Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES) - a treatment for disuse muscle atrophy

People with neuromuscular conditions have two problems with respect to muscle strength and function. The first is the injury to the brain, the spinal cord or the nerve that limits the ability to move normally. The second is the disuse muscle atrophy that compounds the primary difficulty.

Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES) is a cost effective, home based electrical stimulation program used to treat disuse muscle atrophy. Improved muscle function with increased sensory awareness can result within a short time of using this technology.

Clinical studies have confirmed that muscle growth and strength can be improved, and spasticity may be decreased with the use of Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES). Individuals with mild motor impairment saw improvements in balance and walking skills. Individuals with moderate impairment demonstrated decreased dependence on assistive devices such as walkers and crutches. The most severely affected individuals showed improvements in posture and balance for independent sitting, improved arm and hand function, and improved vocal skills due to better trunk control.

Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES) is a treatment intended to be used as an adjunct to current treatment or therapy. It is not a substitute for any therapy or surgical procedure that may be necessary for overall improvement and development. The TES program uses standardized protocols and is administered by trained practitioners.

The equipment consists of a small pocket sized stimulator, wire leads and four electrodes. The stimulation is painless and takes place at night during sleep. It has specific safety features for home use. The intensity of the stimulation is set at the sensory threshold and does not cause a muscle contraction. More about the NT2000-TES unit (click here)

Some children call it their “Tickle Machine” or describe the stimulation sensation as “Butterfly Kisses”.

The Development of Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES)

This treatment program, first developed by Dr. Karen Pape in 1985, grew and became established at the Magee Clinic in Toronto from 1989-1996. Protocols were developed and tested in an open clinical trial. At the clinic, Dr. Pape standardized treatments and protocols that incorporated advances in neuroscience, Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES), and training activities modified from those used by peak performance athletes.

Now doctors and therapists in Canada, the US and around the world use Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES) as part of their treatment and recovery plan. It is also in use in clinics and homes by people with muscle weakness due to neurological problems.

Further Readings

Pape, K.E., Chipman, M.L.: Electrotherapy in Rehabilitation. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, J.A. Delisa, B.M. Gans, N.E. Walsh, et al Eds. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD. 2004.
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Kerr, C., McDowell, B., McDonough, S.: Electric stimulation in cerebral palsy: a review of effects on strength and motor function. Developmental medicine and child neurology 2004, 46:205-213
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