Walking is 28% Faster with an FES
This is a big question. Can I walk faster with an FES or Functional Electrical Stimulator? How can an FES help me to walk faster?
Will it help me?
In my previous post about FES I explained how this gadget should help me with my walking. My second visit to the National Hospital for Neurology in Queen Square, London and the FES is fitted. I then had a whole day to get used to it, learn how to fit it and find out if it was going to be helpful. The following morning I had to be back at the clinic at 9.30 to be re-assessed. Was it helping me? Was I happy with it?
What does the FES do?
When I walk I lift the heel of my left foot, that sends a message, from the foot switch, to the stimulator. Now a small charge is send to the electrodes and this replicates a message that the brain emits. The electrodes are on a nerve and muscle. The message from the electrodes makes the muscle contract and the front of my foot is lifted off the ground. Now heel and toes are off the ground.
Before I had the FES
I could not lift the front of my foot off the ground because the message sent from the brain was affected by damage to my spinal chord. So when the FES fires a message the toes and front of the foot come off the ground so I just have to swing the leg forward, that is one pace. This is a definite result!
Fitting the FES is not straight forward
Setting up the FES is a bit daunting. There are two electrodes on the leg that form one connection and these stimulate the muscle. There is a foot-switch in the shoe and that is a second connection. Both of these connections have wires. These are plugged into the stimulator. An inky line on the skin of my left leg tells me exactly where to place the electrodes. When I pull on my jeans the wires run inside the left trouser leg.
A simple task but needs co-ordination
The whole process of setting up the FES will get easier with time. Using the stimulator will also get easier with time. The morning of the appointment was only the second time I had rigged up the whole system. Make sure the electrodes are connected to the right coloured wire, ensure the foot-switch was working. I tested it and my foot twitched, I was a happy bunny. :-))
It was a result
Getting to the clinic for a 9.30 appointment was a bit of a mission. I was determined to get to the clinic with the FES fitted and ready to go, I achieved that. OK, I forgot my walking stick but remembered phone, wallet, and manbag, all in all a good result.
The physiotherapist agreed with me that the FES had been a success but while it is correcting the foot drop problem I still suffer leg drop. In other words I cannot lift my leg from the hip but I was told to be patient. Now it was time to measure the effectiveness of the FES. It is very simple. Walk along a 10 metre line first of all with the FES turned off and then turn it on and repeat the 10 metre walk Now compare the times.
I was 28% faster with an FES. I thought that was a really good result, so did they.