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Phys Ther. 2005 Jan;85(1):44-51.

Differences in quadriceps femoris muscle torque when using a clinical electrical stimulator versus a portable electrical stimulator.

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Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 6035 Forbes Tower, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.



There have been conflicting views and evidence reported in the literature concerning differences in muscle torque-generating capacities between clinical ("plug-in") console devices whose power source is provided by an electrical outlet (60 Hz, alternating current-driven) and portable electrical muscle stimulators (smaller, battery-operated stimulators). The purpose of this study was to compare the torque-generating capacity of the quadriceps femoris muscle during neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) between a clinical neuromuscular electrical stimulator (VersaStim 380) and a portable neuromuscular electrical stimulator (Empi 300PV).


Forty volunteer subjects with no known knee, neurological, or cardiovascular pathology (22 male, 18 female) participated in the study.


All subjects were tested with the clinical and portable stimulators on 2 separate days. Peak isometric torque of the quadriceps femoris muscle was measured using a Biodex dynamometer. Peak isometric quadriceps femoris muscle torque achieved during NMES and the average quadriceps femoris muscle torque integral produced over 10 NMES contractions were measured for each stimulator. Subjects also rated the amount of pain they experienced during the 10 NMES contractions using a numeric pain scale. Paired t tests were used to compare mean differences in measured variables between stimulator conditions.


There were no differences in the peak torque or numeric pain ratings during the electrically stimulated contractions between stimulator conditions. The Empi 300PV produced a greater average torque integral compared with the VersaStim 380 during 10 electrically stimulated contractions (Empi 300PV=988.6-/+330.4 N.m-s, Versastim 380=822.7-/+292.6 N.m-s).


The portable Empi 300PV stimulator produced comparable levels of average peak torque at comparable levels of discomfort to those produced by the VersaStim 380 clinical stimulator. The Empi 300PV maintained greater amounts of torque production during a 10-contraction training session compared with the VersaStim 380. Based on these data, we believe that the Empi 300PV has the potential to produce adequate levels of torque production for NMES quadriceps femoris muscle performance training. Further study is needed to determine the effectiveness of using the Empi 300PV for quadriceps femoris muscle performance training.

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