Electrical Stimulation | BaroMedical

By: Baromedical  09-12-2011
Keywords: Oxygen Therapy, Wound Healing, Hyperbaric Oxygen

Electrical stimulation is the therapy where electrical currents are delivered trhu the skin electrodes to activate muscle contractions or nerve conduction. Small contractions improve muscle blood flow, relieving spasm,  pain and improving range of motion. Electrical stimulation is also important in wound healing. When combined with hyperbaric oxygen increased blood flow becomes supersaturated with oxygen yielding higher effect and faster recovery  than each therapy on its own.

When nerve is stimulated such as in people who lost the control of their muscles (i.e. stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury) we can elicit a functional movement. Electrical stimulation promotes the muscle blood circulation which is effective also in preservation of muscle mass preventing muscle atrophy.

The mechanism is not clearly known, but the combination of nerve electrical stimulation, physio and hyperbaric oxygen therapy improves the control of the movement, reducing synergism, spasm, fatigue,  allowing for selectivity, repeatability and strength.

Electrical stimulation for post stroke rehabilitation

Electrical stimulation is commonly used in post stroke rehabilitation or in brain and spinal cord injury when people are left paralyzed. In hemiplegia for example, while one side of the body can perform movement perfectly well, the other side of the body does not have functioning communication between the brain and the muscle.

Electrical current is mimicking the signal from the brain that would as nerve signal or so called action potential, normally travel thru the nerves to the muscle to produce a desired movement. In electrical stimulation the low intensity electrical current is passed thru the electrodes on the surface of the skin to the underlying muscles and nerves that need to be “activated”.

This is a very effective and safe method of physiotherapy which can, when combined with benefits of oxygen therapy be magnified.

At BaroMedical we use functional electrical stimulation or short FES, in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen therapy in post stroke rehabilitation. With help of FES a person can produce a functional movement that he is not able to make on his own. Typically in people after stroke who are left with hemiplegia recovery can take months even years.

Functional hand

: (opening of the clenched hand)

Pictures below show a person being able to use his hand to pick up a ball. After stroke, even following initial physiotherapy rehabilitation his right arm was left with no function with hand clenched in a fist. We used

customized stimulation program with one channel to gradually extend the wrist and open the hand

. This exercise is very helpful also psychologically as the person is seeing his hand opening without any help of the opposite hand, for the first time. Daily electrical stimulation followed by hyperbaric oxygen therapy will allow person to gradually voluntarily initiate the movement with a goal to also finish the movement without the help of device.

Painful shoulder


Usual complication with arm without muscle tonus is shoulder pain due to extension of the tendons giving in to the weight of the arm, called


. Wide electrodes on the shoulders are positioned in a way to create a field and pattern of muscle contractions, to improve the circulation in the shoulder, to strengthen stretched tendons and relief the pain.

Stretching the arm


In addition to be able to use the hand as pictured above, we use electrical stimulation on the forearm for arm extension to further activate the arm.

Foot flexion:
Dropped foot

is very common and  frustrating complication for person with hemiplegia. The swing phase of the gait requires initial activation of the hip, then the knee flexors before lifting the foot. Therefore

training the foot flexion is  crucial to building a walking pattern

. The surface electrodes are placed in a pattern to activate the peroneal nerve below the knee, which is responsible for foot dorsi flexion. Repeated daily stimulation allows the person to be able to initiate the foot flexion, with a goal to voluntarily execute foot flexion while walking. Electrical stimulation promotes the muscle blood circulation which is effective also in preservation of muscle mass preventing muscle atrophy.


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Keywords: Electrical Stimulation, Hyperbaric Oxygen, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Oxygen Therapy, Wound Healing

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