Functional Electrical Stimulation

Electrical Stimulation used in physical therapy

Spasticity is muscle overactivity that occurs when communication between your brain and spinal cord is disrupted by a spinal cord or other injury or an illness. One possible treatment is functional electrical stimulation, which delivers a shock to your affected muscle, activating nerves and making the muscle move.

For example, electrodes can be placed on the wrist extensor muscles of the forearm. You relax your hand, then contract the wrist extensor muscle to cause movement. This movement triggers an electric shock, which causes greater movement of the hand. Electrical stimulation can be used on all parts of the body, including the shoulders and legs. The shock can range from a mild tingling sensation to almost a burning sensation depending on the intensity level chosen.

The benefits are improved movement and enhanced motor control. The main drawback is how well you tolerate the sensation of electrical shock. An electrical stimulation session at a rehabilitation center is billed like an ordinary physical therapy session and is reimbursable through Medicare.

Since 2004, FES is increasingly common. Multiple FES devices for drop foot are currently on the market which use surface electrodes to stimulate the peroneal nerve. This controls the movement of the ankle and foot to stimulate raising the foot at the right time.