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The human body is an incredibly complicated machine, with all of its separate parts and pieces sending messages to each other through the electrical wires that are the nerves. Electrical stimulation can be used to tap into the network of messages traveling back and forth through the body, giving us the power to take control of our bodies in a way that seems like science fiction. Here are some of the awesome applications of electrical stimulation.

5. Pain Relief

When you’re in pain, your body is sending a message through your nerves to your brain. Electrical stimulation, when applied correctly, can effectively block the pain signal, so that your brain never gets the message.

Imagine you pulled a muscle in your lower back. The pain receptors in your back say to your brain, “We’ve got a problem down here,” and you interpret that message as a dull ache. Applying electrical stimulation around the pain receptors essentially generates so much noise that your brain can’t hear what the pain receptors are saying. Since you don’t get the message, you don’t feel the pain.

It’s so effective, Icy Hot started adding electrical stimulation to their patches, and it looks like Shaq loves it.

Icy Hot plus transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) makes for some effective pain relief.

4. Sports Performance

Athletes have been using electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) to build muscle, increase strength, and speed recovery since the Russians started incorporating EMS into their training for the Olympics back in the 1950s. EMS can activate all of the muscle fibers in a muscle group at the same time, resulting in significantly stronger contractions than can typically be achieved voluntarily. More loading of the muscle means more adaptation, plus, you can essentially work the muscle out without thinking about it, since the EMS activates the muscles for you. Compex markets a line of electrical stimulators for these purposes. Check out T-Nation’s article on EMS for more thoughts on the subject.

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) used to activate the quadriceps during a squat. Photo courtesy of Gciriani (own work).

There is also potential to use EMS to train someone in performing a particular movement. For example, if an athlete isn’t activating their quadriceps properly during a squat, EMS can be used to both aid in the activation and cue the athlete on proper activation.

3. Rehabilitation

The most common use of electrical stimulation is during physical therapy, especially after injury or surgery on a joint like the knee. Muscle atrophy and poor activation are big problems after knee surgery, so physical therapists will typically use an electrical stimulation unit to cause isometric contractions of the quadriceps in an effort to combat atrophy and assist with voluntary contractions. Electrical stimulation also improves blood flow, which speeds up the healing process.

In The Matrix, Neo received a combination of acupuncture and electrical stimulation to rebuild his muscles after his lifelong, machine-induced coma.

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is also especially useful for aiding in recovery following a stroke, brain injury, or incomplete spinal cord injury, as it can help teach the nervous system how to reach, grasp, or even walk again.

2. Compensating for Paralysis

Beyond rehabilitation, FES can be used as a neuroprosthetic to compensate for paralysis. For example, if your brain and spinal cord can’t communicate with the muscles in your shin, you might experience foot drop when walking. The paralyzed shin muscles are unable to pick your foot up when you walk, so your toe drags on the ground, making walking difficult and unsafe. An FES unit attached to your shin, like the WalkAide or the Bioness L300, can stimulate the paralyzed shin muscles at the right time when you’re walking, causing the foot to lift and eliminating drop foot.

FES can even enable someone who’s completely paralyzed to pedal a bicycle by activating their leg muscles for them. Products like the ERGYS, the RT300, and the MyoCycle Home enable people to do stationary cycling for exercise, and products like the RehaBike, the BerkelBike, and the MyoCycle Mobile enable people to go outside and cycle on the road.

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The MyoCycle Home enables people who are paralyzed to pedal a bicycle again.

Click here if you’d like to join the waiting list for the MyoCycle and be one of the first to get the latest and greatest FES bike ever made, and contact MYOLYN if you’re interested in competing in the world’s first major FES bike race at the Cybathlon!

1. Controlling the Brain

The most incredible application of electrical stimulation is controlling the brain. If the body is controlled by electrical signals, the brain is the control center, and electrical stimulation can be used to hack the brain. Anything the brain controls can be manipulated with electrical stimulation: emotions, cognitive performance, and motor skills. Some companies even sell kits that allow you to stimulate across your forehead to enhance concentration, though they exist in a bit of a gray area with respect to the FDA, and it’s unclear whether they’re safe or not.

