What is muscle stimulation?How to stimulate muscles - Artificially..... Medical approach.

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The only thing a single muscle can do is contract. It is the interplay of musles working together that gives the possibility of precise and refined movement. As one muscle contracts, its counterpart evidently must expand. To keep this balance optimal, this is why it's a good idea to do a bit of stretching before and after a physical workout.

A muscle contracts when its corresponding nerve is stimulated by an electrical impulse. Normally, this is done by the brain, sending out its own messages which "hop" from one synapse to another at lightning speed. However, you can artifically simulate this action by sending an electrical impulse in the same way. As in a battery, cathode and anode patches are placed on each end of the muscle in question (actually, on the skin's surface instead, with a dippady-doo gel-like substance first applied to help conduct the impulse just underneath) and then a weak electrical current is sent. You can see the muscle react by contracting or twitching without your having "ordered" it by conscious effort.

These muscle stimulator kits can be bought (with simple instructions) from health goods suppliers, spas, or even some big department stores. They are often considered the lazy man's way out of doing exercise since the user can read, sleep, watch TV or whatever while the muscle being stimulated is twitching away. Of course, the final effect is only relatively successful; there's nothing as good as the real thing, and the "no pain, no gain" policy seems to apply here as well.

Electrical stimulation of nerves can also be used in pallative treatment for chronic pain. See the reference below for more information.