FES Cycling Therapy In Neurorehabilitation

FES cycling technology

Functional Electrical Stimulation technology or FES cycling therapy is a special type of exercise bike used in neurorehabilitation that allows people with limited movement in their legs to operate a power-assisted stationary cycle.

FES cycling can be used in rehabilitation by a wide range of people that have different neurological conditions or are recovering from an injury. In this article, we look at what FES cycling is, the benefits, and who can benefit from this type of rehabilitation treatment.

What Is FES Cycling?

FES cycling is a type of rehabilitation treatment that may be used alone or as part of a programme with other pieces of equipment. The equipment looks a little like a stationary cycle bike with the exception that it can be adapted to a person in a wheelchair. Alternatively, FES can be used in conjunction with a typical seated bike. Electrical stimulation helps the user push the pedals and complete full rotations, something they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do.

There are different types of FES cycling – electrical stimulation can be applied to the legs either by surface electrodes or implanted ones. The therapy has been in use for a long time, is well-regarded for its benefits and even allows disabled athletes to compete in FES sports and races.

How Does FES Cycling Therapy Work?

During an FES treatment session at VIM Healthcare, little sticky pads will be applied to the legs to allow an electrical current to stimulate the nerves and muscles associated with cycling. These electrodes are only attached to the surface of the skin and work like a TENS machine. You will be able to feel the pulses, but it won’t be painful.

Depending on a patient’s level of motion in the lower limbs, FES can be combined with a power-assisted bike or be used alone. With the electrodes attached to the legs, the correct muscles for cycling will be activated, these include the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calf muscles. This stimulation and the assistance of the powered bike will enable the user to achieve a pedalling motion. Not only will a person be able to produce a cycling motion, but the actions will be strong, delivering more benefits than poorly executed or weak peddling motions.

The time spent using the equipment is usually bespoke to each person at our clinic, depending on their abilities, goals, and condition. But FES cycling is most effective when carried out at least three times a week, completing sessions of up to one hour. That might not be possible at first, so a person may have to build themselves up to longer sessions.

FES Cycling Machine downstairs in Vim Health Neuro Rehab centre

Does FES Strengthen Muscles?

Doing FES cycling as part of a rehabilitation programme will not only strengthen muscles, but it also comes with a wide range of other physical and emotional benefits.

Practising FES cycling regularly can:

  • Increase muscle strength
  • Prevent pressure sores
  • Improve movement range
  • Maintain muscle length
  • Improve joint mobility
  • Recover sensation
  • Help ease muscle spasms
  • Increase blood circulation
  • Improve bladder and bowel function
  • Improve mood

Improving any of these areas can have a wide range of benefits including being able to stand or walk for longer periods, preventing secondary conditions, keeping the cardiovascular system healthy, and improving the overall quality of life and independence.

As mentioned, the benefits of FES cycling have been known for a long time and several studies demonstrate the benefits.

This study was done working with people with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and demonstrated: “FES cycling exercise improves lower-body muscle health of adults with SCI, and may increase power output and aerobic fitness.”

And, in this study, the group that participated in FES cycling had significantly higher quality of life and daily function measures than the group that didn’t incorporate FES into their therapy programme.

FES For Neurorehab Patients

We offer FES cycling therapy to a wide range of people at VIM Healthcare, you may have had an injury or have a condition that requires rehabilitative treatment. To participate in FES at VIM, you do already need to have sufficient movement in your arms and legs. This is something we can easily establish during your assessment, if the FES therapy isn’t suitable for you, don’t worry we have a wide range of technologies that can help.

FES at VIM is usually suitable for people with a spinal cord injury – either complete or incomplete above T12, and people that have had a stroke. We can also treat people with the following conditions using FES:

  • Brain Injury
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Cerebral Palsy

Because FES cycling is at its most effective when carried out several times a week, your assessment may find that you would gain maximum benefit from our intensive rehabilitation service.

VIM Health

To start your rehabilitation journey please get in touch to book an initial assessment.


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