Two channel FES

Two chanel FES

Two chanel FES

I was fitted with a single channel Functional Electrical Stimulator (FES) in mid December.  Sixteen weeks later, at the end of March I was upgraded to a Two Channel FES. The original FES is only able to stimulate one muscle; the new one can stimulate two muscles. The original FES stimulates the muscle to lift the front of the foot. The second channel is used to stimulate the big muscle in my thigh and so reduce leg drop. Leg drop means that I cannot lift my left leg so climbing a flight of stairs or walking over rough ground is a challenge. The new FES sounds wonderful but it does bring a few problems.

Comments the next day

  • The original FES could be worn securely on a belt. The new one is not secure on a belt because of the design of the clip. I keep it in a bum-bag.
  • So far it has not noticeably helped to reduce the problems caused by leg drop
  • There are now five connections that I have to sort out. Two for each muscle and one for the heel. When I take a step I lift my heel, that sends a signal to the FES which then sends an electrical impulse to both muscles
  • Once again back ache problems. This is because I am now using muscles that have not been used for a long time. After the first night terrible spasms in my legs and lower back which did ease during the day. I’m sure it will get better. I had similar problems with the single channel FES. It all settled down after a week

A couple of days later

  • The bum bag was not such a great idea 🙁 Instead I clip it onto the pocket of my jeans 🙂
  • Problems with the muscles in my back are getting better, as I expected
  • In my opinion the FES with two channels does make walking easier
  • Already I can get it setup more quickly. It takes about 25 minutes, practice, practice, practice

I don’t think my walking is faster because of the extra channel but my balance is marginally better. I was advised that my leg drop is severe so I should expect the FES to only ease that problem. It is a lot fiddlier to set up and take off each day because of two extra electrodes

I am on a trial to see if the extra channel helps me with my walking and using stairs. The extra channel does make coming down a flight of stairs easier and quicker but it does not obviously help me to climb up the stairs.

Thoughts after using it for 5 days

Positioning of the electrodes is the easy part. The time consuming part is sorting out the wires with surgical tape and protecting the electrodes so they are not rubbed off by my jeans. I wish there was a way to fix the strength of the charge from the FES to the electrodes. Overall it has given me better balance when walking.

It is very easy to accidentally increase or decrease the strength of the charge. I have given myself some real stingers by accidentally changing the settings to maximum.

This is a good article about FES issued by the MS Society giving you a lot of basic information. It was written in 2009 so some of the information is now out of date with regards to funding etc. but the basic information is good.

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