You often see Electronic Muscle Stimulators advertised on television as a way to firm up muscle tone and build a six pack. Are they regulated? Do they work? Is it okay to buy one?

We turned to the Food and Drug Administration for some answers to our questions.

We Know: Quick Facts About Electronic Muscle Stimulators

What is an Electronic Muscle Stimulator (EMS)?

An EMS is a machine often used in physical therapy to apply electrical current to muscles. It is usually used to help patients recover impaired muscle function due to a medical condition such as muscle spasms, or to increase the range of motion for someone who has been injured.

Currently, EMS machines have also been marketed by some manufacturers as a means of building muscle tone and/or losing weight.

Do EMS Machines work to tone muscles or help lose weight?

Here’s what the FDA has to say:

  • While an EMS device may be able to temporarily strengthen, tone or firm a muscle, no EMS devices have been cleared at this time for weight loss, girth reduction, or for obtaining "rock hard" abs.
  • Using these devices alone will not give you "six-pack" abs. Applying electrical current to muscles may cause muscles to contract. Stimulating muscles repeatedly with electricity may eventually result in muscles that are strengthened and toned to some extent but will not, based on currently available data, create a major change in your appearance without the addition of diet and regular exercise.

Are EMS Machines Regulated?

The FDA is responsible for regulating the sale of all EMS machines in the U.S. Firms who sell them must comply with FDA regulations before they can legally sell their products. Most EMS machines approved by the FDA are intended for medical use. If a company wants to sell electronic muscle stimulators directly to consumers, it needs to show the FDA the machine can be used safely and effectively in that setting.

At this time, Slendertone Flex marketed by BMR NeuroTech, Inc., has been cleared by FDA for toning, strengthening and firming abdominal muscles. Check with the manufacturer of the machine you are considering to see if it is FDA approved.

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