electrotherapy for pain relief

What is Electrotherapy?

Electrotherapy is the use of electrical currents to produce therapeutic effects on the body. Believe it or not, electrotherapy has been used since the 1800’s to treat various medical conditions. This method of treatment has been proven useful for pain management, muscle stimulation, reduction of swelling, and increased blood flow.

What Are The Different Types of Electrotherapy and How Do They Work?

The most common form of electrotherapy is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Tiny impulses are sent through the skin to nerves via electrodes which alters your perception of pain. Pain is simply a message sent from an injured area of the body through the spinal cord up to the brain. TENS helps alleviate pain by interfering with these signals before they reach the brain and can be processed. TENS can also stimulate the production of endorphins that yield an analgesic effect in the body. Lower and more uncomfortable frequencies will provide pain relief longer than high frequencies. The lower the frequency, the deeper the current is being penetrated through the skin, thus resulting in more discomfort during use with prolonged relief from symptoms. Interferential Current Therapy (IFC/IFT) is another form of electrical stimulation commonly used by clinicians. IFC and TENS use the same mechanisms to relieve pain, however IFC is more effective in increasing circulation and reducing swelling. The IFC currents are set up in a crisscross pattern and operate on lower frequencies with the comfort sensation of high frequencies. Since patients are able to tolerate lower frequencies under this setting, the current can reach deeper tissues beneath the skin.

Why Use Electrotherapy for Pain Relief?

One of the biggest advantages of using electrotherapy is that it’s a great non-invasive way to manage pain that is drug free. Electrotherapy also has very few side effects in comparison to analgesic drugs and is considered to be non-addictive. TENS units are often given to patients for convenient at-home treatment of chronic conditions. Patients can adjust settings to their desired intensity and address chronic or acute pain.

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

What is EMS(Electrical Muscular Stimulation)?

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is a type of electrotherapy stimulates a muscle contraction using electrical impulses in order strengthen weak muscles,reduce swelling,relieve pain and help heal wounds.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES)uses high intensities that cause excitation of peripheral nerves to produce a muscle contraction.

The impulses are generated by a device and delivered through electrodes (pads that adhere to the skin) over the middle of the muscles that require stimulating. The impulses from EMS mimic the action potential (stimulus required to make the muscle contract) coming from the central nervous system. This causes the muscles to contract.

Benefits of EMS

Benefits of EMS include:

  • Decreasing pain
  • Promote tissue healing
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Maintaining and regaining muscle activity

At IVORY PHYSIOTHERAPY CENTRE, we also use EMS/NMES in the treatment of neurological conditions such as Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, and Cerebral Palsy to decrease spasticity and help maintain muscle strength for as long as possible.

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is an electrotherapy that promotes healing and reduces inflammation at a cellular level. An ultrasound machine creates mechanical sound waves that produce energy, which when they enter the skin cause micro vibrations in the cells improving tissue healing and reducing pain.

During ultrasound treatment an ultrasound head is placed onto the affected area using specialised gel, which ensures maximum contact between the head and the skin, and slowly moved. Ultrasound is a painless treatment used to promote the healing process following an acute injury or a chronic condition. Ultrasound is commonly used to treat soft tissue problems such as ligament sprains or muscle tears.

Benefits of ultrasound

Ultrasound treatment can be used for a wide range of conditions and will help:

  • Promote tissue healing
  • Improve quality of repair
  • Decrease pain

Ligaments, tendons, fascia, joint capsules and scar tissue contain large amounts of collagen and therefore absorb the ultrasound better and benefit from this type of treatment.