What research shows
A systematic review of health and fitness benefits of FES lower extremity therapy by Hamzaid et al included 33 peer-reviewed research articles that met stringent criteria. The authors found positive changes in skeletal muscle, enhanced cardiovascular and peripheral blood flow, improved metabolic measures and aerobic fitness, and improved functional exercise capacity.[i]
Another review found widespread support for the therapeutic effects of FES rehabilitation on the cardiopulmonary, muscular and skeletal systems.[ii]
Changes in muscle and activity levels accompanying FES based therapy may reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes [iii] just as in the able-bodied population.
In addition, physical activity adherence rates for FES as a therapy are well above physical activity adherence rates for the able-bodied population[iii],[vii] so patients have great potential for achieving the maximum possible benefit.
Among the reported effects of FES rehabilitation therapy are the following:
Increased muscle strength [iv]
Decreased intra/inter muscular fat [iv]
Improved blood glucose/insulin metabolism [iii],[v],[vi]
Improved motor/sensory scores [iii]
Decreased spasticity [vii]
Improved quality of life [viii][iv]
[i] Hamzaid NA, Davis GM. Health and Fitness Benefits of Functional Electrical Stimulation-Evoked Leg Exercise for Spinal Cord–Injured Individuals: A Position Review. Top Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. 2009; 14: 88-121.
[ii] Peng CW, Chen SC, Lai CH, Chen CJ, Chen CC, Misrahi J, Handa Y. Review: Clinical Benefits of Functional Electrical Stimulation Cycling Exercise for Subjects with Central Neurological Impairments. Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering. 2011; 31: 1-11.
[iii] Griffin L, Decker MJ, Hwang JY, Wang B, Kitchen K, Ding Z, Ivy JL. Functional electrical stimulation cycling improves body composition, metabolic and neural factors in persons with spinal cord injury. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 2009; 19: 614-622.
[iv] Sadowsky CL, Hammond ER, Strohl AB, Commean PK, Eby SA, Damiano DL, Wingert JR, Bae KT, McDonald III JW. Lower extremity functional electrical stimulation cycling promotes physical and functional recovery in chronic spinal cord injury. The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. 2013; 36: 623-631.
[v] Mohr T, Dela F, Handberg A, Biering-Sørensen F, Galbo H, Kjær M. Insulin action and long-term electrically induced training in individuals with spinal cord injuries. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2001; 33: 1247-1252.
[vi] Jeon JY, Weiss CB, Steadward RD, Ryan E, Burnham RS, Bell G, Chillibeck P, Wheeler GD. Improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity after electrical stimulation-assisted cycling in people with spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord. 2002; 40: 110-117.
[vii] Dolbow DR, Gorgey AS, Ketchum JM, Moore JR, Hackett LA, Gater DR. Exercise adherence during home-based functional electrical stimulation cycling by individuals with spinal cord injury. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 2012; 91: 922-930.
[viii] Dolbow DR, Gorgey AS, Moore JR, Gater DR. Report of practicability of a 6-month home-based functional electrical stimulation cycling program in an individual with tetraplegia. The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. 2012; 35:182-186.