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Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) works by sending low level electrical impulses to the nerves within the muscles. Stimulating the nerves means that the muscle will contract and therefore this will make the limb move. It is a non-invasive treatment option that does not cause any pain but it does produce a tingling sensation on the skin.

The electrical current is supplied by a small unit which is a similar size to a mobile phone. Some FES units have electrodes which are attached to the unit and placed on the skin, other units are wireless. The electrodes can be placed almost anywhere on the body where the movement is desired. For example, if they are placed on the forearm the fingers and wrist will straighten. If they are placed behind the knee, it will bend.

Functional electrical stimulation assessment by a neurological physiotherapistAbove: Functional electrical stimulation assessment by a neurological physiotherapist

For individuals who have foot drop as a result of neurological injury, the electrodes are usually placed on the front of the shin and on the side of the calf in order to stimulate the deep peroneal nerve which controls dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion is the movement of pulling toes up towards you and is an essential component of taking a step forward and walking. FES will improve your walking pattern and make it less effortful. By using FES regularly, your dorsiflexor muscles will strengthen and this will further improve your gait pattern and increase your confidence and independence.

FES can also be used on the upper limb. Following stroke, the rotator cuff muscles surrounding the shoulder are often weak causing a painful subluxation of the shoulder. Subluxation of the shoulder is effectively the head of the humerus partially dropping down out of the shoulder socket. This causes significant shoulder pain due to instability of the joint and stretch of the ligaments. Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles with electrical stimulation can assist the head of the humerus back into the socket and decrease pain and instability.

FES is a very useful treatment modality that can be worn to strengthen muscles in order to improve functional ability after a neurological injury.If you would like to find out more about Functional electrical stimulation please contact today on 0330 088 7800 to speak to one of our specialist neurological physiotherapists or to make an appointment. Additionally, you can make an appointment online today.

You can also use the following links on our website to find out more information of FES:

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