Does Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) Hurt?

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Does EMS hurt is a surprisingly common question we get asked at Exolt before anything else.

And whilst we can easily say, no it doesn’t hurt, the more difficult question then becomes… well what does it feel like?

It truly is a sensation you have to experience to understand how it feels, but in this blog, we do our best to communicate the feeling to all of you out there who aren’t sure what to expect. 


What Does EMS feel like?

In short… at low levels, EMS feels like light vibrations against your body, similar to one of those electrical massagers that you may have in the back of your cupboard at home. At higher levels, it feels as if your muscles are contracting/switching on without you telling them to. At extremely high levels and in the hands of someone untrained EMS does have the potential to be uncomfortable. (hence we would always recommend training at an EMS studio with qualified instructors and not trying it out by yourself with a DIY kit you purchased online)

Many different suits use different levels of frequency and stimulation lengths which result in slightly different feelings. At the core of it when you first experience a stimulation, the trainer will keep it low and you will feel the buzzing against your body, as the trainer increases the strength of the stimulation you start to feel as if your muscles are working significantly harder than they actually are. For example, you may be holding no weights, but somehow you feel like you’re holding a 5kg dumbbell in each hand and struggling to lift them. At even higher levels when the stimulation is on you can visibly see your muscles contract, not unlike when you have a muscle twitch. 

Under a trainer controlled environment, throughout an EMS session, you will feel your muscles switching on and off in intervals and the goal will be to work as hard as you can in those ‘on’ intervals to get the maximum results. 

Once you get used to the feeling of your muscles being controlled externally you find yourself enjoying the feeling more and more, wanting it to last longer.  

A lot of people report that they enjoy the feeling of EMS so much that it becomes a bit of an addiction. Having that level of muscle activation is extremely difficult, more so as we get older, and the feelings that go alongside that are all those you would expect from a high-intensity workout that went for hours. 


So it doesn’t hurt, but is it safe?

So we know EMS does not hurt, and in fact, it can be a really enjoyable feeling. But is it safe to be switching our muscles on without our brain in command? 

Yes. It most certainly is safe. In fact, a large amount of research has been done into the safety and efficacy of electric muscle stimulation in rehabilitation and performance settings. 

EMS has been around for centuries in the rehabilitation space, it was deemed a long time ago as a safe tool to activate muscles when someone could no longer do this effectively on their own. Such as after surgery, injury, or even in those who have lost the use of 1 or more limbs. 

EMS technology allowed physiotherapists a way to safely activate those dormant muscles without putting any strain on the joints and bones surrounding them. 

As we get older the strain that exercises such as lifting weights, running, HIIT, etc can cause often lead to a lot of pain and discomfort in our joints or lead to injury if our existing muscles are not strong enough. EMS allows us to strengthen muscles without the impact on the joints and bones that is unavoidable with most strengthening exercises. 

Another thing we lose as we get older is our brains’ connection to our muscles. If you have ever heard of the term ‘muscle memory’ then this will all make sense. Your muscles are only as good as you train them to be. The less and less you use your muscles the less effective your brain gets at switching them on. As you get older and start changing your exercise habits or pulling back due to pain or injury that ‘muscle memory’ starts to fade. EMS works as a highly effective reminder to your muscles of how to activate, in turn reminding the brain of the connection it has to that muscle (or muscles). 


So to put it all concisely…

Does Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) Hurt? No. Under a qualified trainer, you should never feel pain during an EMS session. 

Is Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) safe? Yes. In fact safer than a lot of the exercise methods out there that put your bones and joints through unnecessary strain. 

Why not find your closest EMS studio and feel the sensation of complete muscle activation for yourself. Exolt Locations

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