Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation: Overview

Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation: Overview

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation or NMES is the application that involves the use of a device that transmits electrical impulses to the skin over a selected group of muscles by way of electrodes. There are two primary uses of NMES therapy. First is the use to treat atrophy and muscle imbalances which stimulates the muscle while the user is in a resting state. The secondary use is during functional activity. For example, electrodes are placed on a certain muscle group while the user moves, lifts, or activates the selected muscle group. Both applications show promising effects. NMES has a plethora of benefits and functions that can contribute to increased functionality in certain patients and groups of people.

In Medicine, Physical Therapy and athletic training, there has been an interest in using Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) for stimulation of certain muscle groups. Stimulations could cause strengthening of those muscles as well as improved maintenance of muscle mass and strength. There are a wide variety of stimulators including TENS, EMS, and even pronged devices that can improve functionality in areas of muscle deficiency and atrophy. Many simulators focus on traumatic injury and the assistance they have in the rehabilitative process when assisting clients coming off an injury.

NMES causes excitement in the muscle tissue, this stimulation mimics the type of signal the brain sends to the muscle when attempting to use it. NMES technology targets the motor nerves of the muscle, which allow for direct stimulation and contractions that mimic typical muscle movements. When recruiting muscles this way, NMES allows for more muscle fibers to contract which allows for faster and easier muscle recruitment.

In most cases and instances, NMES is not the sole type of therapy being done, but instead is combined and applied with other interventions that could be considered conventional care in those conditions or settings. Conventional care typically applies to supervised strength training programs, home exercises, braces and slings, and other therapies that support the prevention of continued tissue damage.

NMES studies and treatments focus on outcomes such as increased range of motion (ROM), muscle elasticity, and quality of life activities that otherwise cause the patient pain or decreased Range of motion, or decreased limb functionality. A Core study area of NMES technology focuses on stroke rehabilitation, Musculoskeletal conditions, and Critical illness, and advanced diseases.

  1. NMES is used to promote muscle strengthening and functionality and recovery of damaged limbs. Typical conditions include shoulder subluxation, loss of hand and upper extremity function, and gait impairments resulting from impaired control of leg muscles.
  2. Musculoskeletal conditions fall into a category that NMES fits into. Injuries that involve lower extremity and involve both chronic and acute injures.
  3. NMES is used to also prevent muscle deconditioning from severe illnesses or diseases.

NMES technology has scientific backing and medical studies to back its use in multiple fields of care. Many patients can benefit from Neuromuscular stimulation. In this day and age there are multiple handheld massagers and handheld NMES or TENS units that everyday patients could use at home. In the past patients could only receive this type of care in a medical facility or therapist office that specialized in such practice. Now you can purchase a unit at your local store. With the range of benefits and uses it’s no surprise that NMES therapy and technology has been evolving to make it more user friendly, with more biofeedback available it’s easier to assess which muscular deficiencies are truly causing the issues.

In conclusion, NMES technology has the means to benefit a wide variety of patient problems, such as muscular deficiencies, chronic illness, and other diseases that can cause issues. NMES has been proven to provide beneficial properties that relate to muscular conduction and motor nerve stimulation. Ask your doctor for more information to see if NMES technology could help you.


DA;, Lake. “Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation. An Overview and Its Application in the Treatment of Sports Injuries.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), U.S. National Library of Medicine,

Nussbaum, Ethne L, et al. “Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation for Treatment of Muscle Impairment: Critical Review and Recommendations for Clinical Practice.” Physiotherapy Canada. Physiotherapie Canada, University of Toronto Press, 2017,

“TENS VS. NMES: What’s the Main Difference?” Compex US, 13 Feb. 2017, 

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES), Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) and Electrical Stimulation for Muscular and Nerve Pain, 


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