The role of neuromuscular electrical stimulation in the rehabilitation of the pelvic floor muscles
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common problem, particularly for women. A weakness in the pelvic floor muscles can lead to one or more disorders developing, such as urinary incontinence or a pelvic organ prolapse. To combat this, it is advised that the pelvic floor muscles are exercised to strengthen them and help them become more supportive. However, more than 30% of women are unable to detect their pelvic floor muscles to produce an effective contraction. The introduction of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) in pelvic healthcare poses a significant benefit in the rehabilitation of the pelvic floor muscles.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) involves using an electrical impulse or signal to elicit a muscle contraction (Knutson et al, 2015). Also known as electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) or electromyostimulation, NMES can be used to:
The application of electricity in rehabilitation is not new (Heidland et al, 2013). Live electric fish were studied as an analgesic in around 201 BC by the Greek physician Galen. Some 2000 years later, Genevan physics professor Jean Jallabert used electrical currents in a clinical environment to enhance the quality of the extensor muscles in one patient's forearm, improving movement significantly as a result (Bussel, 2015).
In the 21st century, electrical stimulation is used to provide strength training to athletes and aid in muscle rehabilitation. This focus on rehabilitation has gained relevance for those seeking to treat pelvic floor dysfunctions, both in a medical setting and at home.
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