Electrical Muscle Stimulation Treatments for Cerebral Palsy

Ninety percent of children with cerebral palsy have muscle spasms as a dominant or extreme disorder. EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) is the induction of muscle contractures via electronic stimulation and is sometimes used to treat children with spastic cerebral palsy. When combined with appropriate physical therapy, experts show that EMS can improve overall motor function by increasing a child's ability to perform physical tasks such as walking.

There are two ways to approach EMS. The first is called NMES (neuromuscular electrical stimulation) or FES (functional electrical stimulation). The procedure, which is only performed by a doctor, involves providing a specific muscle or muscle group with short electrical pulses designed to mimic normal communication between the brain and the muscular system. 

The TES (electrical stimulation threshold) is very different. It involves less tension and can be targeted to specific muscles or muscle groups over a long period of time. It can be given by the patient or family member and can even be done at night while the patient is sleeping. It does not cause contractions but is used to relieve the patient of some of the discomfort and pain that comes with spasticity.

The way NMES works is by placing electrodes on the skin near muscles that are atrophic or weakened due to spasticity. The current is low and rarely causes discomfort to the patient. The goal is to force the muscles to contract in such a way that the brain does not work. With TES, the procedure can be used at home by one parent.