Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation

23 June 2021
Dr. Raoul Novelli
Reviewed by Dr. Raoul Novelli
Written by Anastasia Lesnikova

    Neuromuscular and Muscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) has emerged as a promising technology for maintaining muscle mass and function in space. Originally designed for medical rehabilitation purposes, the technology has also been implemented for space missions, including on the International Space Station (ISS). Keep reading to find out more about this technology and how it’s evolved, as well as why it’s beneficial to astronauts.

    What is NMES?

    NMES is a technique that uses electrical impulses to stimulate muscles. These impulses are delivered via electrodes placed on the skin and target the motor neurons, which are the cells responsible for transmitting signals from the brain to the muscles. When the motor neurons are stimulated by the electrical impulses, they trigger the muscles to contract and relax, producing a range of therapeutic effects.

    NMES can be used for a variety of rehabilitation purposes, such as improving muscle function and strength after injury or surgery, or for treating conditions like muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. It can also be used for more general fitness and performance enhancement, such as improving muscle tone or preventing muscle atrophy. The technique is based on principles of neurophysiology and can be applied to a range of different muscle groups depending on the specific goals of the treatment.

    NMES vs EMS

    While NMES and Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) are both types of muscle contraction stimulation that involve electrical impulses, there are some key differences between the two:

    Firstly, NMES is typically used to stimulate specific muscles or muscle groups for therapeutic or rehabilitation purposes, while EMS is often used for general muscle stimulation or aesthetic purposes such as muscle toning. 

    The intensity of the stimulation varies too. NMES often uses a lower frequency of electrical stimulation than EMS, as the goal is to activate specific muscles without causing excessive fatigue. EMS, on the other hand, typically uses a higher frequency of stimulation to induce muscle contractions that lead to muscle toning and development.

    The equipment is different as well. EMS devices can range from handheld to more advanced equipment used in clinical settings. Whereas, NMES is usually more advanced and precise, with specialised electrodes and software designed for specific therapeutic purposes.

    The one similarity, however, is that it is important to use each technique appropriately and under the guidance of a healthcare professional or qualified practitioner.

    How NMES Has Evolved

    NMES has evolved significantly over the years, with advancements in technology and research leading to new and improved applications and techniques.


    NMES was initially used mainly for muscle rehabilitation in clinical settings. However, it is now being used in a variety of other applications, including sports performance training, aesthetic treatments, and pain management.


    The equipment used for NMES has also evolved, with more advanced devices now available that are smaller, more portable, and easier to use. Some devices also offer more precise control over the electrical impulses, allowing for more targeted muscle stimulation.


    There are now several different techniques for applying NMES, each with its own unique benefits and applications. For example, some techniques involve using multiple electrodes to target specific muscle groups, while others involve using different types of electrical waveforms to stimulate the muscles in different ways.


    There has been a significant amount of research conducted on NMES over the years, which has led to a better understanding of how it works and how it can be used to benefit different populations. This research has also helped to identify best practices and guidelines for using NMES safely and effectively.

    The evolution of NMES has led to a wider range of applications and improved outcomes for patients and athletes alike. It is thanks to these advancements in technology and research that has seen NMES technology become beneficial for astronauts.

    The Benefits of NMES

    The technique can offer numerous benefits for individuals who are recovering from injury or surgery, as well as those who are looking to enhance their athletic performance or improve their muscle tone. Here are some of the benefits of NMES:

    1. Muscle Strength and Function: Especially in individuals who are recovering from injuries or have weakened muscles due to neurological conditions
    2. Increased Muscle Mass: Overall helping to improve overall physical performance
    3. Improved Muscle Endurance: Helps to increase the number of muscle fibres that are recruited during exercise
    4. Pain Management: A non-pharmacological method for pain management, particularly for musculoskeletal pain and postoperative pain
    5. Reduced Muscle Atrophy: Helps to combat the loss of muscle mass that can occur due to injury, surgery, or immobilisation
    6. Improved Circulation: Improves blood flow to the muscles, which can aid in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
    7. Increased Range of Motion: Enhances joint flexibility and range of motion, which can be beneficial for individuals recovering from injury or surgery.

    Overall, NMES can be a valuable tool in the management of various conditions and for individuals looking to improve their physical performance. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure the safe and effective use of the technique.

     Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

    For Rehabilitation

    As we have previously mentioned, NMES can be a useful technique in rehabilitation as it helps to improve muscle strength, endurance, and function. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, NMES also helps with muscle activation. Due to an injury, surgery or neurological condition, this treatment helps to activate weak or inhibited muscles and prevent muscle atrophy. It will additionally help to build up these muscles improving their function and strength. Read our latest success story of how VIP’s Isogei device helped improve muscle strength by 26%.

    For people recovering from an injury or surgery that addicts their motor function, NMES can aid their improvement of this neuromuscular control. Similarly, it provides the added benefit of proprioception, which is the sense of the position and movement of the body. This can be beneficial for individuals recovering from an impediment that affected their balance or coordination.

    Does Electrical Stimulation Build Muscle?

