You cannot call EMS units a “weight loss” product, despite the fact you might lose weight with it - Jimson Lee
image by: PowerDot Australia & New Zealand
Just as electrical stimulation can be shallow or deep, there’s also electrical nerve stimulation (ENS) or electrical muscle stimulation (EMS). The right electrode placement and settings will stimulate muscles more than nerves, forcing them to contract. And so EMS may be a useful trick for exercising muscles, useful either in rehabilitation or, perhaps, performance enhancement. EMS feels like doing light isometric muscle contraction exercises — that is, clenching muscles without moving joints.
Whereas ENS is primarily used to try to treat pain, EMS is mostly meant for athletic training and performance enhancement — which is speculative and somewhat optimistic but not necessarily totally out to lunch — and rehabilitative scenarios like preventing muscles from atrophying from disuse after trauma, which makes sense and seems to work.
Many readers are curious to know specifically if EMS can help them maintain fitness when otherwise resting or incapacitated from an injury, especially stubborn overuse injuries like runner’s knee or plantar fasciitis that may require a period of substantial resting before a tedious phase of “baby steps” rehabilitative exercise. That’s exactly what EMS is good for, in theory, but in practice the benefits are probably trivial, and nothing you couldn’t get just as well or more so with isometrics, and more conveniently to boot. Half-arsed optimization of muscle conditioning in the early stages of rehab should not be a high priority for most people. The exceptions would be people who are more profoundly injured, or have specialized training needs due to a progressive disease.
And then there’s the entertainment value. EMS is kinda neat. If you just like the idea of messing around with it for the kicks and novelty, knock yourself out — figuratively speaking.
Source: Source: Paul Ingraham, Excerpt from Zapped! Does TENS work for pain? PainScience.com, December 1, 2016.