Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)
Advanced Therapy Care is excited to announce that we now offer E-Stim therapy to our swallowing patients. E-Stim is short for neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). The use of NMES is not a new treatment modality. The idea of using electrical stimulation to treat disease has been around since 400 B.C. when torpedo fish were used to treat headaches and arthritis. This fish, which was electrically charged, was put on the patient’s head and feet. In the 19th century, scientists figured out specific locations where stimulation is most effective for muscle contractions. Today, electrical stimulation is used in cardiac pacemakers, brain stimulators to control seizures, cochlear implants, and pain control devices, among many others. These same principles are applied to the treatment of the muscles of speech and swallowing.
Dysphagia is defined as a sensation of difficulty swallowing. It can occur from the mouth to the stomach and can affect people of all ages, especially the aged. Common signs and symptoms include difficulty chewing, coughing before, during, and after a swallowing attempt; frequent throat clearing; sensation of “something stuck in the throat;” pneumonia of unknown origin; drooling; gurgled voice after swallow; and/or unexplained weight loss. Muscles and nerves that initiate and control the swallowing process are damaged and/or weakened due to stroke, brain injury, and/or advanced age.
When electrical stimulation is applied to muscles specific to speech and swallowing, the muscle contraction is enhanced. Increased muscle contraction allows for strengthening, re-education of muscle memory, and increased function. When those muscles are strengthened, swallowing is faster, easier, and safer. NMES is not a single treatment modality. It is used to enhance muscle performance and provide sensory feedback. NMES should be used in conjunction with traditional swallowing therapy (e.g. exercises, swallow strategies, thermal stimulation, and dietary modifications.)