No, we are not talking about hooking the jumper cables from your car up to your legs and seeing what happens ( definitely do not do that!) what we want to talk about today is Functional Electrical Stimulation cycling.
The use of electrical stimulation has been used for a number of years in the treatment of paralysis. Most benefits that are recorded with use of electrical stimulation are around circulation, spasm reduction and reduced muscle atrophy (muscle wasting). As technology advances we can now electrically stimulate a group of muscles to perform a functional task.
Using functional electrical stimulation to perform an exercise such as cycling is effectively taking over the role of the brain whose signals are interrupted after such accidents as spinal cord injuries. This is specifically important to allow the lower body to remain intact and functional for either recovery or advances in science that allow us to bridge the gap in signal interruptions.
The use of functional electrical stimulation cycling is safe and current clinical evidence suggests that people can start to use it as soon as they can to prevent the loss of muscle tissue after an accident, improve cardiovascular health and it can lead to Neuroplasticity to improve functional recovery.
Latest research is also looking into how FES cycling can lead to improvements in walking ability in a wide range of patient diseases and accidents. Conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy are all indicated for the use of FES cycling to improve their ability. While this research is currently still ongoing there is a gathering body of evidence suggesting that FES cycling improves a persons walking ability while doing FES cycling and arm cycling at the same time leads to a further increase in functional ability.
If you want to give something like this a go, then NextStep New Zealand has some of the only community available units in New Zealand. You can also have a search for restorative therapies who is the leader in this technology however the units themselves are not cheap which is why NextStep is trying to make this type of technology accessible to the general public! If we can encourage more people to give it a go and see the benefits for themselves then eventually things like this might become a part of a persons therapy and be fully funded in the future!