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How electrical stimulation makes all the difference when it comes to strengthening for Multiple Sclerosis

 

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is a rehabilitation strategy technique that applies low-level micro-electrical current to the nerves and muscles of certain parts of the body to improve motion control and strength.

The goal is to increase and strengthen functional motions and activities, usually of the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Functional refers to the restoration of useful movements like standing, stepping, pedaling for exercise, grasping and reaching.

So, this concept may be new to you and you may be wondering, does this really work. Honestly, this technique has been around for decades. However, until more recently there was not much research on how, why and how long-lasting are the results.

Neuroplasticity, learning to build strength again…

 

Recent research has shown not only does it restore some useful strength in affected muscles but if done repetitively and in a great enough frequency it can create connections in the brains and spinal cords of affected patients.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation of specific muscles of the hands and arms, as well as the legs and feet, increase connections between nerve cells in the sensory and motor cortex in the brain in stroke-injured children and adults.

This creates ‘learning’ of certain motions and sensations that will last even after the electrical stimulation is stopped if it is done properly and there is sufficient viable brain tissue.

Full extension without Stimulation

 

Full extension WITH Stimulation

This is different than the old school rehabilitation which teaches how to adapt to the loss of the use of a body part. Instead of just adaptive equipment to support the body part we actually try to restore muscle strength and where possible, increase brain connections and learning so the body part actually functions to some degree.

 

When muscles are not activated for whatever reason you can suffer from muscle atrophy, that is, muscle size is significantly reduced. So you may not have sufficient grip strength to hold on in the shower. You may be dropping things more and more frequently. Maybe you have even given up trying.

This is an opportunity for micro-current electrical stimulation to help increase strength and function so you may regain sufficient strength in your weak hand to hold on in the shower. You may increase your arm strength to help with mobility and transfers. Maybe regain strength in your legs as well for standing and possibly walking.

This is NOT TENS…

This is not Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation (TENS) commonly referred to as STIM. The type of current and it’s waveform are different than that os TENS and effects muscle contraction for strengthening and movement.

TENS is used for pain relief and not muscle contraction. Also, the waveform we used is much more comfortable than TENS current.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation is painless and you feel the muscle contracting and a slight tingly sensation. It is not painful in any way. Over time you will notice improved motion and strength.

This is not premodulated current, we use biphasic which is more comfortable and less ‘grabby’. It is specifically designed to increase muscle strength, comfortable.  This can be used to increase your grip for holding on to objects, canes or grab bars.

It can be a starting point for greater independence for completing activities that are important to you. You may also receive improved function in your legs for transfers, standing, and possibly even mobility.

Give us a call at Therafit Rehab for more information at (410) 871 2494.