Effect of tendon vibration during wide-pulse neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on muscle force production in people with spinal cord injury (SCI)

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

BMC Neurology


BioMed Central Ltd


Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research / School of Medical and Health Sciences




Bochkezanian, V., Newton, R. U., Trajano, G. S., Vieira, A., Pulverenti, T. S., & Blazevich, A. J. (2018). Effect of tendon vibration during wide-pulse neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) on muscle force production in people with spinal cord injury (SCI). BMC Neurology, 18(1), 17. doi:10.1186/s12883-018-1020-9

Available here.



Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is commonly used in skeletal muscles in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) with the aim of increasing muscle recruitment and thus muscle force production. NMES has been conventionally used in clinical practice as functional electrical stimulation (FES), using low levels of evoked force that cannot optimally stimulate muscular strength and mass improvements, and thus trigger musculoskeletal changes in paralysed muscles. The use of high intensity intermittent NMES training using wide-pulse width and moderate-intensity as a strength training tool could be a promising method to increase muscle force production in people with SCI. However, this type of protocol has not been clinically adopted because it may generate rapid muscle fatigue and thus prevent the performance of repeated high-intensity muscular contractions in paralysed muscles. Moreover, superimposing patellar tendon vibration onto the wide-pulse width NMES has been shown to elicit further increases in impulse or, at least, reduce the rate of fatigue in repeated contractions in able-bodied populations, but there is a lack of evidence to support this argument in people with SCI.


Nine people with SCI received two NMES protocols with and without superimposing patellar tendon vibration on different days (i.e. STIM and STIM+vib), which consisted of repeated 30 Hz trains of 58 wide-pulse width (1000 μs) symmetric biphasic pulses (0.033-s inter-pulse interval; 2 s stimulation train; 2-s inter-train interval) being delivered to the dominant quadriceps femoris. Starting torque was 20% of maximal doublet-twitch torque and stimulations continued until torque declined to 50% of the starting torque. Total knee extensor impulse was calculated as the primary outcome variable.


Total knee extensor impulse increased in four subjects when patellar tendon vibration was imposed (59.2 ± 15.8%) but decreased in five subjects (− 31.3 ± 25.7%). However, there were no statistically significant differences between these sub-groups or between conditions when the data were pooled.


Based on the present results there is insufficient evidence to conclude that patellar tendon vibration provides a clear benefit to muscle force production or delays muscle fatigue during wide-pulse width, moderate-intensity NMES in people with SCI.

Trial registration

ACTRN12618000022268. Date: 11/01/2018. Retrospectively registered.



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