Muscle stimulators aren’t magic bullets that develop strength and encourage muscle growth, they are medical devices best used for rehabilitation and pain management. There are two types of muscle stimulators – an EMS helps rehabilitate muscles while a TENS unit can block pain. Coincidentally, the features that make each type the best are very similar.
You will want a unit that gives you control over the pulse strength so you can have the greatest comfort and maximum effectiveness. A display screen, multiple channels, and automated therapy programs are all recommended. A button lock that keeps you from changing any of the settings during treatment is highly desirable.
If you read on, you will discover why the FDA regulates muscle stimulators and learn about some of the risks involved in using this type of device.
How muscle stimulators work
A muscle stimulator is a machine, handheld or larger, with connected electrodes. Larger machines typically exist only in doctor’s offices and therapy clinics. For use at home, handheld devices provide the most common type of muscle stimulation.
Every muscle stimulator includes a series of electrodes that are connected to the unit via thin wires. To use a muscle stimulator, you attach the electrodes to your skin with adhesive pads and power on the machine.
The machine delivers electrical impulses through the electrodes. These pulses attempt to mimic the body’s nervous system, telling the muscles under the electrodes to contract. Once the electrical pulse stops, the muscles relax.
Do muscle stimulators actually work?
The question of whether muscle stimulators actually accomplish what they’re designed to do is debated among scientists. Ultimately, the outcome of muscle stimulator usage depends on what you want to achieve with the machine.
Little to no benefit
Naysayers argue that muscle stimulators don’t actually offer any significant help. They suggest that some people may experience success in one or two of these areas but not in all of them.
Our advice: use your muscle stimulator in a proper manner, as outlined above, for a better chance of success.
Muscle stimulator benefits
Some people who use muscle stimulators report pain relief and a reprieve from muscle and joint soreness after workouts. And some people say their muscles work more efficiently through daily use of muscle stimulators, which tone their muscles.
With a doctor’s prescription, a muscle stimulator could potentially speed the healing of joint injuries. In fact, some doctors use a muscle-stimulating device to prevent atrophy in the muscles of immobilized patients. And doctors who treat stroke victims sometimes use muscle stimulators to promote muscle retraining.
Additionally, doctors sometimes use muscle stimulators to treat patients with muscle spasms. Some doctors believe muscle stimulators work to speed recovery for surgery patients, too.
Scientists tend to agree on one thing regarding muscle stimulators: they don’t cause muscle growth. Even though the claim of muscle growth remains popular in some EMS advertisements, scientific data refutes such claims.
Ultimately, the individual must decide whether this device helps in any way. In other words, using a muscle stimulator is an issue of personal preference. Your doctor may be able to help you determine if an at-home muscle stimulator is right for you.