Background: Subcutaneous adipose tissue may influence the transmission of electrical stimuli through to the skin, thus affecting both evoked torque and comfort perception associated with neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). This could seriously affect the effectiveness of NMES for either rehabilitation or sports purposes. Objective: To investigate the effects of skinfold thickness (SFT) on maximal NMES current intensity, NMES-evoked torque, and NMES-induced discomfort. Method: First, we compared NMES current intensity, NMES-induced discomfort, and NMES-evoked torque between two subgroups of subjects with thicker (n=10; 20.7 mm) vs. thinner (n=10; 29.4 mm) SFT. Second, we correlated SFT to NMES current intensity, NMES-induced discomfort, and NMES-evoked knee extension torque in 20 healthy women. The NMES-evoked torque was normalized to the maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) torque. The discomfort induced by NMES was assessed with a visual analog scale (VAS). Results: NMES-evoked torque was 27.5% lower in subjects with thicker SFT (p=0.01) while maximal current intensity was 24.2% lower in subjects with thinner SFT (p=0.01). A positive correlation was found between current intensity and SFT (r=0.540, p=0.017). A negative correlation was found between NMES-evoked torque and SFT (r=-0.563, p=0.012). No significant correlation was observed between discomfort scores and SFT (rs=0.15, p=0.53). Conclusion: These results suggest that the amount of subcutaneous adipose tissue (as reflected by skinfold thickness) affected NMES current intensity and NMES-evoked torque, but had no effect on discomfort perception. Our findings may help physical therapists to better understand the impact of SFT on NMES and to design more rational stimulation strategies.
- Physical agents
- Physical therapy