What are Stimulation Electrodes?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Stimulation electrodes are small electrodes that send electric impulses through the skin. These impulses are meant to mimic the central nervous system, which makes targeted muscles inside of the body react. This process is known as electromyostimulation, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, or electrical muscle stimulation.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation was first developed by Luigi Galvani in 1791. Galvani observed that electrical impulses could cause muscles to react. This knowledge was later put to use during the 1960s when the former Soviet Union used stimulation electrodes on athletes. The idea behind this usage was that athletes could increase their strength with the help of muscle stimulation.

Later, when the idea of stimulation electrodes was brought to North America, the effectiveness of electrodes on athletes was largely debunked. Some claim that this was due to a misunderstanding of the process, while others claim that stimulation electrodes simply do not work. Today, electromyostimulation is frequently used for rehabilitation purposes across the globe.

People who are suffering from musculoskeletal injuries, such as ligament, tendon, and muscle injuries, are often subject to electrical muscle stimulation as part of a treatment plan. This type of treatment is meant to prevent any muscular dystrophy. In addition, stimulation electrodes are often used for aesthetic purposes.


When muscles are contracted, they appear tighter and more toned, which is why some cosmetologists rely upon stimulation electrodes to treat patients seeking taut muscles. While some cosmetologists claim that electrical stimulation will help a person to lose weight, this theory is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the United States.

Further, the FDA categorizes electrical muscle stimulation devices into two categories: over the counter devices and prescription devices. Over the counter devices are only available for those people who wish to tone muscles. Prescription devices can be used in conjunction with therapy in order to relieve muscle spasms, to reduce atrophy, and to increase blood circulation.

Women who are pregnant or menstruating should not use electrical muscle stimulation techniques. Since this type of muscles stimulation is still largely unexplored, anyone wishing to engage in electrical stimulation should consult with a doctor prior to use. In addition, manufacturer warnings and cautions should not be disregarded.

Over the counter stimulation devices can be purchased in most local drugstores or online. Prescription devices must be prescribed by a medical doctor or licensed physical therapist. In either case, this technology still has a long way to go before it is completely understood.


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