Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is used for preventing muscle atrophy and improving muscle strength in patients and healthy people. However, the current intensity of NMES is usually set at a level that causes the stimulated muscles to contract. This typically causes pain. Quantifying the instantaneous changes in muscle microcirculation and metabolism during NMES before muscle contraction occurs is crucial, because it enables the current intensity to be optimally tuned, thereby reducing the NMES-induced muscle pain and fatigue. We applied near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to measure instantaneous tissue oxygenation and deoxygenation changes in 43 healthy young adults during NMES at 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 mA. Having been stabilized at the NIRS signal baseline, the tissue oxygenation and total hemoglobin concentration increased immediately after stimulation in a dose-dependent manner (P < 0.05) until stimulation was stopped at the level causing muscle contraction without pain. Tissue deoxygenation appeared relatively unchanged during NMES. We conclude that NIRS can be used to determine the optimal NMES current intensity by monitoring oxygenation changes.
Keywords: muscle oxygenation dynamics; near-infrared spectroscopy; neuromuscular electrical stimulation; tissue optics.
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