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Matching initial torque with different stimulation parameters influences skeletal muscle fatigue.


Department of Physical Therapy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, SHPB 387, 1530 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA. bickel@uab.edu


A fundamental barrier to using electrical stimulation in the clinical setting is an inability to maintain torque production secondary to muscle fatigue. Electrical stimulation parameters are manipulated to influence muscle torque production, and they may also influence fatigability during repetitive stimulation. Our purpose was to determine the response of the quadriceps femoris to three different fatigue protocols using the same initial torque obtained by altering stimulator parameter settings. Participants underwent fatigue protocols in which either pulse frequency (lowHz), pulse duration (lowPD), or voltage (lowV) was manipulated to obtain an initial torque that equaled 25% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction. Muscle soreness was reported on a visual analog scale 48 h after each fatigue test. The lowHz protocol resulted in the least fatigue (25% +/- 14%); the lowPD (50% +/- 13%) and lowV (48% +/- 14%) protocols had similar levels of fatigue. The lowHz protocol resulted in significantly less muscle soreness than the higher frequency protocols. Stimulation protocols that use a lower frequency coupled with long pulse durations and high voltages result in lesser amounts of muscle fatigue and perceived soreness. The identification of optimal stimulation patterns to maximize muscle performance will reduce the effect of muscle fatigue and potentially improve clinical efficacy.