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Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Age related illnesses, Muscles | October 12, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Circulatory system, Muscles

Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrical muscle stimulation is a way of eliciting muscle contractions without the use of movement or the use of drugs. This method of muscle stimulation can support circulation, allow for muscle growth or prevent muscle wastage amongst other things.  Electrical Muscle Stimulation is also known as EMS, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) or electromyostimulation. Electrical impulses are generated by a device directly, or delivered through electrodes applied to the skin near to the muscles being stimulated.

A bit about Muscles

Muscular tissue consists of elongated cells called muscle fibres which are used to produces body movement, to maintain our posture and to produces heat.

A bit about MusclesThe muscle receives information transmitted through electrical impulses from the nervous system which is a complex system, consisting of two main types of cells, Neurons (nerve cells) and Neuroglia.

The Neurons are sensitive to various stimuli which they convert to electrical signals called action potentials (nerve impulses).

Dendrites are extensions of neurons that transmit the signals along the Axon to the Neuromuscular junction - once infromation is received by the muscle fibres it then reacts accordingly.

The neuroglia are non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system. They maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and provide support and protection for neurons. Myelin is an insulating cover of the nerve fibre.

Neurons and muscle fibres are considered excitable cells because they exhibit electrical excitability, the ability to respond to certain stimuli by producing electrical signals such as action potentials.

So when an action potential occurs in a muscle fibre, the muscle fibre contracts, resulting in the movement of a limb, or the movement of food through the intestine (the intestinal walls are made of muscle fibres), and the movement of blood out of the heart and into blood vessels. Blood vessels are lined with smooth muscle tissue which, when contracted narrow, allowing movement of fluid through the body.

A bit about Circulation

Blood vessels provide the structures allowing for the flow of blood to and from the heart and exchange of nutrients and waste products from the tissues of the body. They also play an important role in adjusting the volume and velocity of blood flow. Blood is pumped out of the heart into the arteries to the organs of the body dividing as they go into smaller arterial vessels and eventually to capillaries where exchange of substances occurs between blood and body tissue. Groups of capillaries in tissue reunite to form venules, which merge to form larger blood vessels called veins and these convey blood back to the heart.

A bit about CirculationSkeletal muscles have an action in returning blood back to the heart. Contraction of the leg muscles pushes blood upwards where it is trapped by closing valves contained within the vein. These valves open and shut as muscle contraction and relaxation occurs, driving the blood in a milking action toward the heart. Varicose veins occur due to weak valves allowing blood to leak backwards in the vein and pool.

How Electrical Muscle Stimulation works

By applying electrical stimulation externally you are doing what the body does normally when you use a muscle, activation muscles to contract and relax. For instance applying electrical stimulation to the sole of the feet stimulates the nerves of the muscles of the leg to contract forcing blood flow through the veins and back to the heart.

Benefits include:

  • Increasing blood flow therefore supporting circulation
  • Reducing swelling around feet and ankles
  • Increasing range of motion
  • Building muscles
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Muscle rehabilitation (re-education)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Help osteoarthritis
  • Help with pressure sore prevention

This is especially helpful for those people who are limited in their ability to exercise, or simply find it hard to walk, aiding muscle strengthening. It can stimulate circulation, helping venous blood return due to weak venous valves. It can help provide pain relief from swelling in the feet and ankles.

Studies to support use

Reduced muscle wastage. In a study performed on patients who were immobilized after cruciate ligament surgery it was found there was a significant reduction in muscle wastage when electrical stimulation was used on the quadriceps muscles along with voluntary muscle contractions compared to voluntary muscle contractions alone.

Cardiovascular exercise. The technique of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) of large groups of muscles has been shown to produce a physiologic response consistent with cardiovascular exercise, at mild to moderate intensities, by increasing peak oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, ventilatory capacity, and heart rate.  An improvement in muscle strength was also shown. In a group of small studies of home-based EMS training of leg muscles in heart failure showed that EMS produces similar benefits to conventional exercise in improving exercise capacity, making EMS an alternative to aerobic exercise training in those that cannot undertake conventional exercise. The improvement seen in leg muscle strength promises also to improve mobility in this sedentary population.

Muscle strength. Another study concluded EMS exercise had beneficial effects in muscle strength of ICU patients. Not only were the effects seen with the muscles stimulated but there was also evidence of effects in muscle groups not stimulated, suggesting EMS application shows  a promising means of muscle strength preservation and early mobilization in critically ill patients.

Strength and endurance. This study found that the use of a specific belt EMS significantly increased abdominal strength and endurance, decreased waist width, and patients felt improvement in abdominal firmness and tone. It was felt the results were attributed to the strength of the electrically induced muscle contractions made possible by the quality of the electrodes utilized in the belt system, as well as the stimulator.

Foods to support circulation

Foods to support circulation

Capsicum (Cayenne pepper, chilli pepper)-Supports the circulatory system as an inhibitor of platelet aggregation and can capsaicin dilate coronary artery vessels.

Ginger is considered a peripheral circulatory stimulants as well as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions.

Garlic is good for so many things but in this case its actions include anti-inflammatory, it reduces cholesterol and lipids in blood,
reduces blood pressure and is antithrombotic.


Of course physical activity is always the best action to take to stimulated muscle action and growth and support circulation so try incorporate physical activity in your day as much as possible. But if this is impossible for you there are machines you can use at home whilst seated that are very easy to use.

Cautions and Contraindications

Electrical Muscular stimulation is not suitable for people who have:

• Implanted devices such as a heart pacemaker or Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (AICD)
• Are being treated for, or have symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This might include pain, swelling and tenderness, warm or red skin in the leg or a feeling of heaviness in the legs.
• Are pregnant

It is also advisable to check with your Doctor before use if you suffer from any existing medical conditions particularly heart disease and epilepsy, or you are unsure if EMS use is suitable for you. Read and follow instructions carefully before use. Australia’s best online discount chemist


Effects of Electroacupuncture for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Tortora Gerald J., Derrickson Bryan, 2006 Principles of Anatomy and Physiology 11th edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Effects of electrical muscle stimulation combined with voluntary contractions after knee ligament surgery

Electrical Muscle Stimulation: An Effective Form of Exercise and Early Mobilization to Preserve Muscle Strength in Critically Ill Patients

The Effects of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Training on Abdominal Strength, Endurance, and Selected Anthropometric Measures

Electrical muscle stimulation for chronic heart failure: an alternative tool for exercise training?

Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, Chapter 7The Amazing and Mighty Ginger

Fisher, C; (2009), Materia Medica of Western Herbs, New Zealand

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