Electrical Stimulation

After our inpatient visit to the Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) in Baltimore, we learned a lot about the different types of electrical stimulation and how it may help in treating AFM. We’ve decided to include that information here for other parents or caregivers who may not have a chance to visit KKI for rehabilitation, and also to provide a centralized, public source for such information.

What is electrical stimulation?

Also referred to as “e-stim”, electrical stimulation is a type of physical therapy modality used to contract muscles that are weak or not functioning well. E-stim has also been used to decrease pain, reduce inflammation, and treat stubborn wounds.

There are a few different types of e-stim, but the type AFM patients may benefit from is referred to as NMES, or neuromuscular electrical stimulation. NMES uses a single electrical impulse to cause a single muscle or a single group of muscles to contract.

At KKI, two different types of NMES are used- Swiss stim and Twin stim. Swiss stim is used to reach deeper into the muscle and is often more effective on children with AFM, although it is sometimes not easily tolerated. The therapists may start out using Twin stim which does not reach as deep into the muscle, but provides a constant “twitch” in order to train muscle memory and encourage the brain to activate that muscle.

For our home stim routine, we utilize both Swiss and Twin stim. Our therapists at KKI provided us with a home therapy routine to include stim. Here are a few photos given to us in our home routine booklet showing where to place the electrodes for different muscle groups.

Interested in buying e-stim?

Prior to going to KKI, I thought I had to have a prescription for e-stim which was hard to come by because many of Annadelle’s doctors did not see the benefit in using one of the units. Research on whether or not e-stim is beneficial is still being sought, but many AFM parents sing e-stim praises! I know we do, especially since we saw significant improvement in Annadelle’s movement after beginning stim therapy.

You can buy a Twin stim unit without a prescription in the U.S. Just visit the TENSpros website to purchase your own unit at an incredibly affordable price. You can also search for coupon codes online (the one we used saved us an additional $7.00).

For the Swiss stim, it must be ordered from a manufacturer outside of the United States called Valmed. The product we use from them is called the SwissStim Physio. It’s pretty pricey – a whopping $420 with shipping – but is well worth the investment in our opinion.