Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On My Nerves

As a stroke survivor I have heard that to regain muscle control, I have to forge neural pathways between an undamaged part of my brain and the nerves that network through my muscles.

One tool I've used to facilitate innervation (nerve growth) is Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation. In addition to receiving electrical stimulation as a regular part of physical therapy three times per week, I purchased a small NMES unit to use at home while doing hand exercises. Initially my arm and fingers moved only when triggered by the unit, which works by sticking electrodes to the skin and sending electrical pulses through the muscles. Basically, the stimulator does the job of nerves until they can do it for themselves — sort of like jumpstarting a car.

Additional methods of stimulation include massage, heat and exercise.  I use them all.

Stimulation triggers blood flow into the targeted area, causing oxygenation of the nerves. Nerves require oxygen in order to transmit impulses. Nerves transmitting impulses is how we move our muscles. Moving our muscles causes more blood to flood into them, starting the cycle again.


When we don't use our muscles, blood passes by on the circulation super highway without being detoured to nerves in nooks and crannies. No oxygen = no impulses = no movement; unused muscle tissue can atrophy and develop adhesions (tissue fibers that stick together because they're not lubricated).

When I follow the formula and innervation begins, I feel tingling, pain and/or twitching. Once I perceive these feelings, I know I have a connection to my brain, that my nerves are awake and ready for instruction. Then comes the hard work of strengthening and coordinating my muscles.

Thanks to Dr. Arbi Derian for explaining this to me and helping me to achieve it.


  1. You explained this very well!

  2. Good explanation. I found a heating pad works well prior to exercise. It wakes everything up. I will also do a heat pad over e-stim.

  3. Thanks Marcelle. Your sense of purpose and focus are inspiring! Your explanation is motivating me to get up and exercise!

  4. Great food for thought.

    I have a limited range of motion, but I can't figure out if it's because of adhesions, spasticity, or both (or some other problem, too).

    1. My range of motion has improved tremendously as we've worked to break up adhesions and spasms. I think the lumping of spasms into the term spasticity is the greatest problem with post-stroke rehab.

  5. Good inspiration for making sure I exercise, an activity it's been hard to make a priority with work school etc. thank you!

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  7. just blogwalking.. Nice post and have a nice day :)