An electronic muscle stimulator is a medical device that is used to treat various muscle conditions. Some versions of the device are designed for home use, and claim that they will promote weight loss, although this has not been scientifically proven. It uses electrical signals to tense and release muscles, through the employment of small electrodes on either side of the muscle area. A stimulator can improve muscle tone, but it will not create muscles where none existed before, and it certainly will not result in “rock hard abs,” as many manufacturers would have consumers believe.
Medically, a medical professional may prescribe an electronic muscle stimulator to a stroke patient to aid in muscle retraining, to an individual experiencing painful muscle spasms, or to a patient who needs to increase his or her range of motion. The patient is trained in the correct use of the device, and given specific directions about when and where it should be used. Some healthcare professionals may prescribe this device or a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit to treat migraines and muscle pain, although this usage has not been extensively studied.
Many countries regulate the manufacture of electronic muscle stimulator units, because improper use can result in problems. Skin irritation is not uncommon, but there have been reports of burns and heart events associated with the use of such devices as well. A medical professional should be consulted before using any electronic muscle stimulator, in case the user has an underlying medical condition that it could aggravate. He or she may also be able to make recommendations about brands and usage, or provide alternative treatments for the issue that is driving the patient to use the device.
When purchasing an electronic muscle stimulator, consumers should make sure it is electrically safe. Many safety organizations, including the National Safety Foundation and Underwriters Laboratories, certify electronic devices, which will be stamped with the seal of the organization. If the nation in which the device is being purchased has a government regulatory agency, like the US Food and Drug Administration, consumers should find out if it has an approved list of devices safe for use. The approved list will typically also feature more information about the medical value of claims that manufacturers will make.