Read about FES for Spinal Cord Injury

Indication: SCI
Level: T8
AIS: C
Cause: ATV accident
Age at onset: 21

I am an active user of the RT300 FES system.  The benefits that I have received are my own personal benefits.  I am not speaking on the behalf of anyone else or their benefits.  I am just frankly speaking on my own personal experiences.

A little bit about me is that I have a T8 SCI and was injured in 2006.  I was a former baseball player in college.  

I have always worked out before my accident.  As you have been told probably hundreds of times, everybody is different with the benefits they achieve.  I am sure that is certain with me.  I will share some of the benefits that I have received from FES therapy on the RT300.  The biggest benefits that I have noticed from the RT300 over the last 8 years are listed below.  I put a little description beside each to provide better details. 

I use the RT300 an average of 3 times per week for 1 hour.

Muscle Mass Retained and Built

My legs have retained and rebuilt the muscle mass in my legs from the RT300.  I feel like my muscles are more muscular and are in good condition.  One of the biggest things I feared after my accident was losing the muscle mass in my legs.  I didn't want my legs to look like "toothpicks". With the RT300, I have great muscle mass in my legs and backside.  With that, I have not had any pressure sores since my accident.  The biggest compliment I get is from others who either think I was newly injured or not injured at all, from looking at the muscle mass in my legs.  I can credit this 100% to the RT300 FES system.

Cardiovascular

While on the RT300, I am able to get a little bit of cardiovascular outcomes.  I can really push myself with the increasing of the resistance.  This took time, because I would fatigue out at the beginning.  My muscles could not handle the stim for me to push at that level.  Now with my muscles in better condition, I can really push myself to get those great cardiovascular benefits.

Changes in Sweating

When I first started using the RT300 in 2007, I noticed that I never sweated on the RT300.  After using the RT300 for about 5 years, I noticed a major difference, in that I now sweat a lot around my head from the extensive workout.  I have tinkered with the settings to make sure I get a great power output and am pushed hard.  This took some time to build up to overtime.  What's really interesting is that I now sweat below my injury level, where as in the past, I did not.  I am not sure why that is the case, but I believe the long-term use of the RT300 plays a role in this.

Great Bone Health

In 2010, after three years on the RT300, I was in a study to look at bone health.  My physician performed a DXA Test (Bone Health Scan) on my body.  The results of my test were that I was in the top 1 percentile of Spinal Cord Injuries in bone health.  I think the RT300 had a major role with this. I also was a former athlete, so I am sure that also played a role from exercising in the past.  What's great is that after 4 years of having a SCI, my bone health was in great condition.

Changes Neurologically and Maximized through Strength Training -  This can be challenging to explain.  I want to be sure that I word this correctly.  I was classified as an ASIA A Complete SCI after my accident.  One year after my accident, I was evaluated and still classified as an ASIA A Complete SCI.  However, about two and a half years after my accident I transitioned to an ASIA C Incomplete SCI.  I credit this to a number of things.  I want to be clear here.  I do not think that the RT300 was the sole purpose of this.  I can't tell you that the RT300 made me change from ASIA A to ASIA C.  I performed a lot of other exercises and therapies, along with the RT300.  I do think the RT300 played a role.  The differences I noticed neurologically were from being able to move my toes to being able to stand up and bear weight.  After some of this recovery, I have noticed how the RT300 plays a role with this.  If I try to stand up or even move my big toe and have not my RT300 in a week or two, my function is weak.  However, if I use the RT300 I notice how much stronger my function is.  For example, I can stand up longer and more secure and also can move my toes with more force after my muscles are built up from the strength of the RT300.  I consider the RT300 as a strength training tool for me in this aspect.

Maintenance of Spasms

I had and still have a lot of spasms and they are pretty frequent.  When I use the RT300, I feel like I am able to manage them better.  They don't come as frequent, but they are stronger.  This makes sense because the muscles are stronger from using the RT300.  After I use the RT300, the spasms go away for about 6-8 hours.

Differences in foot patterning on treadmill training

I have done some body-weight support treadmill training.  Although I am not actively moving my foot up and down while taking steps, my therapists notice a difference in my foot patterning.  I stimulate my tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius (shin and calf) in a gait pattern, while on the RT300. By gait pattern, this means my muscles are firing in the same pattern, as if I were walking over ground.  There is a setting on the RT300 that allows you to change the muscles from firing in a pattern.  I always program the RT300 on the "walking" pattern.  This can be confusing, but that's not what's important here.  Anyway, my therapists say that my lower leg muscles fire on the treadmill much better than the norm.  They don't notice my toe dragging when the move my foot forward. They have said that it seems like my foot responds with a little bit of initiation.  They believe that the electrical stimulation in that "walking" pattern has taught my foot to respond on the treadmill training better.

Body Fat Percentage

Last year I got my Body Fat Percentage measured.  I did this after doing lots of physical activity in the gym and FES on the RT300.  I was in really great shape, both in my upper and lower body.  I also maintained a fairly healthy diet.  My body fat percentage was calculated at 11%.  This is actually lower than the 15% from when I was a collegiate baseball over 10 years ago.  I was super excited about this.

I am sure there are some other benefits, but these stick out the most.  The biggest takeaway that I can tell you from my own personal experience is that the RT300 will increase your quality of health. I can't tell you that it will help you walk again or ever recover any function.  However, I can tell you that for me it did increase my muscle mass and help prevent pressure sores, helped provide quality bone health and managed my spasms among others.

Matt Courson.

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