Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) involves use of various low level currents to stimulate body responses. Our nerves and muscles both have electrical functions and respond to different types of currents. Muscles may be stimulated to contract and relax. Nerves may be made more sensitive or pain may be blocked by varying currents. Changes in location of electrode pads, current frequency, wave form and strength all affect what this treatment will do. This modality in general is often used to reignite muscles' ability to contract. EMS devices comes with different waveforms. These waveforms perform differently and have varied rehabilitative attributes and benefits for different patient populations.

The benefits of EMS:

  • Reduces pain by blocking pain signals by increasing endorphins  
  • Helping with blood flow and improving circulation
  • Facilitating the repair of muscle and other body tissues 
  • Reduces muscle spasm
  • Clears inflmmation
  • Increase strength
  • Reeducating muscles and movement patterns
  • The contraction prevents atrophy from disuse
  • EMS contractions that mimic the ways the body moves during exercise thereby increases range of motion
  • Clear metabolic waste, while improving cellular nutrition and oxygenation


This treatment is performed here in our office, and usually only takes 10 minutes. Electrodes are placed on the skin over the affected area, and the machine is turned on. An electrical current is then transmitted into the soft tissue or muscle. The level of current used depends on the injury, its location, and how deep the therapy will be. This electrical current causes the muscles to experience very small but quick contractions. During the treatment, patients may feel a prickly or tingling sensation, along with involuntary muscle contractions; however, these sensations will subside after the machine is turned off, or shortly afterward. Many patients enjoy the sensation.

The EMS contraindications are as follows:

  • It should not be used to treat symptomatic local pain unless the cause of the pain has been clearly diagnosed.
  • Electrotherapy should not be used in areas of the body where cancerous lesions exist.
  • The treatment should not be applied in areas of the skin that are swollen, infected, or inflamed (e.g. varicose veins)
  • Patients suspected of having serious infectious diseases or diseases that require heat or fevers to be suppressed should not be treated with electrotherapy.
  • Electrotherapy current should not be applied to the anterior neck (carotid sinus) or through the head.
  • Women who are pregnant should avoid electrotherapy treatment, as safe use has not been established for pregnancy.
  • Patients with cardiac demand pacemakers should not be treated using powered muscle stimulators.
  • TENS waveforms should not be used on patients who have cardiac demand pacemakers.


Electrical muscle stimulation works well for both acute and chronic pain. If you have been struggling with pain or have recently suffered an injury, ask your chiropractor if electrical muscle stimulation is right for you.

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