Electrostimulation Therapy or Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) is the electrical stimulation of muscles or the nerves that feed muscles. The purpose is to make the muscle contract. This contraction of muscles is necessary when there is nerve damage to the brain, spinal cord or other nerves that feed the muscles and they cannot move on their own or in cases where there is trauma or surgery to the bone or joint or muscle that makes it too painful for the muscle to move without electrostimulation. The effects of NMES are as follows:
- Increases Joint Mobility
- Decrease Joint Contracture
- Decrease Edema
- Increase Circulation
- Decrease Atrophy
- Improve Muscle Strength
- Improve sensory awareness
- Decrease spasticity
- Diminish pain
- Retard loss of voluntary control
In pets with IVDD loss of 50% of the muscle mass of the rear leg muscles occurs within 3 weeks of spinal cord injury. With NMES the muscle mass can be returned to near normal size. The muscles that have lost neurologic function can regain up to 33% of their strength with NMES.
NMES electrodes are placed on the rear limbs to stimulate normal muscle contracture while waiting for the spinal cord to heal.
With stem cell therapy the movement of the muscles sends neurological impulses to the spinal cord. These impulses reach the damaged area and the stem cells within the damaged area stimulating them to repair nerve function. This repair comes in the form of chemical mediators released from the nerve endings. These chemical mediators are called cytokines. Cytokines stimulate local stem cells to adapt to the needs of the tissues resulting in healing.
Pain control with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is different from NEMS in that the electrical stimulation is to the skin with TENS and to the muscles and nerves with NMES. When TENS is applied to the skin large nerve fibers (A-β) are stimulated. These A-β fibers synapse in the spinal cord and stimulate nerve fibers that block the perception of pain in the brain. This is called the gate control theory of pain. The frequency of electrical impulses that stimulate the A-β fibers also causes the release of endorphins from the pituitary in the brain. Endorphins are natural opiates that produce analgesia when released. The synapses in the spinal cord also stimulate another nerve fiber (A-δ). A-δ fiber stimulation blocks other nerves headed for the brain and are also involved in the mechanism of action for acupuncture. The effect of TENS is like the effects of acupuncture for pain control.