There are several types of electrical stimulation devices used in different electrotherapy treatments. Each device emits different frequencies and waveforms and produces varying effects.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Interferential current (IFC)
- Electrical Muscle Stimulation(EMS)
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This is one of the most popular electrotherapy – physiotherapy treatments. TENS utilizes low to high frequencies ranging from 60-200Hz. The frequencies emitted reduce pain by preventing pain signals from reaching the brain. When high-frequency stimulation is used, pain relief lasts for a short while, but the stimulation can be withstood for several hours. On the other hand, low-frequency stimulation provides lasting pain relief, but the stimulation is only bearable for up to 30 minutes.
TENS therapy is done by placing electrode pads over or near the affected part of the body. The device is then activated, and electrical impulses are sent through the electrodes into the affected part of the body, blocking pain signals. TENS is useful in treating neck pain, lower back pain, fibromyalgia pain, and diabetic nerve pain.
This electrotherapy modality can be termed as a deeper form of TENS. It involves using two high-frequency currents that are emitted into the target area simultaneously so that they cross paths and create interference. This interference produces the effects of low-frequency stimulation, deep within the target area.
By using high-frequency energy, IFC can reach deeper into areas of pain.It is also tolerable for the patient. It’s used to treat and manage chronic pain, edema, soft tissue inflammation, post-trauma acute pain, and post-surgical pain.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)
EMS utilizes electric currents to target a single group or several groups of muscles. It uses different frequencies and wavelengths to cause forceful or gentle muscle contractions, which helps improve the strength of the affected muscles and increases blood supply to facilitate faster healing.
Other electrotherapy modalities
Apart from the above electrotherapy modalities, there are other types of electrical stimulation, including:
- Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS)
- Galvanic stimulation (GS)
- Pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation (PEMF)
Uses of Electrotherapy Modalities
In Push Pounds Sports Medicine, our specialists utilize electrotherapy for:
- Pain management and reduction
- Improve joint mobility and range of motion
- Treatment of incontinence (fecal and urinary)
- Facilitate the repair of soft tissue
- Treatment of neuromuscular dysfunction/ muscle re-education
- Treatment and management of edema
- Increasing peripheral blood flow to muscles and other tissues
- Prevention and treatment of muscular atrophy
- Prevention of deep vein thrombosis after surgery
Electrotherapy is a stimulation therapy that uses electrical energy to help relieve pain. It is a medical treatment proven to relieve muscle pain, reduce the recovery time, and speed the healing process. Electrotherapy has been widely used for many years as the electric pulses are mild, calming, and 100% safe.
Electrotherapy has many uses in therapy; it is used to relax muscle spasms, increase local blood circulation, rehabilitate and re-educate electrical muscle stimulation, maintain and increase range of motion, manage chronic pain, post-traumatic acute pain, post-surgical pain, and aid wound healing.
The electrotherapy unit consists of a battery-powered device that connects by wires to adhesive electrode pads. These electrode pads are placed onto the skin in the affected/injured area. Once the electrode pads are secured, the unit is powered on and a mild electric current is transferred from the electrode to the skin. For most people, electrotherapy feels like a gentle vibrating massage or slight buzzing, tingling sensation. The electrodes stimulate and vibrate the muscle under the skin, which people find relaxing.
How does this relieve pain? When there is injury or pain at a tissue it is sensed by a nerve in the area. An electrical signal is then transmitted through the nerve to the brain detecting pain. Electrotherapy works by sending its own electrical impulses to the brain. The disruption in signals interrupt or block the pain signals from the nerve to the brain, effectively reducing the amount of pain you feel.
Electrotherapy is commonly used for:
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Knee pain
- Muscle pain
- Post surgery
It is a non-invasive and drug-free viable therapy that is worth exploring. The first step towards recovery is alleviating pain allowing you to focus on movement and exercise. Depending on your symptoms, your health care provider may recommend that electrotherapy is right for you.