Functional Electrical Stimulation – upper extremity

Functional electrical stimulation (FES), also called functional neuromuscular stimulation (FNS), is a technique used to replace or help a muscle contraction during a functional activity by applying electrical current to the nerves that control muscles. The goal of this treatment modality is to strengthen muscle contraction and improve motor control. The most familiar type of electrical stimulation is probably the use of pacemakers to control heart contractions.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation, or simply ‘electrical stimulation’ (ES), is a modality used primarily for strengthening muscles, without the purpose of integrating a functional task as done with FES. Despite the use of all three terms in the literature (FES, FNS and ES), these modalities basically focus on eliciting muscular contractions.

This module summarizes the electrical stimulation modalities used to elicit muscular contraction of the upper extremities (FES of the shoulder is reviewed independently). Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and other therapeutic electrical stimulation that do not elicit muscular contraction are reviewed in other modules. The effectiveness of FES for improving functional independence/burden of care, strength, spasticity, range of motion, hand function, motor function and reaction time has been reported.

Authors*: Jamie Bitensky, MSc. OT, Nicol Korner-Bitensky, Ph. D OT

Evidence reviewed as of before 26-10-2010

NOTE: *The authors have no direct financial interest in any tools, tests or interventions presented in StrokEngine.