A Beginner’s Guide to FES Therapy: What it is and How it Works!

The FES machine is a fantastic rehabilitation tool for paralyzed or partially paralyzed muscles after Spinal Cord Injuries, cerebral palsy, or other conditions affecting muscle function.

It can also speed up muscle recovery after common sports injuries, and relieve pain and muscle tension.

Other Benefits:

  • Supports nerve regeneration
  • Improves, assists (re-learns), or maintains movement
  • Prevents muscle wastage
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Produces better functional movements & walking pattern
  • Increases independence in everyday life
  • Increases range of motion, mobility, and balance
  • Reduces spasticity in stroke patients
  • Can treat foot drop
  • Decreases pain and instability

 How Does the FES work?

First, you place electrodes on the targeted tissue; the machine sends electric impulses to the nerves within the muscles. The muscle then contracts, which helps perform specific movements. The level of contraction highly depends on a few factors: 

  • The sensation of the person
  • Level of injury (paralyzed muscle)
  • The injury
  • Settings (pulse width, Milliamp) 

Who can benefit from Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES)?

Both children and adults with a brain, spinal cord, nerve damage, and general injuries can use FES. Sometimes, people with nerve damage don’t respond to the stimulus. However, in most cases, it makes a huge difference!  

You can also use FES with the following:

DON’T use it in the following cases :

  • Never use it around the HEART
  • Avoid any part of the front ribcage and the large pectorals (chest muscle)
  • Don’t use it around the throat and mouth
  • Avoid inflamed skin, swelling, bruises, or post-operative scars.
  • Keep it away from wet or humid areas, so from the showers – the risk of electric shock
  • It is not suitable for genital areas
  • Avoid it with high temperature
  • Avoid using with cardiac arrhythmia, pacemakers- or other electronic devices, epilepsy, heart disorders
  • Not suitable while pregnant
  • Nor if you have cancer

Consult a professional to see if you can benefit from using an FES machine. They can also show you how to use it safely for self-treatment.

Positioning of the electrodes

As I mentioned above, you can NOT place the electrodes anywhere close to the heart, and I can’t highlight this enough! 

The placement of the electrodes can vary by person, so be bold and play around with the angles of the electrodes to find the best placement. Here are a few examples of where to place the electrodes on superficial muscles.

Once the electrodes are in the right place and the machine is set up, you will feel tingling like pins and needles. This can be uncomfortable at the beginning, but do NOT worry. You will get used to the sensation. Now, just allow it to work its magic! 

I can never forget my client, who couldn’t  lift her foot (dorsiflexion) for two years by herself (herniated disc – surgery) ! Then only after 10 minutes of  FES treatment, she could move it!  The smile on her face was precious and as you can see the result can be amazing. 

BUT is FES for everyone? My answer is NO! If you are dealing with general or sports injuries I would recommend to use a TENS machine. 

The Difference between TENS & FES machine

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) are two types of/different electrical stimulation devices used for various therapeutic and rehabilitation purposes.

Both TENS and FES use electrical impulses to stimulate the nerves or muscles. Still, the intended effects and applications of these devices differ significantly.

TENS helps to manage chronic pain, including arthritis, lower back, neck, and other muscle pain and tension. TENS relieves pain by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The electrical impulses generated by a TENS machine stimulate the peripheral nerves ( the nerves that relay information between your brain and the rest of your body), releasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

While (as we found out in this article) the FES stimulates the muscles to improve their function. The electrical impulses generated by an FES machine activate the paralyzed or weakened muscles, allowing them to contract and move.

If you are after a reliable FES brand, I recommend RehaMove without a doubt! You can find more information on: www.FEScycling.com and watch video tutorials of how to use it.

For the full version of my above video DEMO please Visit and Subscribe (to) my YouTube channel! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *