The Emsella Chair: Electromagnetic Pulses and Incontinence

The Emsella chair supposedly does Kegel exercises for you, but OB-GYNs aren't sure whether it can help with incontinence.

If you experience issues with your pelvic floor—such as incontinence (the inability to hold your urine)—a healthcare provider may suggest doing kegel exercises. Kegels can be a useful exercise to keep your lower abdominal region healthy and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

If you work with a physical therapist, they might recommend using weights called Kegel balls to help exercise those muscles. However, a company called BTL Industries claims that patients can use their Emsella chairs as an exercise-free option to treat incontinence.

According to BTL Industries, the electromagnetic pulses from Emsella chairs may help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Learn more about pelvic floor problems, what Emsella chairs are, how they work, and whether they can help treat your incontinence.

What Are Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Your pelvic floor muscles cradle your uterus, bowel, bladder, and other pelvic organs so they function properly. If your pelvic floor muscles become weak, you could be at risk for urinary, gastrointestinal, or vaginal conditions. As such, treatment for incontinence sometimes includes pelvic floor physical therapy.

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is when you urinate without control. Here are three common types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence (caused by physical stress)
  • Urge incontinence (caused by bladder contractions)
  • Mixed incontinence (a combination of different types of incontinence)

This involuntary urination can often occur after pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause. They're also common in older adults since the pelvic muscles weaken as you age.

Both stress and urge incontinence can be caused by pelvic floor weakness—and training your pelvic floor muscles could help with both. The exercises can also generally make you better at holding in your pee because pelvic floor muscles can delay urination.

What Is the Emsella Chair?

The Emsella chair claims to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce incontinence with electromagnetic technology. When you sit on this non-invasive device, it uses electromagnetic pulses to cause supramaximal pelvic floor muscles contractions. That means the Emsella stimulates your muscles to become more tense than they usually would be able to contract—even more tense than Kegel exercises.

Typically, a full treatment lasts six sessions, spread over multiple weeks with two sessions a week. Each visit can cost around $300 and lasts about 28 minutes. They involve thousands of stimulated contractions, and should only cause tingling and sensations of pelvic floor contraction.

"The goal of the Emsella is to treat incontinence early so surgery isn't necessary" Carolyn Delucia, MD, OB-GYN and former director at VSPOT, a medical spa offering treatments for various vagina health issues in New York, told Health. "The chair uses electromagnetic energy technology to engage all the muscles of the pelvis at once." Plus, the device may have additional benefits. According to Dr. Delucia, "we also have women reporting secondary benefits like increased strength of orgasms."

The Science Behind the Emsella Chair

The Emsella uses a type of electromagnetic technology called a High-Intensity Focused Electromagnetic Field (HIFEM). It can directly cause muscle contractions without interfacing with your brain. And there is some research that shows HIFEM may effectively treat incontinence.

In one study, HIFEM sessions reduced incontinence for 81% of the 75 participants. Both females with stress incontinence and females with urge incontinence had improvements from six 28-minute-long sessions of HIFEM (the same amount recommended on the BTL Emsella site). And three months after these trials, most participants still had fewer leaks before going to the bathroom, while sleeping, and during exercise. At that follow-up, 34% of participants no longer had incontinence.

Research studies on postpartum people support these findings. In two studies, researchers compared the effects of an Emsella chair, at-home electrical stimulation, and no treatment on pelvic muscle function. They found that the Emsella chair was the most effective by a significant amount—both in patient surveys and scans of their pelvic muscles.

However, these studies have some limitations. For example, the studies do not look at the long-term effects of HIFEM stimulation on pelvic floor muscles or incontinence. There also are not many studies on this relatively new tool, which is why some physicians hesitate to recommend HIFEM.

Drawbacks and Incontinence Treatment

While Kegels are known to help treat incontinence, the Emsella may or may not be a helpful treatment. "There are very few studies of quality on these tools," San Francisco-based OB-GYN Jen Gunter, MD, told Health. "Intravaginal electrical stimulation with specialized equipment can help some women with pelvic floor issues, but this is not that device."

Dr. Gunter added that she doesn't think patients should head to medispas if they're struggling with incontinence. "I would see a board-certified gynecologist, urologist, or urogynecologist, and a pelvic floor physical therapist instead," Dr. Gunter said.

A Quick Review

There is early evidence that the Emsella chair may help strengthen the pelvic floor. However, research is limited, and some providers are wary of prescribing the treatment since the long-term effects aren't yet known.

If you are experiencing pelvic floor issues, reach out to your OB-GYN or other healthcare provider to help determine what the best course of treatment is for you.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Pelvic floor disorders.

  2. National Library of Medicine. Urinary incontinence.

  3. Samuels JB, Pezzella A, Berenholz J, Alinsod R. Safety and efficacy of a non-invasive high-intensity focused electromagnetic field (HIFEM) device for treatment of urinary incontinence and enhancement of quality of lifeLasers Surg Med. 2019;51(9):760-766. doi:10.1002/lsm.23106

  4. Silantyeva E, Zarkovic D, Astafeva E, et al. A comparative study on the effects of high-intensity focused electromagnetic technology and electrostimulation for the treatment of pelvic floor muscles and urinary incontinence in parous women: analysis of posttreatment dataFemale Pelvic Med Reconstr Surg. 2021;27(4):269-273. doi:10.1097/SPV.0000000000000807

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