F.E.S. or Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES)
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is classified as a neuromuscular electrical stimulator. This means it stimulates the nerves required for muscle function (and the sensory nerves). As these motor nerves are stimulated it mimics a “real” contraction of the muscle inducing both contraction and relaxation. Essentially the muscle, and the body responds as if a normal muscle contraction has occurred. This occurs at a superficial and deep level within the body and is unique to the Equinew FES unit.

What is a “normal” muscle contraction?
In a normal scenario, the brain produces an electrical signal which travels along the spinal cord to the peripheral nerves and muscle. The electrical signal passes along the motor nerve into the muscle fiber and a muscle contraction occurs.

What causes this contraction to be interrupted?
After injuries such as suspensory ligament damage or overriding dorsal spinous processes “kissing spines”, several problems occur. First the normal electrical pathways to the area can be interrupted. This can cause abnormal muscle contraction (spasm) or abnormal relaxation (atrophy). Muscular atrophy can be caused either by disuse or a primary nerve injury. Most of the time muscular atrophy is due to disuse from the horse’s tendency to avoid using a particular muscle or group of muscles but in rare cases a nerve injury happens and there are no signals travelling to the muscle e.g. suprascapular nerve paralysis “Sweeney”.

How does the FES unit help this?
FES when used correctly can cause muscle contractions and relaxation inducing normal coordinated movement of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and even joints. These contractions treat the tight, locked muscles caused by injury, decrease muscle wasting from atrophy and ultimately improve the performance of the horse.

What are some of the uses for FES?
We often categorize horses into several groups, although there is significant overlap in the groups.

  1. Horses with sore backs and necks. These horses often have a combination of spasm and atrophy and the FES unit is very useful in restoring normal muscle function. This leads to decreased pain but also increases the strength and support around the spine.
  2. Horses that have had a specific injury or following a surgery e.g. suspensory desmitis. These horses always lose muscle tone during their rehabilitation and FES allows us to prevent issues arising from poor muscle tone during recovery.
  3. Horses with atrophy of their neck, back or pelvis. Sometimes, due to arthritis or orthopedic disease horses will develop chronic atrophy of muscles in these regions. FES is incredibly helpful at re-training these muscle sites and “building” muscle and topline.
  4. Horses that ride asymmetrically. Like people, most horses have one side that works better than the other. This is often felt by the rider but can be hard to see. FES works both sides of the body and can help train the weaker side to contract ‘better’ while allowing the side overcompensating to ‘relax.

Benefits of FES?

  • Pain relief by decreasing spasticity
  • Improved range of motion by decreasing muscle tension
  • Reduced swelling following injury
  • Reduced scar tissue during healing
  • Re-educate muscles following injury
  • Strengthen muscle
  • Reverse muscle wasting
  • Decreased rehabilitation times after injury and surgery

What is different about the FES unit at Daniel Equine?
At Daniel Equine we base our decisions for treatment on the evidence-based medicine and research. The FES unit by Equinew is supported by clinical research and is the only commercially available unit that can stimulate both the superficial and deep spinal muscles. This ability to activate deep spinal muscles like the elusive psoas muscle is unique to the Equinew FES unit we use.

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