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Functional Electrical Stimulation

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First, what is electrical stimulation?

Electrical stimulation is used to bypass an individual’s injured area by creating a muscle contraction via electrical current. This electrical current travels through an electrode that is placed on a specific muscle. This causes a contraction.

What is the difference between electrical stimulation and functional electrical stimulation?

Functional electrical stimulation (also known as FES) is very similar to electrical stimulation. It is pretty much the same exact thing except for the fact that the electrical stimulation is being used in a functional manner. Electrical stimulation typically refers to one muscle group being electrically stimulated with the end result of one muscle contraction.

Functional electrical stimulation refers to the specific stimulation of one or more muscle groups with a specific goal in mind. The most popular known form of functional electrical stimulation refers to the functional electrical stimulation bicycles, which you’ll find on the bottom of this page.

Electrical stimulation with the use of weights as resistance is also functional electrical stimulation. As long as an activity is being accomplished along with electrical stimulation, functional electrical stimulation is occurring.

Functional Electrical Stimulation



Prevents muscle atrophy If not properly trained many things can go wrong
Increases range of motion Muscle Tears
Increases circulation Blisters
Reeducates the spinal cord around the injured area Burns
Some functional electrical stimulation programs provide cardiovascular workouts Can cause Autonomic Dysreflexia
Decreases spasms Dizziness
Increased muscle mass prevents skin breakdown
Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Bicycle/Arm CycleRestorative Therapy, Inc. focuses on developing rehab equipment for the home that will help to regenerate damaged nerve cells through patterned neural activity below one’s level of injury. RT-300 – RTI makes a Functional Electro Stimulation bicycle. I recommend this for anyone with a spinal cord injury or nerve damage. The thing that I like the most about this product is that you can wheel up to it in your wheelchair (power wheelchair or manual wheelchair) RTI also has great customer service.When I got the FES bike, the RTI reps came out to the house, set it up and trained me and my caregiver how to use it.This is my favorite piece of equipment in my house. It gives me a cardiovascular workout, reduces my spasticity, increases my blood flow, and increases my muscle mass. Through the Restorative Therapy Program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, I have been able to transition to an incomplete and contract muscles throughout my entire body.

They also have a motorized arm cycle, which can be added to the RT 300. The arm cycle is unique because it provides motor support forward and backwards. It also can be programmed on the touchscreen with resistance for both forward and backwards. You can change resistance settings according to your needs.

The arm cycle has helped me to strengthen my upper extremities. Two years post-injury, I was able to push myself around the house in a manual wheelchair.

For a video clip, click here

Electrical Stimulation Units

Empi 300 pv This is my favorite electrical stimulation unit that I have because it is the easiest and most versatile to program for any given muscle group.

To learn more about the four channel Empi Infinity Plus, click here

Compex Sport US This is a great four channel unit. With a total of six pre-programmed settings for muscular simulation. It comes with a great picture book indicating electrode pad placements for the specific unit.


Electrode PadsCheck with your physical therapists to see which brand they recommend.Sometimes the electrical stimulation unit that you are using only works with a certain brand of electrodes.

Biofeedback Devices

NeuroMove 900 This Biofeedback device is an incredible product for the reeducation of weakened nerve signals. Biofeedback devices are able to measure how weak or how powerful a neurological signal is. The machine has two different settings for measuring neurological signals. Neurological signals are made when voluntarily muscle contractions occur.This device is made for people with neurological damage, specifically people affected with strokes and spinal cord injuries. The machine has two modes: stroke and spinal cord injury. The stroke mode is for a muscle or a nerve that is working but not at 100%. It creates a threshold that needs a full muscle contraction.
The spinal cord injury mode is able to measure very weak neurological signals, the smallest contraction of a muscle is recognized by the machine. Based upon the specific achievable threshold that an individual sets, which needs to be a threshold that is achievable at a person’s specific neurological muscle group. The device picks up the faintest of signals and is able to immediately reward the individual’s muscle and nerve with electrical stimulation that provides a educational feedback. This educational feedback helps to reeducate the nerve to function as it once did.


Nylatex Wraps These straps are made specifically for holding electrodes in place. The stretchable fabric conforms around the electrodes and keeps them in place and flat against the skin.I use the straps for many rehab activities because of the stretchable soft fabric. They are many different sizes so find which one works best for you with your rehab program and daily activities. Nylatex® Wraps

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