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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 10:38 GMT
Muscle machine 'to build super-athletes'
Hands
The device might help arthritis sufferers
A muscle-generating machine could enable athletes to realise their maximum potential and help arthritis sufferers combat disability, say its inventors.

The device, developed by UK scientists, uses electrical signals to generate deep layers of muscle.


It won't soup-up the muscles beyond what they're able to be, but it will maximise an athlete's potential to ensure peak performance

Chartered physiotherapist Diana Farragher
This could help athletes improve their performance, enable arthritis suffers to build up muscle around damaged joints and prevent sports injuries such as torn hamstrings.

The Neuro 4 device mimics the nerve signals that cause muscles to contract during exercise.

The body reacts by building up the deep-seated red muscle that is essential to fitness and exercise.

Other devices stimulate muscle fibres, but only to develop temporary growth of tissue that soon withers once it is put to use without an adequate blood supply.

Chartered physiotherapist Diana Farragher, whose research at Liverpool University in the 1980s led to the development of the Neuro 4, said: "If you want to build a house, you have to put the foundations in and then the walls and roof. That's what this device does.

"Previously you've only been able to make the roof, but Neuro 4 builds up the muscle in layers, including the all-important deep red muscle."

The device itself is worn like a belt and has electrodes which can be attached to four muscle groups at once.

A computer-chip "treatment card" is slotted into the machine to programme the appropriate stimulation.

After the treatment period, which can be up to an hour, it automatically switches off.

The machine is chiefly aimed at physiotherapists and other professionals, but is said to be safe for anyone to use.

One of the machine's main applications is in the treatment and prevention of sports injuries, which often result from an in-balance in different muscle groups.

Better balanced muscles


I would like to see a lot more scientific evidence as to what actually happens to the muscle

Dr Madeline Devey, Arthritis Research Campaign
The Neuro 4 can be programmed to ensure different muscle groups are kept in balance.

Ms Farragher said: "We can help an athlete build up his or her muscles and use them in better balance.

"It won't soup-up the muscles beyond what they're able to be, but it will maximise an athlete's potential to ensure peak performance."

The Neuro 4 can also potentially help recovery from sports injuries by enabling muscle tone to be maintained during periods of rest.

However, Ms Farragher stressed that the machine was not a substitute for exercise, and should not be seen as a panacea for couch potatoes.

"There's a whole lot more to exercise than just developing muscle," she said.

"Maintaining the bones and the cardiovascular system is also important, and you can't do that by sitting in an armchair in front of the TV."

Dr Madeline Devey, scientific secretary for the Arthritis Research Campaign, said building up muscle was the best way to treat arthritis patients, and if exercise was not possible, then electrical stimulation was a possible alternative.

She said: "This device sounds potentially interesting, but electrical stimulation has been tried before and I would like to see a lot more scientific evidence as to what actually happens to the muscle."

The machine, costing just under 300, is manufactured by DMI Medical in Wigan, Yorkshire.

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Physiotherapist Diana Farragher explains the machine's capabilities
See also:

15 Apr 99 | Medical notes
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