Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

This service is available at:
Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital
Port City Veterinary Referral Hospital

What is Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)?

electrical_simulatorIt is the administration of an electrical current generated by a stimulator that travels through leads to electrodes placed on the skin to depolarize the motor nerve and produce a muscle contraction. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) uses a safe, non-invasive, low-frequency current that is applied to the muscles through electrodes on the skin.  Electrical stimulation excites the nerves that innervate desired muscles, causing them to contract. Stimulating muscles to contract in this way enhances motor learning, muscle re-education, strength, and endurance.
A lower setting, such as the setting used for the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatments, can aide in reducing swelling and reducing pain.

How NMES Works

It is a safe, low-frequency current that excites the nerves that innervate desired muscles, causing contractions, blocks pain pathways & reduces swelling and edema.

NMES strengthens muscles in a different way than active muscle movements. It is reserved for animals that cannot actively exercise, such as neurologic patients with paresis or paralysis.

  • The current first stimulates large fatigable fibers (Type II muscle fibers) and then smaller, fatigue-resistant fibers (Type I muscle fibers).
  • This order of recruitment is opposite to that of voluntary muscle contractions, allowing for a high load to be placed on the muscle at low repetitions.
  • This process can be very fatiguing for the muscles, requiring a longer rest period in between treatments.

How TENS Works

TENS therapy is set at a lower frequency to aide in pain control and to reduce swelling. This can be beneficial for post-operative swelling and for animals with chronic pain, such as chronic disc disease or chronic arthritis.

What does Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation do?

For animals who have experienced significant muscle mass loss as a result of neurological injuries or due to muscle disuse following an injury, electrical stimulation minimizes muscle atrophy and improves sensory awareness. It is important to note that the use of NMES/TENS to strengthen muscle is an adjunct to your pet’s physical therapy if indicated by your pet’s condition and not applicable to all patients.

Clinical Applications

  • Muscle re-education – improves muscle strength, builds muscle
  • Improves condition of atrophied muscles
  • Motor and strength recovery from neurologic surgery
  • Pain control

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