Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research / School of Medical and Health Sciences
Swiss Society of Sports Medicine University of Lausanne
The effectiveness of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) for rehabilitation is proportional to the evoked torque. The progressive increase in torque (extra torque) that may develop in response to low intensity wide-pulse high-frequency (WPHF) NMES holds great promise for rehabilitation as it overcomes the main limitation of NMES, namely discomfort. WPHF NMES extra torque is thought to result from reflexively recruited motor units at the spinal level. However, whether WPHF NMES evoked force can be modulated is unknown. Therefore, we examined the effect of two interventions known to change the state of spinal circuitry in opposite ways on evoked torque and motor unit recruitment by WPHF NMES. The interventions were high-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and anodal transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation (tsDCS). We show that TENS performed before a bout of WPHF NMES results in lower evoked torque (median change in torque time-integral: − 56%) indicating that WPHF NMES-evoked torque might be modulated. In contrast, the anodal tsDCS protocol used had no effect on any measured parameter. Our results demonstrate that WPHF NMES extra torque can be modulated and although the TENS intervention blunted extra torque production, the finding that central contribution to WPHF NMES-evoked torques can be modulated opens new avenues for designing interventions to enhance WPHF NMES.
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