch. Continuous Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) therapy will lead to repetitive contracting and relaxing of the muscle, causing the following effects:

  • Flexing and working weakened muscles, increasing its strength
  • Increasing blood flow to the tissue, aiding its quick recovery
  • Improving the range of motion and mobility of tissue by stretching it
  • Slowing down muscle atrophy by stretching and strengthening unused muscles
  • Strengthening muscle fibers and helping them to adapt to certain patterns of response

Three Benefits of Electrical Muscle Stimulation

A woman using an electrical muscle stimulation machine on her stomach

There are a variety of ways that you can benefit from using a muscle stimulator. Most professionals use such devices for muscle rehabilitation, recovery, training, or pain relief.

Here’s more about how you can benefit from using a muscle stimulator:

Help Muscles Recover After Illness or Surgery

After surgery or an illness with a long recovery period, a patient may struggle to move. This is because long periods of muscle disuse lead to the muscles becoming stiff and weak.

For such patients, EMS is useful for performing “muscle re-education.” By applying electrical impulses to the muscles with a stimulator, the muscles will involuntarily contract. Combining this with a patient voluntarily contracting the muscles during therapy can help retrain the muscles to function as they should.

Another way that EMS is useful for recovering from a long illness is it reduces the chances of pressure sores in bed-ridden patients.

Pressure sores commonly occur in immobile patients due to continuous pressure on the back or buttocks. By applying EMS to the affected areas, blood flow is increased, which will help avoid deformities and reduce the likelihood of pressure sores.

Aiding Athletic Muscles

Athletes can benefit from EMS to relax their muscles. Intense physical activity can lead to muscle stiffness and the release of lactic acid. By applying low electrical frequencies to the muscles, an increase in blood flow and the release endorphins can be triggered to aid muscle recovery.

The treatment can also remove lactic acid from the muscles to help it relax and speed up recovery. If an athlete, especially an endurance athlete, uses EMS frequently, it will keep his/her muscles loose, decreasing the likelihood of suffering from muscle cramps or spasms.

Strengthening Atrophied Muscles

A woman using a electrical muscle stimulation on her lower back

If you don’t use your muscles, they will decrease and eventually atrophy. Several medical conditions can cause this, such as soft tissue injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, stroke, or other illnesses that inhibit movement.

For such patients, EMS can be used to slow down muscle atrophy by keeping the inhibited muscles active.

EMS is also ideal for easing tightness and soreness in the lower back. It accomplishes this by relaxing the muscles. This can be useful in resolving spinal issues like sciatica symptoms, postural problems, scoliosis, and more.

Conclusion

Contrary to what some adverts may tell you, an EMS device can’t get you ripped—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer benefits.

For example, athletes who frequently engage in intensive exercises may not have enough time to rest and let their muscles recover. An EMS device, when properly used, can cut down the recovery time of such athletes.

Bed-ridden patients who can’t exercise their muscles, due to their condition, can prevent muscle atrophy through EMS treatments as well. EMS will encourage the circulatory system within the muscles and work the muscles, keeping them active until the patient has the strength to move on their own.

Before you try experimenting with an electrical muscle stimulator, consult your doctor to discover if using such a device is right for you. For instance, if you have a pacemaker, you shouldn’t try EMS therapy without your doctor’s approval.

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