Q: How does EMS work?

EMS stands for Electrical Muscle Stimulation.

It has successfully been used in medical rehabilitation and to support training in competitive sports for a long time. EMS produces intensive and effective muscular contraction, generating extraordinary training effects and rapidly enhancing performance.

In rehabilitation EMS is a well-established method for treatment of a broad field of musculoskeletal diagnoses. Electrical stimulation of an intact peripheral nervous system may create motor responses in patients with impaired or lost ability for voluntary muscle activity.

EMS is commonly used for

  • Neuromuscular facilitation
  • Muscle reeducation
  • Muscle training
  • Prevention/slowing of atrophy/hypotrophy
  • Preventing postoperative muscle weakness
  • Reduction of spasticity Maintaining or increasing range of motion
  • Training of partial peripheral nerve damage with signs of reinnervation
  • Treatment of scoliosis
  • Incontinence treatment

EMS is a complement to other physical therapy and should always be combined with active training of mobility, strength, coordination, and functional training.

EMS in Sport
In training, the technology for electrotherapy is used for all kinds of muscular exercise: warm-up, strength, speed, power, resistance, endurance and recovery and also for rehabilitation.

EMS is well known and works as an excellent complement to regular training.

Advantages of EMS
Use of EMS may lead to faster progress in the patient's treatment program. The method is simple and appropriate for treatment in the clinical setting as well as for self-treatment at home.

Successful athletes all over the world have discovered the advantages of electrical muscle stimulation, such as an increase of the local circulation and the size of the muscle fibres. EMS also helps raising the intake of oxygen as well as improves the metabolic exchange and the consumption of energy of the user.

How EMS Works
Muscular activity is produced by the central and peripheral nervous systems transmitting electrical stimuli to the muscles of our body. EMS uses external electrical impulses that act through the skin to stimulate the nerves supplying a specific muscle group.

The muscle reacts in different ways depending on the strength of current and duration and frequency of the electrical impulse. Muscles are made up of two different type of fibre: Red fibre is slower contracting and aerobic working. 

White fibre is faster acting and capable of anaerobic working.

The proportions of red and white fibres depend on the way the muscle is used. Fibre can be converted from one type to the other, depending on the signals it receives. This is known as the Trophic effect.

Different frequencies have different effects: Low (1-10 Hz) frequencies coupled with long impulse times, for example, have a purifying and relaxing effect through individual contractions, whereby the circulation in the treated muscle is simultaneously improved and removal of metabolic end products is supported (lymphatic drainage). The oxygen supply to the muscle is improved.

In contrast, by means of a rapid succession of contractions (fibrillation), medium (20-50 Hz) frequencies can put a high level of strain on the muscle, thus promoting the muscular structure.

The pads are normally placed near the muscle motor nerve and the unit transmits a stimulus through the skin, with a choice of specific therapeutic patterns. The correct positioning of the pads is important. The body maps at the back of this guide show pad positioning in order to stimulate specific muscle groups.

Treatment time and treatment interval

Most units have programmes of adjustable duration, default to durations of around 20 mins. Depending upon the muscle group and the patient's status, treatment by EMS can vary between 15–60 minutes stimulation twice a week to treatment several times per day.

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