Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES)
FES is the use of electrical stimulation to make a particular muscle work in a way that helps you function better. Some common applications of FES are highlighted below.
Dropped Foot / Foot Drop
Foot drop is the inability to lift the foot and toes properly when walking. It is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot. Foot drop tends to cause people to scuff their toes along the ground, so they may lift their foot higher than usual when walking to compensation for this. It is often caused by damage or disease of the brain or spinal cord, although it may also result from injury to the nerves in the leg.
Several FES devices have been developed to correct this problem and there is good evidence that they can help you to walk faster, with less effort and with more confidence. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has declared FES as a safe and effective treatment for Drop Foot.
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This system requires you to place electrodes on your leg and run wires to the control unit, normally worn on the waist. It uses a heel switch to trigger movement at the correct moment to pick up your foot and correct foot drop.
This is a wireless cuffed device that is worn around the upper shin. It has no heel switch and instead uses motion sensor technology to pull your foot up in time with your steps.
In cases where an orthosis or surface stimulator are not appropriate or inadequate, a neuroimplant such as the ActiGait offers an additional option. The implant is inserted under the skin and sends electrical signals to the nerves triggering precise muscle contractions and joint movements. This results in controlled dorsiflexion. For more information see: www.dropfoot.co.uk or watch video.
Shoulder subluxation (joint out of socket) is a common problem after Stroke and is often accompanied by pain. There is evidence that FES treatment of the shoulder can prevent or improve subluxation and reduce pain. It can also improve muscle tone and shoulder function when used in conjunction with regular physiotherapy.
FES Cycling is an effective way of keeping fit following a spinal cord injury, stroke or many other conditions. FES technology uses precise electrical stimulation to actively exercise the muscles of paralysed limbs improving circulation, easing spasms and much more following spinal injury. The muscle contractions are controlled by a computerised stimulator – generating the muscle power to pedal a motorised cycle – known as an FES Bike. The aims can be to build muscle bulk, improve fitness, reduce muscle spasm or produce circulation benefits.
Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is the use of electrical stimulation to make a particular muscle work. The benefits include strengthening of the muscle, stretching of the opposite muscle and improving circulation.