STROKE

How can FES help after a Stroke?

The forearm and hand before gentle stimulationFunctional electrical stimulation (FES) uses small currents to gently exercise muscles. It's like having physiotherapy at home each day, at your pace and on the areas you want to treat. Physiotherapy is used to exercise muscles after a stroke and improve rehabilitation and recovery.

Exercising the muscles and moving your hand, arm shoulder, leg or foot are very important after a stroke. Fingers straightened during gentle stimulationThe brain needs to make new pathways round the damaged areas to restore movement under your control. For example, if small pads are placed on the forearm and current flows between them the muscles underneath are stimulated and your wrist and fingers move and straighten out. (See the pictures above left and right). You can place the pads on any of your muscles such as shoulder, upper arm, thigh and lower leg to aid walking.

How does FES work?

Pads are placed over the muscle to be stimulated as shown above. The machine is switched on. The muscle is first stimulated, then not, then stimulated and not. This cycle of stimulation(current flowing to gently exercise the muscle) and rest continues for as long as you want. The time the machine is stimulating is called the 'work time' . The time it's not stimulating is called the 'rest time'. So your muscles work, rest, work, rest etc

The work time is usually between 4 - 8 seconds, the rest time between 8 - 16 seconds. At first you rest for twice as long as you work. As you get stronger you rest for a shorter time. Using FES you soon get into the smooth rhythm of the machine and feel the benefits.

Is FES a recognised treatment that works?

Stimulating the thigh musclesFES is a proven treatment and is widely used all over the UK and world. Using FES is like receiving physiotherapy every day. It has been shown to improve walking and foot drop after a Stroke and improve walking in Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Many people have used it to improve movement of their shoulder,elbow, wrist and fingers and to improve walking and leg strength. Muscular pain,spasm and stiffness are often reduced as the muscles are gently exercised and their function improves.

How does FES reduce muscle stiffness and pain?

Foot drop bein treated with FESAfter a stroke your muscles aren't damaged. It's because you can't use them they get stiff and sore. When muscles can't be used the blood flow to them is much less than normal. The muscles shrink and start to become tight and painful. Both physiotherapy and FES gently exercise the muscles. This increases the blood flow to the muscles. More oxygen arrives to feed the muscles and the muscle starts to relax and slowly become stronger and less painful.

How often can I use FES?

You can use FES daily for anything from 10 mins to several hours. Scientific studies have shown FES used for several hours a day on the shoulder reduces subluxation (the top of the arm dropping out of the shoulder joint), reduces shoulder pain and actually moves the top of the arm back towards the shoulder joint.

Is FES safe to use at home?

Yes, all FES machines are designed for home use and meet the highest possible safety standards and are CE marked. FES is a safe and effective home treatment. It's like giving yourself physiotherapy at home each day

What is a stroke/TIA/mini-stroke?

A stroke is a type of brain injuryA stroke is a type of brain injury. Symptoms depend on the part of the brain that is affected. The picture on the right shows a CT scan of the brain after a stroke. The small oval on the right side in the white box is the damaged area.

A stroke is a type of brain injury. Every stroke is different and people who have strokes are affected in different ways. Some get better within 24 hours, which is known as transient ischaemic attack (or TIA) or mini-stroke. Others have a stroke that may cause severe and lasting damage.

There are two main types of stroke:

  1. The commonest type ('ischaemic' stroke) happens when a clot blocks a blood vessel or the vessel become too narrow for blood to get through to the brain. The reduced blood flow causes brain cells in the area to die from lack of oxygen. This is exactly the same as happens when blood vessels in the heart are blocked causing angina or a heart attack. The main risk factors are high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular heart beat (e.g. atrial fibrillation) and the effects of age on blood vessels.

  2. In a 'haemorrhagic' stroke, the blood vessel is not blocked but it bursts and blood leaks into the brain causing damage. This is most often caused by aneurysms, bleeding disorders and high blood pressure.

When a stroke happens, some brain cells are damaged and others die. Brain cells which die cannot start working again. However, those just outside the area of the dead cells may recover (over a few days to a few weeks) as the swelling caused by the stroke goes down. Recovery can also occur as other parts of the brain take over from areas that died.

Stroke affects people in different ways. Some people experience a few mild effects, which improve in a short time. Others suffer many severe effects, which last for months or even years although often improving with determination allied to continued rehabilitation. The effects of your stroke will depend on the part of your brain that has been injured or damaged, how bad the injury is and your general health at the time of your stroke.

Some of the physical difficulties are

  • Stiffness affecting arm and/or leg
  • Decreased range of movement affecting arm and/or leg
  • Weakness/paralysis affecting arm and/or leg
  • Difficulty walking
  • Swelling of arm or leg
  • Muscle pain
  • Incontinence

Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) can help all of these problems and enables you to treat yourself at home and achieve the best recovery possible. It's safe, straightforward and it works.

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