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Side effects of and contraindications for whole-body electro-myo-stimulation: a viewpoint
  1. Claudia Stöllberger,
  2. Josef Finsterer
  1. KA Rudolfstiftung, Wien, Austria
  1. Correspondence to Dr Claudia Stöllberger; claudia.stoellberger{at}


Whole-body electro-myo-stimulation (WB-EMS) has been introduced as an alternative to physical training. Data about side effects and contraindications of WB-EMS are summarised. From healthy subjects, elevation of creatine-kinase (CK) activity with inter-individual variability was reported after WB-EMS. No data about applied current types, stimulation frequency and risk factors were given. In randomised trials investigating WB-EMS, CK activity was not measured. Seven cases of rhabdomyolysis after WB-EMS were found, and it remains open whether WB-EMS was the only risk factor. In healthy subjects, WB-EMS does not seem to affect blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen uptake. The lists of exclusion criteria are, in part, contradictory between different studies, especially regarding malignancy and heart failure. Risk factors for rhabdomyolysis are not mentioned as contraindications for WB-EMS. Scientific research should concentrate on muscle damage as a side effect of WB-EMS considering current types applied, stimulation frequency and risk factors for rhabdomyolysis. Research about WB-EMS should include longitudinal muscle force measurements and MRI. Subjects, intending to perform WB-EMS, should undergo investigations by a physician comprising a screen for risk factors for rhabdomyolysis. The education of operators working in gyms with WB-EMS should be regulated and improved. Regulatory authorities should become aware of the problem. Those working in the field should start an initiative on an international level to increase the safety of WB-EMS.

  • electromyostimulation
  • rhabdomyolysis
  • muscular damage
  • exercise

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  • Contributors Both authors have contributed equally to (1) conception and design, acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data; (2) drafting the article and revising it critically for important intellectual content and (3) final approval of the version to be submitted.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.