The History of EMS & TENS 

Muscle Stimulators & TENS History

500 BC – Electronic Muscle Stimulation (EMS) has been used for centuries.


The earliest known use was by the Egyptians over 2000 years ago. They discovered the electrical properties in fish. Certain fish emit an electrical impulse. That electrical stimulation was used to treat pain and ailments such as gout. This was later practiced by the Greeks and Romans. Examples of such fish are the torpedo Fish, Numb Fish and Electric Ray.

In 1745 Altus Kratzstein

A German physician wrote the first book on electrical therapy. His scientific works and that of others during this time period was the basis for Mary Shelley’s book “Frankenstein.”

The manipulation of the muscles in the body through electrical current created a controversy over defining the relationship between God, the body and soul.

In the 18th century Luigi Galvani of Italy

Experimented with passing an electrical current through the spine of a frog. This resulted in the contraction of the frog’s muscles and an understanding that muscle contractions could be controlled through electronic stimulation.

Pictured below are examples of the processes used in this experimenting. These experiments were later done on other animals and even the corpses of executed criminals.

In 1831 Michael Faraday

A physicist and chemist dedicated to the study of electromagnetism. He developed the Faradization technique which was an effective treatment for motor paralysis.

Full-scale acceptance of electrical stimulation therapy did not occur until it was routinely used in 1840 at Guys’ Hospital in London depicted below.

1860’s This newspaper ad from a London, England paper shows an Ab Belt similar to our ab belt concept today.

Beginning around 1945, the clinical application of electrical stimulation therapy became less popular owing to remarkable progress in pharmacotherapy.

In 1902, Ludec of France designed an intermittent direct current unit, which became the basis for modern low-frequency intermittent direct current therapy. Ludec’s unit was bulky, difficult to transport, and produced strong, unpleasant stimulation. Its effectiveness, however, was recognized, and its use became common in the treatment of a variety of acute and chronic diseases during the period from 1920 to 1940, a period when no other effective therapies were available.

1965, Melzak and Wall wrote a paper after tremendous research, revealing the benefits of electricity uses as a therapy to the people of today.

In the 1970’s, EMS salons became popular. There were no regulations on these salons or the processes they used. People were getting injured and the FDA stepped in to control the industry. One popular device during this time was called the Relaxacizor. The unit came in a case with belts and bands that wrapped the body. People were actually getting burned with this device and the government had the units confiscated at the post offices prior to delivery.

At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Dr. Yahov Kots of Russia, disclosed his studies and the use of electro stimulation for training his USSR Olympic Athletes. The electric current used was called the Russian current or Kots current. His studies showed that his current was effective in building muscle bulk and increasing fast twitch response for speed. The benefits of Electronic Muscle Stimulation gained world-wide popularity when Dr. Yahov Soviet sport scientists applied EMS in the training of elite athletes, claiming 40% force gains. Kots used a very specific 2500 MHz frequency that became known as “Russian Stim”.

EMS has evolved into an industry providing electronic muscle stimulation for home use. It is safe and effective when used following the product’s guidelines. EMS devices include units of all shapes and sizes, and battery operated or ac powered options. Wearable units such as ab belts and shorts are also popular for specific spot stimulation on the abdomen, hips and thighs.

The future of EMS will probably include the use of your smart phone as a remote control device. As one of the leading providers of innovative cutting-edge and state-of-the-art TENS and EMS devices in the world, FlexTone is already working on these prototypes. Flextone is consistently innovating and delivering high performance devices. Learn more about FlexTone.