    Yes, electrical stimulation procedures such as NMES can help to build muscle as it replicates the muscle contractions experienced during exercise.

    Research has shown that NMES can help to increase muscle size and strength, particularly in individuals who are unable to perform voluntary exercise due to injury, illness, or surgery. The electrical impulses can also help to activate the deeper muscle fibres, which may be difficult to target with traditional exercises.

    NMES could be a feasible and safe alternative to voluntary exercise for people unable to perform high-intensity exercise and the most at-risk older adults. However, it is important to note that not everyone should use NMES to replace voluntary exercise. Rather, it can be a useful adjunct to traditional exercise programs to help build muscle and improve overall physical performance. It is also important to use NMES under a healthcare professional's guidance to ensure the safe and effective use of the technique.

    NMES in Space

    During spaceflights, astronauts are exposed to microgravity, which can lead to a loss of muscle mass and bone density, as well as changes in muscle fibre composition and neuromuscular function. These changes can increase the risk of injury, and therefore, impair an astronaut's ability to perform tasks during space missions. NEMS involves the application of electrical impulses to muscles to induce muscle contractions, as it is effective in counteracting the effects of microgravity on the musculoskeletal system. 

    The Benefits for Astronauts

    One of the primary effects of microgravity on the musculoskeletal system is muscle atrophy or loss of muscle mass and strength. This occurs as the muscles are no longer required to work against gravity, and therefore do not need to generate as much force. Over time, it can lead to a significant loss of muscle mass and strength, particularly in the lower body. Microgravity can also affect the structure and density of bone tissue. The lack of gravity-induced stress on the bones can cause them to become less dense and weaker, which can increase the risk of fractures and other bone injuries. These changes can be particularly pronounced in the bones of the lower body, which are more exposed to the effects of microgravity.

    In the context of spaceflights, NMES has emerged as a potential solution to the problem of muscle atrophy, as it provides a form of exercise that can maintain or even increase muscle strength and mass, as well as improve neuromuscular function. This also can reduce the risk of injuries and improve performance during space flights and after return to Earth.

    Beyond its application in space, the NEMS has also been adapted for use in other fields, including the beauty industry. The technology's ability to stimulate muscle contractions has been found to be highly effective in toning and strengthening muscles, leading to increased firmness and improved appearance. And here we can dwell on the benefits of VIP Italia's technology - Transion, Isogei, Microgei, Linfogei.

    Our Technology

     Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

    One of the key benefits of NMES in the beauty industry is its ability to achieve results quickly and efficiently. In contrast to traditional exercise routines, which can take weeks or even months to show results. For example, VIP Italia's technology can produce visible improvements after the first session. Additionally, NMES is a non-invasive treatment option that does not require surgery or extensive recovery periods, making it a highly attractive option for those looking to improve their appearance without undergoing more invasive procedures.

    In conclusion, NMES technology has proven to be highly promising in maintaining and improving muscle mass and function, both in the context of spaceflights and the beauty industry. Its ability to stimulate muscle contractions has led to increased muscle tone, improved appearance, and enhanced performance. As the technology continues to evolve, it will likely find new applications in a variety of fields, further highlighting the versatility and effectiveness of this innovative technology.

    Since 1971, VIP technology has been paving the way for electrotherapy equipment. By combining the benefits of NMES with those of isotonic movement, we have been able to launch a 100% non-invasive device that offers results after just one session. Learn more about our equipment today, and get in touch for more information. 


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    Are EMS and NMES the same?

    Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) are similar techniques that use electrical impulses to stimulate muscles. However, EMS is typically used to improve muscle strength and enhance physical performance, while NMES is used more for rehabilitation purposes, such as improving muscle function after injury or surgery. Additionally, NMES usually involves a more precise targeting of specific muscles or muscle groups, while EMS may be used for more general muscle stimulation.

    How does NMES differ from TENS?

    TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a different type of electrical stimulation that targets nerves rather than muscles. TENS is often used for pain relief, and works by stimulating the nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. In contrast, NMES targets the muscles directly and is used to improve muscle function and strength.

    Does EMS use a stronger intensity than TENS?

    EMS and TENS are different types of electrical stimulation with different applications. It’s not really accurate to say that one is “stronger” than the other, since they’re designed to do different things. However, in terms of the intensity of the electrical impulses, EMS typically uses higher-intensity currents than TENS.

    Why would you look to use NMES?

    NMES can be used for a variety of rehabilitation purposes, such as improving muscle function and strength after injury or surgery, or for treating conditions like muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. It can also be used for more general fitness and performance enhancement, such as improving muscle tone or preventing muscle atrophy.

    Is it possible to overdo EMS?

    Yes, like any type of exercise or physical therapy, too much electrical stimulation can cause muscle soreness, fatigue, or injury. It’s important to follow proper guidelines and instructions when using EMS and to gradually increase the intensity and duration of the stimulation over time.

    Could EMS damage your nerves?

    In general, EMS is considered safe and unlikely to cause nerve damage if used properly. However, as with any medical treatment or therapy, there is always some risk involved. It’s important to use EMS under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional and to report any unusual or concerning symptoms to your doctor.


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