Can electric shocks condition muscles?

Do externally-applied (and well-controlled, obviously) electric shocks/currents do anything to condition muscles?

Obviously, they DO cause a contraction, but everyone always scoffs at the idea of using them as a no-effort way to work out. Yet I occasionally hear of electricity being used to stimulate muscles in cases of injury–like paraplegia, severe knee injuries, etc., where there has been atrophy, etc.

So can electricity prevent muscle atrophy? Can it increase muscle tone/mass/strength? If so, why isn’t it being used more with bedridden patients, etc., to conserve their muscle mass and strength?

I can’t recall precisely, but here’s my recollection of when this was previously discussed.

Basically, the amount of current that (can be safely?) is used is nowhere near enough to build or sustain muscle mass in your average person. In the case of preventing muscle atrophy, it’s just a minimal amount of movement, really.

I don’t have numbers, but I’m pretty sure they’re out there.

It looks like it’s useful for therapy and rehab.

Check out:


Having had a commercial muscle stimulator to play with in the early 70’s I can say that it’s easily possible to generate powerful contractions. With the electrodes on one arm, the hand can be caused to close so tightly as to prevent it’s being pried open with the other hand. Finding the correct contact points to do this can be tricky, and if you use too much current for too long you’ll end up with muscle cramps. The right amount of voltage/current to get the desired results varies from day to day so the operator needs a certain amount of skill to keep from hurting themself. I’ve seen a couple of infomercials for small muscle stimulators designed to exercise facial muscles, but the things are probably just too dangerous to let out willy nilly into the public domain.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Infomercials:
There is this thing that is supposed to make your face look more youthful by tightening the face muscles with electric shock. Each time the lady applied it, the entire side of her face jerked violently! I could not stop laughing!!!
And all the spokeswomen talking about how much they like it had crooked, messed up mouths. Their mouths would just not close right. It’s like all that shock treatment damaged the their nerves or something. They talked so great about it and tried to smile but their lips would not cover their teeth. Their lips were all limp on one side. This is one of the few informercials funnier than the one for NADS. :smiley:

That one has me on the floor every time! The idea that people are basically buying personal tasers to use on their own bodies for beauty treatment is hilarious, for some reason.

And you’re right, the spokeswomen all look like they’ve had three strokes.

The use of an electronic muscle stimulator for “contitioning muscles” is quackery. Avoid it at all costs. Allow me to quote from a page called “Top Health Frauds” at:

Unproven Use of Muscle Stimulators

Muscle stimulators are a legitimate medical device approved for certain conditions–to relax muscle spasms, increase blood circulation, prevent blood clots, and rehabilitate muscle function after a stroke. But within the past few years health spas and figure salons have promoted new uses. They claim that muscle stimulators can remove wrinkles, perform face lifts, reduce breast size, and remove cellulite. Some even claim these handy little devices can reduce one’s beer belly without the aid of sit-ups! FDA considers promotion of muscle stimulators used for these conditions to be fraudulent.

And from another of QuackWatch’s pages:

The FDA considers promotion of muscle stimulators or iontophoresis devices for any type of body shaping or contouring to be fraudulent [3,4]. The most infamous of
these devices, the Relax-A-Cizor, was claimed to reduce girth by delivering electric shocks to the muscles. More than 400,000 units were sold for $200 to $400 each before
the FDA obtained an injunction in 1970 to stop its sale. At the trial, 40 witnesses testified that they had been injured while using the machine. The judge concluded that the
device could cause miscarriages and aggravate many preexisting medical conditions, including hernias, ulcers, varicose veins, and epilepsy.

could someone with the necessary equipment please send this advertisement to I for one would love to see it!

I’ve a catalogue where you can buy these small, transistor radio sized electronic muscle-cizers for $70 to $100. They run on batteries and I’ve figured that the electronics have got to be worth much less than $20, including the contact pads.

I’ve always wondered if they work.