What is FNS?
Functional Neuromuscular Stimulation, abbreviated as (FNS), is a rehabilitation strategy that applies the use of low-level electrical current to the nerves of a patient to control body muscles and stimulate functional movements. The term “functional” refers to the restoration of the useful movements like standing, stepping, reaching, grasping and pedaling for exercises.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation involves the use of devices that use electrical impulses to activate paralyzed or weak muscles in precise sequence. These devices transmit an electrical impulse to the skin over the selected muscle group to cause muscle contractions. The goal of this form of stimulation is to slow down or prevent muscle atrophy and help in relaxing the muscle spasms, thus promoting voluntary control of muscles. The electrical impulses are controlled by a computer microchip that is attached to the individual’s belt that synchronizes and distributes them.
How Does This Form of Treatment Work?
This form of treatment works by delivering microcomputer-controlled electrical pulses through the surface of the skin with applied electrodes to nerves and muscles, causing muscle contractions. The computer is set to control the sequence of muscle contractions in the lower extremities, which enable the functions of sitting, standing and sideways movement. Users are taught on how to initiate the functions by activating commands through switch modules, which are mounted on the walker. The individual uses a walker or elbow support crutches for further support. Additionally, there is a finger controlled switch that permits activation of the stepping by the individual.
Physical therapists make use of the FNS to facilitate activation and strengthening of the paralyzed or weakened muscles following a spinal cord injury, a brain injury or stroke. It is a tool that is used along with other therapy interventions to increase functional muscle activity. FNS enhances the functional activity in neurologically impaired patients by stimulating involuntary, but purposeful muscle contractions. This rehabilitation technology uses low-level electrical impulses to evolve a peripheral nerve action potential, resulting in skeletal muscle response.
Types of Stimulation
Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation – The use of an electrical device that emits an electrical impulse to the skin. There are two categories of NMES; One type of the NMES electrical device is used in the treatment of muscle atrophy that stimulates the muscle when the patient is in a resting state. The second type is the functional neuromuscular stimulation or the functional electrical stimulation which is used to enhance the functional activity of the body.
Real World Applications
This form of treatment provides individuals who have spinal cord injury, the ability to stand and walk. The devices deliver a precise sequence of electrical pulses that trigger an action potential at selected nerves at the quadriceps for knee extension, treatment of common peroneal nerve for hip flexion, and the paraspinal’s and gluteal for the trunk stability. The use of FNS/FES has primarily been used for those individuals who have neurological conditions such as spinal cord injury, muscle sclerosis, cerebral palsy or a cerebrovascular accident.
Further Reading on FNS: