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Electrotherapy for Weight Loss

author image Alison Stellner
Alison Stellner, owner of Body Tune Personal Training, is a fitness instructor and freelance writer with more than 25 years in the health and fitness industry. Her first professional article was published in "Idea Today Fitness Magazine" in 1993. She majored in music and business administration at the University of Oklahoma.
Electrotherapy for Weight Loss
Electrotherapy for weight loss is a specialized health spa treatment. Photo Credit Stockbroker/Valueline/Getty Images

For years, physical therapists, chiropractors and sports injury specialists have been performing electrotherapy using electrical muscle stimulation, or EMS, machines to treat neuromuscular issues. Now you can find the device in health spas as a treatment for fat loss and body contouring. Spa treatments using EMS, may be packaged as "Slimming Machine" sessions, which promise to rid your body of cellulite, puffiness and toxins, as well as help you lose weight and inches.


The EMS device is a lightweight, portable machine designed to deliver electrical signals through adhesive electrode pads that are placed over specific areas of the body. The electrical impulses stimulate the nerves and cause the muscles to contract. The device is computerized with different programs that deliver varying strengths of stimulation. The number of electrodes vary with manufacturers, but your body will have anywhere from 16 to 24 pads placed over strategic areas---like hips and thighs---at one time.


Like other health spa treatments, electrotherapy takes place in a comfortable, quiet environment while you relax on a massage table. Before your first treatment, you may undergo a total body assessment that includes weighing, measuring and body fat analysis in order to track your progress. A single session lasts anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. In order to get the results you want, spas may recommend two to three sessions a week for up to sixweeks. According to SlimmingMachine.com, the treatment is safe, noninvasive and pain-free.

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How It Works

According to manufacturers of body contouring electrotherapy machines, the stimulation of the muscle by the electrical current creates a significant energy demand on the muscles so surrounding fat cells are burned for energy. They also claim that the stimulation agitates the fat cells causing release of toxins and reduction of cellulite. In addition, the deep muscle stimulation may help tighten and tone the skin and improve circulation.


Electrical muscle stimulators, or EMS devices, are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and most devices reviewed by the FDA are intended for use in physical therapy and rehabilitation under supervision by a health care professional. The FDA advises while electrical stimulators may be able to temporarily strengthen or firm a muscle, there are currently no EMS devices which have been cleared for weight loss or girth reduction. In addition, the American Skincare and Cellulite Expert Association does not promote the treatment for cellulite elimination and states the FDA finds the treatment to be ineffective.

Expert Advice

Weight loss obtained through a healthy diet and daily exercise is probably the most effective cellulite treatment, according to MayoClinic.com. You can improve the appearance of dimpled skin that may appear on hips and thighs by losing pounds and strengthening the underlying muscles. MayoClinic.com notes that a promising treatment that has been shown to effectively reduce cellulite is a combination of lasers and radiofrequency systems. Results using this treatment may last up to six months.

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