• home link.
  • steps to recovery link.
  • healthy living link.
  • daily living link.
  • sci research link.
  • rehab adventures living link.
  • spinalpedia link.

Electrical Stimulation

Determined2Heal Tips:

Click Here — Learn more about electrical stimulation and watch thousands of SCI videos on SPINALpedia!

Click Here — Check out our Spinal Cord Injury Research Pinterest board

Click Here — Check out our Spinal Cord Injury Health Pinterest board

The most common spinal cord injuries affect one vertebrae. Above the persons level of injury, the spinal cord is completely healthy and the individual is able to voluntarily contract muscles at will. Below a person’s level of injury, their spinal cord is also completely healthy, the only problem is that the injured area limits how much communication from one’s brain is able to pass through.

Electrical stimulation is used to bypass the injured area by creating a muscle contraction via localized electrical current. This electrical current travels through an electrode that is placed on a specific muscle that causes a contraction to occur. Electrical stimulation provides many benefits because it gives a muscle the ability move. Movement is good.

How are the steps to using an electrical stimulation unit?

Step 1

Check the batteries of the electrical stimulation unit, to make sure it is fully charged.

Step 2

Choose a specific muscle of the body that you want to exercise.

Step 3

Before placing the electrodes on the skin, add two to three drops of water to each electrode and spread it around evenly with your finger. Place the electrodes specifically on the area that your physical therapist designed for that specific muscle.

Step 4

Check the leads (wires) and make sure they are plugged into the electrode and the electrical simulation unit

Step 5

If needed tape or wrap down the electrodes.

Step 6

Turn on the electrical stimulation unit and set the unit to the preset electrical stimulation level and program.

Step 7

Remember, to think about the specific movement as the muscle contracts. This is called biofeedback

Step 8

Once the electrical stimulation is completed, remove the tape or wrap, followed by the wires, and then the electrodes. Place two to three drops of water and spread it around the electrode.

Step 9

Place electrodes back on the original plastic sheet

Step 10

Recharge the electrical stimulation unit.

What are the benefits gained from electrical stimulation?

The muscle contraction that occurs from electrical stimulation provides many benefits.

  • Exercise for the otherwise unused muscle.

  • Decreases muscle atrophy and increases muscle mass

  • Increase in blood flow

  • Increases range of motion

  • Creates a powerful neurological signal that works to reeducate the spinal cord and decreases the spinal cord from atrophying

How do you choose the right electrode size?

There are many different types and sizes of electrodes. Specific electrode sizes are better for specific muscles than others. Larger muscles need larger electrodes. Smaller muscles need smaller electrodes. Muscles affected around your level of injury sometimes cannot be stimulated. Always check with a physical therapist before implementing an electrical stimulation program.

What are the electorate pad placement locations?

Click here

Will my skin be burned because electrical stimulation?

Skin burns are very rare. Usually it occurs because of an old dried out electrode, a cheap or malfunctioning electrical stimulation unit, or a prolonged use on a specific muscle. Remember to replace electrodes once they do not stick well. Adding a few drops of water on the electrode surface before and after use will increase the electrodes life expectancy. Usually an electrode will last anywhere from 15 to 30 uses. Before purchasing an electrical stimulation unit, check with your physical therapist and find out which one they recommend.

You can’t go wrong with EMPI unit click here. Electrically stimulating a muscle for a prolonged period of time is first of all not good for the muscle (don’t go exceed what your physical therapist recommends) . Second of all, it increases the chance that the electrode is not completely flat against the skin. If the electrode is not completely flat against the skin, the electricity concentrates on whatever part of the skin that is in contact with electrode. This concentrated electricity can result in blisters or burns.

How long should a muscle be electrically stimulated?

This should be determined by a skilled physical therapist. Typically, unused muscles fatigue very quickly. Most people when they begin their electrical stimulation program are not able to contract their muscles for very long. Don’t be discouraged because of this. Developing a specific doable program with your physical therapist that is the best program for you. Remember, it is always better to do less with your electrical stimulation program when it comes to the time and voltage on a specific muscle. Never exceed the time and voltage your physical therapist set out for you, this is when things go wrong.

What is a Tens unit?

Click here

What it is functional electrical stimulation (FES)?

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 with electrode pad placements for the specific unit.

Tens/Microcurrent Stimulation

Tens/Microcurrent Stimulation

Electrode Pads: Check with your physical therapists which brand they recommend

Sometimes the electrical stimulation unit that you are using only works with a certain brand of electrode.

Biofeedback Devices

NeuroMove 900This Biofeedback device is an incredible product for the reeducation of weaken 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 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’re different sizes, find which one works best for you with your rehab program and daily activities.Nylatex┬« Wraps

Click Your Level of Injury

Medical Disclaimer: The Determined2heal Foundation offers educational and health related information relevant to persons with spinal cord injuries, their families, and others of interest. The information contained herein on this site is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified health professionals before implementing any new regiment concerning your individual health. Always seek the advice of your physician prior to starting or changing any medical or health treatment.

Links Disclaimer: The Determined2heal Foundation manages and updates information along with links to web sites around the world that contain spinal cord injury products and educational information. The links provided are not managed by the Determined2heal Foundation, and therefore, Determined2heal is not responsible for their content.

Copyright: All written information produced by the Determined2heal Foundation that is contained on this web site is protected under copyright laws. It is prohibited to copy in part or whole any written information from this web site to be posted on other web sites. Information that appears on this site is held by the publisher/developer of the material. Contact individual publisher/developer for permission to use their information.