Muscle changes following cycling and/or electrical stimulation in pediatric spinal cord injury

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2011 Dec;92(12):1937-43. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.06.031.


Objective: To determine the effect of cycling, electrical stimulation, or both, on thigh muscle volume and stimulated muscle strength in children with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Children's hospital specializing in pediatric SCI.

Participants: Children (N=30; ages, 5-13y) with chronic SCI.

Interventions: Children were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 interventions: functional electrical stimulation cycling (FESC), passive cycling (PC), and noncycling, electrically stimulated exercise (ES). Each group exercised for 1 hour, 3 times per week for 6 months at home.

Main outcome measures: Preintervention and postintervention, children underwent magnetic resonance imaging to assess muscle volume, and electrically stimulated isometric muscle strength testing with the use of a computerized dynamometer. Data were analyzed via analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) with baseline measures as covariates. Within-group changes were assessed via paired t tests.

Results: All 30 children completed the training. Muscle volume data were complete for 24 children (8 FESC, 8 PC, 8 ES) and stimulated strength data for 27 children (9 per group). Per ANCOVA, there were differences between groups (P<.05) for quadriceps muscle volume and stimulated strength, with the ES group having greater changes in volume and the FESC group having greater changes in strength. Within-group analyses showed increased quadriceps volume and strength for the FESC group and increased quadriceps volume for the ES group.

Conclusions: Children receiving either electrically stimulated exercise experienced changes in muscle size, stimulated strength, or both. These changes may decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and type 2 diabetes.

Clinical trials registration number: NCT00245726.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength Dynamometer
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology
  • Muscular Atrophy / rehabilitation*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data