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New system provides exercise for people with spinal cord injury.

New System Provides Exercise for People with Spinal Cord Injury

People paralyzed by spinal cord injury can now "work out" with a special computerized rehabilitation system that uses electrical stimulation to move leg muscles in a pedaling motion.

The REGYS I and ERGYS I rehabilitation systems are special exercise machines that tone leg muscles and strengthen the cardiovascular system with aerobic exercise. Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center, Wheaton, Illinois, is the first facility in this state and one of only six in the Midwest to offer the REGYS I system. The center operates two ERGYS Home Rehabilitation systems for graduates of the REGYS program.

The systems use a type of computerized functional electrical stimulation (FES) to contract the leg muscles in a precisely timed sequence.

"REGYS therapy does not cure paralysis, but it does offer physical benefits to spinal cord injured people not realized with other types of therapy," said Dr. Jeffrey Cameron, medical director at Marianjoy. "The systems allow spinal cord injured people to exercise their legs and gain all the physical and psychological benefits of exercise - something they thought they'd never do again."

There are an estimated 220,000 people with spinal cord injuries in the United States with an estimated 7,800 new cases occurring each year. Many spinal cord injured people experience secondary problems, such as deterioration of the muscles, skin, bones, and circulatory and cardiovascular systems. Because of medical advances, people are surviving these secondary complications; now, medical problems, such as heart disease, are a concern for those with spinal cord injury.

New technology used to develop the REGYS and ERGYS I systems is playing an important role in improving the general health of disabled people. People who use REGYS I and then continue therapy with the ERGYS system can strengthen their cardiovascular system, improve circulation, increase muscle bulk, and heighten self-esteem, because their legs appear more "normal."

"The increased muscle bulk and improved circulation may also prevent pressure sores, which are the most common reason spinal cord injured people require re-hospitalization," Dr. Cameron said.

"The system is designed to benefit spinal cord injured people whose leg nerves are intact," he said. "Before a patient begins the program, we examine the patient's bone structure, heart and nervous system to determine whether that person is a good candidate for REGYS therapy."

Therapy on the REGYS system occurs in two stages. The first stage acclimates the patient to stimulation and strengthens the leg muscles by moving the patient's legs in a motion similar to exercise on a leg lift machine. The second stage involves sequential stimulation of the quadriceps, hamstring and buttock muscles to activate the patient's legs in a pedaling motion. Eighteen electrodes are placed on the appropriate muscles and the patient's feet are fitted into boots attached to the system's pedals.

The REGYS I system has a unique feedback mechanism that senses muscle fatigue or spasms, according to center staff. This feature prevents damage to the muscle tissue by alerting the therapist when to readjust the system; if necessary, the system will automatically shut down

After successfully completing the therapy program on the REGYS, which averages 3 to 4 months, patients begin the next level, known as ERGYS I. Unlike the REGYS, which requires a therapist to set up the sequencing, resistance levels and timing of the patient's workout, the ERGYS operates from a computer cartridge that is developed from the REGYS. The cartridge is programmed with the resistance level and timing of the patient's workout and, therefore, does not require a therapist.

People can use the cartridge in any ERGYS system, enabling them to maintain a lifetime of therapy at home or at a rehabilitation center. ERGYS users' performance at the center is evaluated and their workouts are updated every 3 months by reviewing the data collected on their computer cartridges.

Marianjoy recently purchased two ERGYS systems that are operated in the Wheaton and Hoffman Estates facilities. One ERGYS system was donated by the Amoco Foundation and the second was purchased by Marianjoy in September 1989. Marianjoy is working towards making the benefits of this technology more accessible and has plans to place additional systems in the Chicagoland areas in spring 1990.

"With the REGYS and ERGYS systems in place, we hope to encourage patients to live healthier, more active lives," Dr. Cameron said. "In the near future, we hope to see ERGYS systems in health clubs throughout the Chicago area."

To participate in the REGYS/ERGYS program, call the Marianjoy physical therapy department at (708) 462-4038.

Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center is a 100-bed freestanding physical rehabilitation center specializing in the delivery of physical rehabilitation services. The people it serves have been pulled from the mainstream of life due to birth defects, traumatic accidents, serious illnesses, or other disabling events. The center's programs and services have earned it the distinction as the Nation's Outstanding Physical Rehabilitation Center. Marianjoy Rehabilitation Center is a member of the Wheaton Franciscan System.
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Title Annotation:electrical stimulation moves leg muscles
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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