Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), is the elicitation of muscle contraction using electric impulses. EMS has received an increasing amount of attention in the last few years for many reasons: it can be utilized as a strength training tool for healthy subjects and athletes; it could be used as a rehabilitation and preventive tool for partially or totally immobilized patients; it could be utilized as a testing tool for evaluating the neural and/or muscular function in vivo; it could be used as a post-exercise recovery tool for athletes.The impulses are generated by a device and are delivered through electrodes on the skin near to the muscles being stimulated.
The electrodes are generally pads that adhere to the skin. The impulses mimic the action potential that comes from the central nervous system, causing the muscles to contract. The use of EMS has been cited by sports scientists as a complementary technique for sports training, and published research is available on the results obtained. In the United States, EMS devices are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In medicine, EMS is used for rehabilitation purposes, for instance in physical therapy in the prevention of disuse muscle atrophy which can occur for example after musculoskeletal injuries, such as damage to bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. This is distinct from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), in which an electric current is used for pain therapy.
- Relaxation of muscle spasms;
- Prevention or retardation of disuse atrophy;
- Increasing local blood circulation;
- Muscle re-education;
- Immediate post-surgical stimulation of calf muscles to prevent venous thrombosis;
- Maintaining or increasing range of motion.