Atlantic Equine Services is proud to provide our equine patients with functional electrical stimulation therapy, or FES. This treatment modality is excellent both as a primary therapy, or can also be used in conjunction with other treatment during both training or rehabilitation.
WHAT IS FES?
Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is the application of computer-regulated electrical impulses to the skin in a waveform that mimics the motor neuron signal the brain sends to the muscle to cause a contraction. It is considered “functional” electrical stimulation because the waveform replicates the normal contraction of the muscles being stimulated, just as if the brain itself had initiated the contraction. It therefore has the ability to treat both muscle spasm and muscle atrophy.
FES has been used successfully for several decades in the human medical field to restore normal function to injured tissue, most notably in patients with spinal cord injury.
During treatment, FES feels like a deep muscle massage because the sophisticated software mimics the electrical signals produced naturally between the brain and the body. FES treatments do not require sedation and horses can be ridden shortly after their treatments in most instances.
WHAT DO WE TREAT WITH FES?
Horses will often experience muscle pain, particularly in the back, lumbosacral, gluteal and neck regions. Many times this pain is secondary to other sources of discomfort such as joint pain, ill-fitting saddles, dental disease, crooked riders or a strenuous athletic career. Frequently this spasm will cause a horse to feel “locked” or “braced” through their neck or back. FES helps to stop the spasm associated with muscle pain and enables your horse to use himself properly again. Once the inciting factors that lead to the pain have been corrected, the FES therapy can help your horse build better quality muscle which will help prevent future soreness.
Just as muscles can spasm and hypertrophy (get larger), they can also weaken and atrophy (get smaller). The old adage “use it or lose it” applies especially to muscle mass. Horses who need prolonged rest due to a soft tissue injury often times lose their condition and topline during the rehabilitation period. FES therapy is one way to help maintain muscle mass and topline during rehabilitation from injury. Horses may also suffer from significant muscle atrophy after illness or neurological disease. FES can help those horses recovering from illness or nerve damage regain their muscle mass and improve the quality of the new muscle.
For more information about functional electrical stimulation, and to see videos and research papers of its use, please visit the following references: