An EMS machine (or Electrical Muscle Stimulator) is essentially an electronic machine with the capacity to contract your muscles via an electrical current passed through your muscle. An EMS machine may be helpful in the initial phase of muscle strengthening. The electrical current may also assist pain relief, like a TENS machine, but pain relief is not it’s main purpose.
Electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) may help you to facilitate the strengthening of weak muscles. There are several theories on how EMS may assist muscle strengthening.
One potential reason is that when you maximally contract a muscle, at best, only 30% of all your muscle fibres are in a state of contraction. The remaining 70% are dormant and awaiting recruitment when the contracting fibres fatigue. With EMS you can potentially electrically stimulate these resting muscle fibres to improve their strength. Clinically, EMS appears to be more effective when the muscles are very weak and you have difficulty performing normal anti-gravity exercises.
Another reason that EMS potentially works is via an improvement in the speed of motor unit activation. Explained simply, it takes approximately 10000 repetitions for your brain to learn how to quickly send a message to your muscles via the quickest nerve pathways.
This contraction pattern becomes your "memory engram". The more frequent your muscle is recruited the better your body becomes at finding the quickest way to recruit that muscle. EMS can potentially provide you with repeated contractions to accelerate this learning process.
You should always consult your local physiotherapist who specialises in EMS muscle retraining prior to using an EMS machine.