person applying a muscle stimulator to their knee

3 of the best electrical muscle stimulators

person applying a tens machine to a women's neck
a person applying a muscle stimulator to another persons shoulder

You also asked...

There are two main types of electronic stimulation, these are known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and electrical muscle stimulation (EMS).

TENS or perhaps more notably, TENS machines are more often used for long-term pain as well as acute pain. This works by using electrodes placed on the skin near the source of the pain.

Signals are then sent through nerves to block out or reduce the pain signals travelling to the brain.

EMS uses a slightly stronger current, which gets muscles to contract.

While electrodes are placed on the skin of affected areas in the same way, EMS helps improve muscle strength through contracting rather than attempting to block out pain.

The NHS states that there is not yet enough scientific evidence to be certain whether or not TENS and EMS machines work.  

Many health professionals report that while it seems to help some people, it is dependent on the individual and the condition being treated.

Electronic muscle stimulators have been found to work on the following:

  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle conditioning (mostly for athletes, such as long-distance runners)
  • Muscle injury from trauma or disease
  • Nerve inflammation
  • Poor muscle strength
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Surgery recovery

Yes, you can build muscle with electrical muscle simulator machines. Electric muscle stimulators work by contracting the muscles, which allows improvement and growth.

TENS machines on the other hand will not help build muscle as they are designed to block out the pain.

As above, there are very few side effects that occur from using electrical stimulation on your muscles.

The most you might get is a rash or irritation if you use a machine that uses an adhesive to attach pads to the affected areas.


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Manisha Taggar

Manisha Taggar,
Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.