The Use of Electrical Muscle Stimulation For Rehab

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is commonly used in physical therapy to help patients regain muscle strength, increase mobility, and reduce pain. Explore UR.Life Life Studio’s customised treatment plans and more here.

By URLife Team
16 Apr 2023

Muscle weakness, nerve injury or immobility can have many causes, ranging from minor issues like nerve damage, poor sitting posture, or muscle ailments. According to a 2022 study in the Journal Orthopaedics And Traumatology, neurological injury is a significant global health issue, with 250,000 to 500,000 new cases occurring annually. The primary cause of spinal cord injury is blunt force trauma, which results from several accidents like car crashes, accounting for over one-third of all new cases. Other causes of muscle or nerve weakness may include poor posture, overuse injuries, gunshot wounds, sports-related injuries, and medical/surgical complications. The physical, mental and financial costs of managing muscle trauma or neurological conditions can be high for all those affected.


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Addressing the challenges associated with muscle damage needs a multi-faceted approach, including prevention, early intervention, and rehabilitation. Electrical stimulation has been used for many years as a therapeutic intervention for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions.


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Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is a technique that uses electrical impulses to stimulate muscles and nerves, promoting muscle contraction and relaxation. EMS is a popular tool for rehabilitation and has been used by healthcare professionals for decades to help patients recover from injuries, surgeries, and other physical impairments. EMS devices work by delivering electrical impulses to targeted muscles, causing them to contract and relax, helping in reducing muscle spasms, swelling, and stiffness.

In addition to its use in rehabilitation, electrical muscle stimulation has also been used in sports medicine and fitness training, as it can help enhance muscle strength and endurance.

Overall, EMS is a safe and effective tool for rehabilitating and strengthening muscles. However, it should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional, who can tailor the treatment plan to the patient's specific needs and ensure that it is being used safely and effectively.


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Types of Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

As per a 2017 clinical review in the paper Physiotherapy Canada, electrical stimulation (e-stim) is a therapeutic modality that uses electrical currents to stimulate nerves, muscles, and other tissues in the body. In physical therapy, e-stim is often used to reduce pain, increase circulation, and promote muscle strengthening.


Several types of e-stim techniques may be used during physical therapy, including:

1. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation uses a small battery-operated device to deliver electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the skin. TENS is often used to help manage pain by blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.

2. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES): Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is a non-invasive technique that uses electrical impulses to stimulate muscle contractions. Researchers at the Neurosurgery Clinic of North America conducted a study in 2019 that involved 30 participants with rheumatoid arthritis who received 36 NMES sessions over a 16-week period. The NMES sessions were delivered and found to be effective on muscle function in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which are important for walking and daily activities.

3. Functional electrical stimulation (FES): This e-stem is used to stimulate specific muscles or muscle groups to perform functional movements, such as standing or walking. FES may be used to help improve mobility in patients with neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injury or stroke.

4. Interferential current (IFC): Interferential current is a type of e-stem that uses high-frequency electrical currents to reduce pain and inflammation. IFC may be used to help manage chronic pain or acute injuries.


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Uses of Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

Actually, electrical stimulation in physical therapy has a wide range of applications beyond those mentioned. During e-stim therapy, the patient may feel a tingling or prickling sensation as the electrical current stimulates the nerves and muscles. Here are some additional ways that electrical stimulation is used in physical therapy:

1. Facilitate muscle contractions: Electrical stimulation can be used to help activate muscles that are not contracting effectively due to injury or neurological impairment. This can be particularly helpful for patients who have had a stroke, spinal cord injury, or other conditions that affect their ability to move.

2. Improve circulation: Electrical stimulation can also be used to improve blood flow to an injured or painful area. This can help to reduce swelling and promote healing.

3. Enhance range of motion: Electrical stimulation can help to loosen up tight muscles and joints, which can improve range of motion and flexibility.

4. Strengthen muscles: In addition to helping to activate muscles, electrical stimulation can also be used to strengthen them. This can be particularly useful for patients who are unable to perform traditional strength training exercises due to injury or other limitations.

5. Manage chronic pain: Electrical stimulation can help to block pain signals from reaching the brain, which can provide relief for patients with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or neuropathy.

Overall, electrical stimulation is a versatile tool that can be used in a variety of ways to help patients recover from injury, manage pain, and improve their overall function and quality of life.


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Limitations of EMS

It's important to note that electrical stimulation is not appropriate for all types of wounds, and there may be some contraindications or risks associated with the treatment. Therefore, it's important to work with a qualified healthcare professional who can determine if electrical stimulation is appropriate for your specific situation and provide safe and effective treatment.

These risks may include:

  • Skin irritation: E-stim can cause skin irritation, particularly if the electrodes are left on for an extended period of time or if the skin is sensitive. This can lead to redness, itching, or a rash.
  • Muscle tearing: E-stim can cause muscle contractions that are too strong, which can lead to muscle tearing or strains. This is more likely to occur if the e-stim is set too high or if it is used on an injured or weakened muscle.
  • Tissue burn: E-stim can cause tissue burns if the electrodes are not placed properly or if the current is too high. This can lead to painful blisters or even permanent scarring.
  • Nerve damage: Although rare, e-stim can cause nerve damage if the electrodes are placed too close to a nerve or if the current is too strong. This can lead to numbness, tingling, or even paralysis.


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How UR.Life OHC Can Help?

UR.Life physiotherapists will assess your individual needs and work with you to develop a personalised treatment plan that is safe and effective for your condition. It is important to note that the risks of e-stim are generally low when the treatment is administered by a trained professional and used appropriately. Our experts will monitor the intensity and duration of the e-stim to ensure that it is safe and effective. Further, they will determine if e-stim is a safe and effective treatment option for you.

In addition to seeking medical attention, there are also other ways that individuals can manage muscle weakness in their everyday lives. Your physical therapist may offer alternative therapies, regular exercise to build strength and improve flexibility, maintaining a healthy diet, and practising stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga.


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Rehabilitation Programs Offered At UR.Life

UR.Life Studio offers the following programs under its Lifestyle Management and Therapeutic Programs (LMTP) unit:

  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation
  • Neuro Rehabilitation
  • Ortho Rehabilitation
  • Paediatric Rehabilitation
  • Geriatric Rehabilitation
  • Obesity Management
  • Diabetes management

The following are the USPs of LMTP:

  • Holistic Rehabilitation Approach: involves the medical, physical, and mental aspects of overall health
  • Telemetry Supervised Rehabilitation: a state-of-the-art technique to provide optimal health care
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Six Minutes Walk Test
  • Hydraulics (circuit training studio)
  • VO2 max testing (equipment under servicing)
  • Myo motion analysis (equipment under servicing)
  • Detailed Physical Assessment
  • Well being Counselling
  • Diet Counselling

Click here to learn more about the UR.Life Corporate Wellness programme and unlock better health.



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