Editor’s Note: The TechGuide that ran in our Nov/Dec 2012 issue contained some factual errors. Below is a corrected version of the column. Please note that the device originally labeled as being made by Therapeutic Alliances is actually made by Restorative Therapies. Therapeutic Alliances’ ERGYS 3 is pictured below. Also below is a photo of HASOMED RehaStim2.
The idea behind Functional Electrical Stimulation is simple: By jolting paralyzed, atrophied muscles with electric current, you can enable otherwise sedentary body parts to move and even possibly regain some strength.
Sound too good to be true? In recent years, FES has become widely accepted and readily available, if still pricey. It’s not a miracle cure, and it won’t work for everybody. But many users swear by its therapeutic value.
Your physical or occupational therapist should be able to advise you about FES equipment that doesn’t require surgical implantation and, if right for you, can be purchased for home use. (For info on im-planted FES devices, see the Nov/Dec 2011 and Jan/Feb 2012 SCI Research columns in Life in Action.)
A good starting point is the stationary bike, called an ergometer. Here’s a look at three of the leading brands to choose from: Therapeutic Alliances, Restorative Therapies and the HASOMED RehaStim2, distributed by RI.
Therapeutic Alliances of Fairborn, Ohio, is one of the oldest manufacturers of FES technology. Its latest model, the ERGYS 3, allows those with little or no voluntary leg movement to pedal a stationary bike with as much speed and resistance as they can bear. The ERGYS series requires you to transfer to a built-in seat; you cannot use it from a wheel¬chair. “It is our opinion that a wheelchair is a poor platform for exercise,” explains James Schorey, the president of Therapeutic Alliances.
The built-in seat on the ERGYS ensures you’re positioned at the ideal angle for circulation and muscle flexion and extension, he explains. You can either run with self-adhering electrodes placed on the skin or with an electrode garment with integral electrodes and wiring.
The latest model retails for $18,500. A refurbished one is $12,000. Earlier versions sell for as low as $8,000. A portable, standalone stimulator called the SpectraSTIM E3 will set you back just $4,750. New devices come with a two-year warranty. The warranty for refurbished models is only one year. Schorey hopes that, in the future, all insurance providers will reimburse these costs.
Restorative Therapies, based in Baltimore, makes the RT300 line of ergometers which you can use from a wheelchair or even from bed. In addition, the company makes an elliptical machine called the RT200 “which allows a person to exercise arms and legs at the same time,” says Judy Kline, sales and marketing manager. “It provides an excellent cardio workout.”
Restorative Therapies also has an integrated stepping system that allows your legs to bear weight while activating arm and leg muscles. “The RT600 is the only partial-body-weight stepping system that combines weight-bearing with FES muscle activa¬tion,” she says.
These devices range from $15,750 to $21,000 and come with a two-year warranty. “A prescription is required to obtain our devices,” says Kline, add¬ing that no professional assistance is needed to use the equipment.
The devices are Internet ready, so you can re¬ceive free software upgrades and upload your stats to your physical therapist.
HASOMED RehaStim2, distributed in the United States by Tampa-Based Ri, LLC, is a highly advanced yet easy to learn functional electrical stimulation device. It comes loaded with 45 default templates, including gait training, FES cycling and eight integrated channels with the highest quality FES signal in a portable lithium battery powered unit. In combination with RECK’s MOTOmed Movement Therapy device, the interconnected system is called the RehaMove.
Researchers and therapy clinics worldwide are using the HASOMED RehaStim2 to investigate its proficiency with swallowing, ventilator weaning and removal, wound care, finite extremity and finger movement grasping, and more. With a multiplexer, the RehaStim in Science Mode each of the eight channels can be extended up to 60 stimulation channels and can measure 4 EMG feedback channels as well.