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Vol. 37 No. 1, January/February 2000
Pages 73 - 80

Abstract - Effects of thoraco-lumbar electric sensory stimulation on knee extensor spasticity of persons who survived cerebrovascular accident (CVA)

Ray-Yau Wang, PhD; Rai-Chi Chan, MD; Mei-Wun Tsai, MS

Faculty of Physical Therapy, National Yang-Ming University, Shih-Pai, Taipei, Taiwan; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan; Faculty of Physical Therapy, National Yang-Ming University, Shih-Pai, Taipei, Taiwan

Abstract — Spasticity is mostly due to an excess of impulses to alpha motor neurons partly resulting from a change of interneuron activity. Low threshold afferent has been reported to change the activity in interneuron. The study is to investigate the effects of surface spinal paravertebral stimulation on knee extensor spasticity. Ten survivors of stroke, with knee extensor spasticity, received electric stimulation for five 45-minute periods through surface electrodes applied to the skin in the twelfth thoracic and first lumbar areas. The electric stimulations had an amplitude modulated alternating current (AC), with a carrier frequency of 2500 Hz, modulated to "beats" frequency of 20 Hz. Stimulation amplitude was raised to elicit sensory stimulation. The pre- and post-treatment evaluation included the modified Ashworth scale, active torque during controlled knee movements at various velocities, and electromyographic (EMG) activity during the torque measurements. Our results indicate that nine of ten subjects demonstrated a decrease in the modified Ashworth scale post-treatment. The EMG activity of the spastic quadriceps during active knee flexion was decreased post-treatment as compared with the value before treatment. The active torque value of knee flexion or extension at 30°, 60°, or 90°/sec of angular velocity did not change significantly post-treatment. A trend of increasing spastic quadriceps EMG activity with respect to the angular velocity during an active knee flexion was established, with Ashworth scale considered. The level of EMG activity is higher when the Ashworth scale is higher. According to our results, the surface paravertebral sensory stimulation was effective in reducing quadriceps muscle spasticity of the subjects. Both the modified Ashworth scale and the EMG activity of spastic quadriceps during eccentric contraction are suggested as sensitive tools for measuring spasticity of persons who survived cerebrovascular accident (CVA).

Key words: CVA, electric sensory stimulation, EMG, knee extensor spasticity, stroke.

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