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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2008 Aug;18(4):662-71. Epub 2007 Feb 21.

Effects of stimulation frequency versus pulse duration modulation on muscle fatigue.

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Department of Physical Therapy, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA.


During functional electrical stimulation (FES), both the frequency and intensity can be increased to increase muscle force output and counteract the effects of muscle fatigue. Most current FES systems, however, deliver a constant frequency and only vary the stimulation intensity to control muscle force. This study compared muscle performance and fatigue produced during repetitive electrical stimulation using three different strategies: (1) constant pulse-duration and stepwise increases in frequency (frequency-modulation); (2) constant frequency and stepwise increases in pulse-duration (pulse-duration-modulation); and (3) constant frequency and pulse-duration (no-modulation). Surface electrical stimulation was delivered to the quadriceps femoris muscles of 12 healthy individuals and isometric forces were recorded. Muscle performance was assessed by measuring the percent changes in the peak forces and force-time integrals between the first and the last fatiguing trains. Muscle fatigue was assessed by measuring percent declines in peak force between the 60Hz pre- and post-fatigue testing trains. The results showed that frequency-modulation showed better performance for both peak forces and force-time integrals in response to the fatiguing trains than pulse-duration-modulation, while producing similar levels of muscle fatigue. Although frequency-modulation is not commonly used during FES, clinicians should consider this strategy to improve muscle performance.

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