Electrical Muscle Stimulation
Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS), also known as Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES), is utilized to prevent disuse muscle atrophy and/or for neuromuscular re-education. EMS works by sending an electrical impulse into a muscle group, eliciting a contraction. For a muscle to contract, the central nervous system will send an electrical signal through the body via neurons. Once this signal reaches its destination, the result is called an action potential. Once these action potentials build within the cells of muscles, the physiological effects result in a muscle contraction. EMS works by mimicking the action potential at a specific muscle group.
EMS is particularly effective for patients that are immediately post-surgery and are not able or not allowed to use the limb they had surgery on or patients that have neurologic impairments. When muscles are not in use, they lose mass very quickly (referred to as muscle atrophy). EMS serves as a tool to help slow and/or prevent atrophy. Additionally, by mimicking the action potentials in a muscle group, EMS can help re-educate the nerves in the area so that a patient suffering from neurologic dysfunction can begin to progress towards function. When working with neurologically impaired patients, we will often perform various functional exercises with patients while their muscles are contracting with EMS, which emphasizes neuromuscular re-education.
During treatments, many pets can feel their muscles activating in a pulsing “twitch”, but this is kept at a comfortable intensity. While both utilize an electrical impulse, EMS is different than TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). TENS is widely used in human physical therapy for pain relief. While both modalities look very similar, EMS does not provide any pain relief. The units that we use at ARC and sell to clients for home use, however, are combination units and have the capability to do both EMS and TENS.