With a herniated disc and a lot of pain, he used electrostimulation as an ally – 08/29/2021

With a herniated disc, Alexandre Lamas, 46, manager of logistics, he accumulated for years many pains and a complication that made him lose movement in his left foot. After undergoing three surgeries and conventional therapies, he used electrostimulation as a resource for his rehabilitation. Get to know his story and more about the method.

“In February 2017, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc. According to the doctor, my case was surgical, but there was the option of undergoing the treatment with physiotherapy, RPG, hydrogymnastics and pilates. For six months I did these therapies, but I got worse with I couldn’t stand or sit for a long time, I had difficulty walking, I wasn’t in a comfortable position.

The worst part was the pain, each day was in one place: hip, thigh, leg, back. These limitations directly impacted my life.

At work, I was a logistics manager, but as mobility was compromised, I had to adapt and do administrative services. In social life, I avoided going to malls and restaurants. I was irritated, stressed and anxious because of the pain.

There came a point where it became so unbearable and disabling that I resorted to surgery and had the first one in August 2017 to have the hernia removed. I was fine for 45 days, but after this period the hernia came back and, with it, the pains.

Alexandre Lamas used electrostimulation as a herniated disc rehabilitation - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

In early 2018, my life took a turn. After returning from medical leave, I was fired from the company, got married, moved to the interior of São Paulo and opened a franchise in the logistics segment in partnership with my husband.

I was still in pain, but at that time I left my health problem aside and focused on treating my partner’s cancer. Four months after we were married, he passed away. I returned to live at my parents’ house in São Bernardo do Campo (SP).

In May 2019, I had one of the worst crises, I went to pick something up from the floor and I locked my spine, I couldn’t move. My brother and nephew took me to the hospital, I took medication and was discharged. The next day I woke up with no movement and control of my left foot, which caused a lack of balance and firmness in the leg.

I was startled, but figured something had gotten out of place and would be adjusted when I went to the osteopath. I spent almost a week without moving my foot and using a crutch to get around until the day of the session.

When examining me, the osteopath said that it was not a physical or muscular issue, he suspected it was something neurological and indicated me to see a neurosurgeon. A while later, his suspicion was confirmed. I went to the emergency room and the doctor who attended me said that the hernia affected the frontal tibial nerve, responsible for the dorsiflexion movement.

I got the sequel of the syndrome known as dropped foot, I can’t lift my toes. This sequel made it difficult to walk, I couldn’t walk, my foot turned, I fell, tripped.

According to the doctor, it had to have been operated within 72 hours after the episode in which I didn’t feel my foot for the first time. A new surgery could even partially return the movements, but it would not be 100%. This made me very anxious, I thought about people’s prejudice and the difficulty in finding a job in that condition.

From there began my saga to get through with an expert. As I was unemployed and without medical insurance, I had to turn to the SUS and fought with the city hall and with the health department of my city in search of assistance from a neurosurgeon.

I spent my days in bed in pain and on morphine, had no prospect of improvement and didn’t know if I would regain foot movement. After months, I got a spot for treatment at a state hospital. I had a second, more complex surgery to remove the hernia and place a prosthesis.

In the same week I had a problem with the drain and had another surgical procedure. I regained 10% mobility, but I wanted more.

Alexandre Lamas used electrostimulation as a herniated disc rehabilitation - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

I was on rest for 90 days and started doing physiotherapy when the pandemic came and care at the hospital that offered this service was suspended for months. I did the exercises I had learned at home, but it was palliative. My rehabilitation was impaired. My friends had a pool and I had 10 physiotherapy sessions in a private clinic.

Things started to change and get better when a woman overheard a conversation I had with a friend at an outpatient clinic and said she had the same problem as me: lost movement in one of her feet. She said she regained movement with electrostimulation and asked if I knew this type of method in which the person trains with a vest and electrodes spread over the body. I said no, but I was excited about this new possibility.

I researched about electrostimulation and its benefits, I was willing to try it, but the obstacle was the price, I couldn’t afford it, it was too expensive. I got in touch with one of the gyms that offered this type of training, I told my story, from the diagnosis, complications, my husband’s death, unemployment.

I asked them for a place and, in return, I made myself available to be a case study. I went through some evaluations, they sympathized and gave me the support I asked for. I was released by my orthopedist to do the training.

Alexandre Lamas used electrostimulation as a herniated disc rehabilitation - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

These days, I do 20 minutes of electrostimulation twice a week. In the first stage of training we focus on recovery, muscle strength and balance. Today it is aimed at strengthening the lower back and lower limb movements. I already do exercises like squats and sit-ups and train at the same level as other students.

In three months of treatment, I reached 98% of success: I no longer feel pain, I regained control and firmness in the movement of my left leg, a path without the aid of a crutch and orthosis. The next step is to try to regain movement from the dorsiflexion of the left foot.

Electrostimulation was a differential in my rehabilitation. I’m building an evolution every day, I don’t know if I’ll reach 100%, but I’m already happy to have my health, quality of life, confidence and self-esteem back. I am grateful to my surgeon, physiotherapist and instructor who helped me, welcomed me and made me believe that the limit is only a barrier that we are able to overcome.”

1) What is electrostimulation and what is it for?

Whole body electrostimulation or EMS. Electro Muscle Stimulation) is a methodology that uses electrical currents to cause involuntary contractions directly under the musculature. The technology involves the use of a vest with electrodes, located in the main muscle groups, and a terminal where the intensity is controlled. The handling of this terminal is done by a health professional, which can be a physical therapist or a physical education professional.

The electrical currents that stimulate the muscles in the contraction process simulate what would be voluntary contractions in other physical exercises, such as weight training that uses external loads to achieve this same goal. The professional applies the intensity of the patient/student’s load at the terminal, according to a scale of perceived exertion, known as the Borg scale. The EMS training lasts 20 minutes and does not use weight.

2) What are the benefits of electrostimulation?

It helps to gain muscle strength, increase lean mass, overall physical capacity, muscle tone, reduce muscle pain and weight loss. Electrostimulation can also be used as a treatment option for some diseases, such as chondromalacia patella, arthritis, arthrosis, disc protrusion, hernias, among others. However, it is important to emphasize that the release must be made by the doctor or the team that accompanies the patient.

3) For whom is electrostimulation indicated?

Electrostimulation is indicated for most people, especially for those who need or want to strengthen their muscles. The muscle fibers activated during training are more difficult to be recruited and are responsible for the muscle response of strength, such as standing up, squatting, balancing, which makes the method interesting for the elderly, for example, who suffer from a condition called sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass).

Importantly, the method is contraindicated for people with umbilical hernias, cardiovascular diseases, epilepsy, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, individuals with hormonal disorders, schizophrenia or people with skin diseases.

4) What are the precautions and risks to be taken with electrostimulation?

Electrostimulation is a high-intensity method and, like any training of this type, it causes physiological impacts that require rest and adequate nutrition for correct recovery. Any overload greater than the body can handle can generate negative impacts on the body, such as increased CPK (enzyme present in skeletal muscles, brain and heart) in the bloodstream. As CPK is filtered in the kidneys, its excess causes kidney overload. Therefore, the interval between electrostimulation workouts must be longer for it to be removed from the bloodstream.

Source: Rodolfo de Oliveira, physical education professional and electrical stimulation instructor at Tecfit, Santo André (SP) unit.