Muscle Fatigue: Clinical Implications for Fatigue Assessment and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation

Stuart A Binder-Macleod, Lynn Snyder-Mackler


Muscle fatigue can be defined as a decrease in the force-generating ability of a muscle that resulted from recent activity. Recent studies of muscle fatigue are reviewed that are relevant to two areas of interest to physical therapists: clinical assessment of muscle fatigue and neuromuscular electrical stimulation. Volitional and electrical tests have been used to quantify muscle fatigue. Several variations on each type of test are discussed, as are the possible sites in which fatigue might occur. The rate of fatigue during the therapeutic application of electrical stimulation of skeletal muscle is much greater than that seen during volitional contractions. Factors contributing to this phenomenon are examined. The unique requirements affecting how stimulus variables can be manipulated to minimize muscle fatigue in three specific therapeutic uses of neuromuscular electrical stimulation are addressed.

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