I wanted to give you a quick update on a new electrotherapy which I have recently added to my equipment list.
NEUROMUSCULAR ELECTRICAL STIMULATION (NMES)
(modelled below by Bingley, with a Sally feature. Pictures are not a fantastic demonstration as it is very difficult to get two pups to lie still when they do not want to!).
A NMES unit comes with pads which can be placed securely on the dog. An electrical impulse is then sent through the pads which mimics the stimulation patterns of healthy nerves, causing assisted muscle contractions. Study results have shown NMES to increase muscle mass and strength, increase oxidative capacity of the muscle and increase perfusion (the passage of fluid, e.g. blood, through the circulatory system or lymphatic system to an organ or a tissue).
The aim on NMES is to strengthen muscle, mainly in animals that are unable to contract their muscle voluntarily. This is often in orthopaedic conditions where muscle recruitment and weight bearing is limited/should be avoided or neurological cases, for example, a Fibrocartilaginous Embolism in a dog (similar to a stroke in humans). Depending on the severity of the incident, dogs will often experience temporary partial or full loss of use of some, or all, of their limbs.
This inability to move their limbs (disuse) then causes disuse muscle atrophy (muscle loss). Meaning the chances of getting the dog back on their legs and using them correctly is at risk if they have lost a significant amount of muscular strength. Therefore, whilst the limbs are in disuse, it is so important to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. This can be done by the veterinary physiotherapist using therapies such as massage, stretching, passive range of motion, proprioceptive input and assisted exercises. NMES also falls under this category as it maintains muscle tissue and prevents further muscle atrophy from occurring.
The reason I love NMES is because, once demonstrated to the owner and adjusted to the correct setting, I can leave my NMES machine with the client. This means the owner can deliver effective NMES therapy for the animal on a daily basis. This is far more effective than once or twice weekly by the physiotherapist, allowing for better outcomes for the owner and also a cost effective strategy to help their animal.
However, as mentioned above, this is a rather niche electrotherapy as I only use it for selected cases where muscle use is partially or completely absent, temporarily. For example, although he is modelling the NMES device very well in the photo above, I would not use it on Bingley (or Sally) because their neurological and musculoskeletal tissue is healthy- they are able to move all their muscles and limbs voluntarily, meaning there is no current need for the NMES device.
Employing NMES in conjunction with manual therapies from a veterinary physiotherapist and carefully selected exercise programme can be very beneficial to a patient in rehabilitation. If you feel your animal may need some veterinary physiotherapy attention or you would just like some help or advice, please feel free to contact me via phone, email or via social media. All of my contact details can be found on my website.