The effects of electrical stimulation on body composition and metabolic profile after spinal cord injury - part II

Ashraf S. Gorgey, David R. Dolbow, James D. Dolbow, Refka K. Khalil, David R. Gater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Diet and exercise are cornerstones in the management of obesity and associated metabolic complications, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and disturbances in the lipid profile. However, the role of exercise in managing body composition adaptations and metabolic disorders after spinal cord injury (SCI) is not well established. The current review summarizes evidence about the efficacy of using neuromuscular electrical stimulation or functional electrical stimulation in exercising the paralytic lower extremities to improve body composition and metabolic profile after SCI. There are a number of trials that investigated the effects on muscle cross-sectional area, fat-free mass, and glucose/lipid metabolism. The duration of the intervention in these trials varied from 6 weeks to 24 months. Training frequency ranged from 2 to 5 days/week. Most studies documented significant increases in muscle size but no noticeable changes in adipose tissue. While increases in skeletal muscle size after twice weekly training were greater than those trials that used 3 or 5 days/week, other factors such as differences in the training mode, i.e. resistance versus cycling exercise and pattern of muscle activation may be responsible for this observation. Loading to evoke muscle hypertrophy is a key component in neuromuscular training after SCI. The overall effects on lean mass were modest and did not exceed 10% and the effects of training on trunk or pelvic muscles remain unestablished. Most studies reported improvement in glucose metabolism with the enhancement of insulin sensitivity being the major factor following training. The effect on lipid profile is unclear and warrants further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-37
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology


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