People who have had a spinal cord injury may benefit from functional electrical stimulation (FES) as part of their rehabilitation. This therapy uses computer technology to send low-level electrical impulses to specific muscles in your legs, arms, hands or other areas. Electrodes are placed over the nerves, and stimulate the nerves to allow you to do activities such as walking or riding a stationary bike.

The electrical stimulation can cause your muscles to contract, which may promote increased muscle bulk or muscle control. The muscle activity may also help reduce muscle spasms.

Functional electrical stimulation may improve your:

  • Range of motion
  • Muscle size and strength
  • Functional use of the hands, arms or legs
  • Blood circulation and heart health
  • Aerobic conditioning and overall fitness
  • Ability to prevent loss of bone density

Functional electrical stimulation is often used with other therapy techniques, education and exercise programs. Your therapy goals may include improving how you perform your daily activities and creating a wellness program you can use at home.

Functional electrical stimulation for spinal cord injury care at Mayo Clinic

May 12, 2022
  1. AskMayoExpert. Functional electrical stimulation. Mayo Clinic; 2022.
  2. Johnston TE, et al. Cycling with functional electrical stimulation after spinal cord injury: What's in it for me? Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2015; doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2015.01.002.
  3. Ho CH, et al. Functional electrical stimulation and spinal cord injury. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America. 2014; doi:10.1016/j.pmr.2014.05.001.
  4. Embrey DG, et al. Functional electrical stimulation improves quality of life by reducing intermittent claudication. International Journal of Cardiology. 2017; doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2017.05.097.
  5. Provider profile. CARF International. http://www.carf.org/providerProfile.aspx?cid=8020. Accessed March 1, 2022.

Functional electrical stimulation for spinal cord injury