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Results: FES Cycling Increases Muscle after Paralysis

Ohio State University ran a study to see how FES cycling affected muscle mass in people with spinal cord injury. The study results were extremely promising. FES cycling not only slowed atrophy, but it significantly increased muscle mass in the legs!

The study was a randomized controlled trial or RCT. RCTs are considered the gold standard in clinical research. In RCTs, subjects are randomly assigned to groups. One of the groups receives the ‘standard’ treatment, while other groups receive treatments that are being studied.

In this study, the treatments were FES isometric contractions (FES-IC) and FES cycling (FES-CE). For FES-IC, the subjects used stimulation to contract their leg muscles without moving the leg. For FES-CE, subjects used an FES bike to cycle against increasing resistance for 30 minutes, three times per week. Twenty-six patients who had spinal cord injuries between 4 weeks and 15 weeks earlier were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The control group did not use FES, one group did FES isometric contractions, and one did FES cycling.

The researchers looked at total body lean body mass (TB-LBM) and lower limb lean body mass (LL-LBM). They measured the patients’ muscle mass using X-ray images. They compared the patients’ initial muscle mass to their muscle mass after three months and then after six months of treatment.

The results were clear. FES cycling significantly reduced the loss of total body lean mass. It also significantly increased lower-limb lean body mass! Graph A in Figure 1 above shows how total lean body mass changed with respect to the baseline for the three study groups. The control group (CTRL) is on the left, the FES isometric contraction group (FES-IC) is in the center, and the FES cycling group (FES-CE) is on the right. You can find the full study here.

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of FES cycling for people with paralysis. Building muscle is just one of the many benefits of an FES cycling program. To learn more about these benefits or to see if an FES cycling program is right for you, contact us.