The video below is an incredible demonstration of the power of deep brain stimulation, especially in alleviating the symptoms of some terrible diseases like Parkinson’s.

Leave a comment below to let us know what you think about these awesome applications of electrical stimulation!

Published in MYOLYN RSS FEED
Tuesday, 08 March 2016 17:25

Cybathlon Update

The world's first augmented Olympics, the Cybathlon, is still on schedule for October 8, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland (and tickets are on sale!). The Cybathlon committee recently updated the site with video from last year's rehearsal, and they updated the rules for the events. Most notably, the team pages have been updated, so click here to see a list of all the teams competing in the FES bike race.

MYOLYN is still seeking a qualified pilot (motor complete SCI, T12 or higher) who has a great personal story to tell and an indomitable drive to be the world's best augmented athlete. Contact us today if you or someone you know is interested in competing.

Published in MYOLYN RSS FEED
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 17:31

Benefits of FES-Cycling

Everybody needs to exercise to stay healthy. Most people know this. However, more than 60% of adults in the United States don’t get enough exercise, and about 25% aren’t active at all [1]. This lack of physical activity contributes significantly to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even anxiety and depression [2].

How much exercise is enough exercise? In their 2007 report [3], the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) had this to say on the subject:

"To promote and maintain health, all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 yr need moderate-intensity aerobic (endurance) physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days each week…In addition, every adult should perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance a minimum of two days each week…persons who wish to further improve their personal fitness, reduce their risk for chronic diseases and disabilities or prevent unhealthy weight gain may benefit by exceeding the minimum recommended amounts of physical activity."

While able-bodied people have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to meeting the ACSM/AHA recommendations, people with paralysis have a much harder time exercising, especially the parts of the body affected by the paralysis. Lots of able-bodied people get their exercise from cycling, because it’s a simple, safe, and fun way to work the muscles and get the heart rate up. Unfortunately, millions of people with disorders like spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and others can’t even pedal a stationary exercise bike because of paralysis.

Stationary (or mobile) bikes that use functional electrical stimulation (FES) enable just about anyone with paralysis to cycle again, because FES bikes activate the rider’s paralyzed muscles for them. Research has shown that FES-cycling gives people with paralysis all the same benefits of regular, able-bodied cycling, like improved cardiovascular health, more muscle mass and strength, better bone density, and even improved self-image and social abilities [4]. FES-cycling also has some unique benefits for people with paralysis like less muscle spasms and much fewer pressure sores.

FES-cycling is one of the only ways for people with paralysis to exercise their paralyzed arms and legs, but, as with regular exercise, its effectiveness depends on frequency, intensity, and duration. The MyoCycle is designed to be the easiest-to-use and most affordable FES bike ever made, making it easy for anyone to do FES-cycling regularly, and MYOLYN’s patent-pending algorithms automatically customize and adapt the stimulation to each individual rider, ensuring that every ride is a great workout.

Contact MYOLYN today to learn more, or join the waiting list to be one of the first people to ride the MyoCycle and reap the benefits of FES-cycling.

REFERENCES

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/adults.htm. Accessed February 22, 2016.

[2] Booth FW, Roberts CK, Laye MJ. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Compr Physiol. 2012 Apr; 2(2): 1143-1211.

[3] Haskell WL, Lee I-M, Pate RP, Powell KE, Blair SN, Franklin BA, Macera CA, Heath GW, Thompson PD, Bauman A. Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007; 116: 1081-1093.

[4] Peng C-W, Chen S-C, Lai C-H, Chen C-J, Chen C-C, Mizrahi J, Handa Y. Review: clinical benefits of functional electrical stimulation cycling exercise for subjects with central neurological impairments. J. Med. Biol. Eng. 2011; 31(1): 1-11.

Published in MYOLYN RSS FEED

Researchers at UCLA are experimenting with performing spinal cord stimualtion on individuals with spinal cord injuries during exo-skeleton assisted walking. This combines the assisted mobility provided by exo-skeletons with the health and functional benefits electrical stimualtion.

This is a very interesting field of study, and was actually the Ph.D topic of MYOLYN's CTO, Matthew Bellman, before he switched to FES-induced cycling.

 

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