Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Many of your clients may have asked you about Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS). Infomercials and advertisements have appeared everywhere as a quick fix to increase muscles mass without breaking a sweat. While helpful in physical therapy situations, EMS provides little benefit for weight-loss and strength-building. Many EMS users experience pain when high levels of stimulation are used.

In a study, researchers tested the effectiveness of EMS on weight-loss, body-fat-loss, strength and appearance on 29 college-age participants. The participants were measured for body fat, weight, body size and strength, and were tested for firmness and tone prior to the study. Researchers used an average in-home EMS unit to test the effectiveness of EMS on the participants. Following the manufacturer’s directions, 17 of the participants experienced electrical stimulation to the triceps, quadriceps, bilateral biceps, hamstrings and abdominal muscles three times a week for eight weeks, while 12 participants were placed in the control group.

After eight weeks, the participants in the EMS group did not have noticeable changes in weight, body-fat, strength or appearance, and the participants reported pain when high levels of stimulation were applied. The researchers reported that using the EMS unit was difficult, time-consuming and provided little health benefit, and that participants could have engaged in cardiovascular or resistance training to increase strength, and reduce body fat and weight in the same amount of time it took to complete an EMS session