Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) for those with Spinal Cord Injury

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Hello there! My name is Talal and I am a trainer at Walk It Off Spinal Cord Recovery and Wellness Centre in Newmarket.  I would like to share information regarding one of the training modalities we use with our spinal cord injury clients called Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES).

After a spinal cord injury, many individuals will have weaker muscles or muscles that can only be activated through external stimulation. We use two techniques to stimulate contraction: Nervous System Activation Technique (NSAT-discussed in our previous blog) and Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS). EMS is a modality that is used by placing electrodes over the skin of a targeted muscle group and then a current is passed through to generate muscle contractions.

As an able bodied individual, muscle contractions are produced through electrical signals generated by the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and carried to the effecter muscle for the desired movement/contraction. With a spinal cord injury, this pathway is compromised and the muscles below the lesion or injury site may experience atrophy, seen as weakening and a decrease in muscle mass.

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Walk It Off is fortunate to possess the only Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Ergometer north of Toronto. This specialized bike allows us to provide EMS in a way that allows the individual to pedal with their feet or cycle with their arms using their own muscle contractions.

FES is a great method to provide an external stimulus to muscles that are inactive or weaker below the lesion (injury) level. It is important to note that muscle contractions are necessary to maintain healthy muscle mass, promote blood circulation, decrease/stop and in some cases, reverse loss of bone density, and lastly increase venous blood and lymphatic return to the heart; all part of reducing secondary complications associated with spinal cord injuries.

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click image to enlarge

Here at Walk it Off, our trainers are qualified and trained in assessing clients and programming their rehabilitation to provide a balanced functional eustress (good stress) to the body to elicit a training effect that positively influences daily life. Furthermore, our trainers work closely with clients to identify what strengths and weakness can be influenced by various modalities.

If you have further questions regarding the mechanism of FES stimulation or other modalities used at Walk it off, please contact us!  We would love to hear from you. We welcome your feedback too. You can connect with us via telephone or email, or leave a comment right here on the site.

Until next time,

Talal

 

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