Anatomical Concepts (UK)
Masters of Rehabilitation Engineering

Derek Jones: Anatomical Concepts (UK) Blog

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Spasticity and FES Cycling

Individuals who have troublesome spasticity in their legs can generally use a RehaMove FES Cycling system but there are certain things that can be done to make this more effective.

Let’s start with the fundamentals. The stimulation parameters are three aspects of the electrical stimulation pattern that are controlled by the technology and together they influence the strength of muscle contractions and their nature. These three parameters are the Frequency, Current and PulseWidth - terms that describe the pattern of electrical energy that makes the muscles contract.

RehaMove FES Cycling controls how hard the muscles work

These stimulation parameters influence the muscle contraction in different ways. The image below shows for example the general effect of changing frequency.

How frequency of the stimulation affects muscle tissue

How frequency of the stimulation affects muscle tissue

In cases of troublesome spasticity, the use of lower frequencies can damp down the unwanted tension in the muscle. When spasticity is present the user can seem to be fighting the movement of the bike pedals and certainly it’s not going to be a smooth ride. Using low frequencies initially can dissipate this muscle tone.

It’s advisable to massage muscles before training to desensitise them or perhaps combine this with some passive standing in a frame before your RehaMove session.

Alternatively, the user can set up a longer warm up phase with a small % of stimulation intensity setup at low frequency to get those muscles ready for exercise. The RehaMove system lets you do this very easily.

If the user’s tolerance is low then care should be taken for a few weeks not to try to increase the stimulation intensity too much. After a period of familiarisation most users with spasticity can start to get more active power generation in cycling.