Did you know that electricity has been used to treat pain for over 100 years now? The process is said to block the transmission of pain signals along nerves. And electrical stimulation also, reportedly, promotes the release of endorphins – the body’s natural painkillers.
There are different devices that deliver electrical stimulation therapy.The most common equipment simply sees an ordinary current flowing from a wall outlet; the current is then converted to produce a specific physiologic effect on human tissues.
The electrical impulses not only produce muscle contraction but also increase strength, which is why athletes have started to take on the therapy as part of their strength training tool. In addition, the therapy also prevents disuse atrophy so it has served as a rehabilitative and preventive tool for treating partially or completely immobilized patients. By stimulating a nerve or muscle, electrical therapy has the power to reduce pain using low or high voltage, or alternating current.
Among the more recognized modalities of electrotherapy are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS, Interferential Current or IFC, and Galvanic Stimulation. These modalities apply electrical stimulation to the nerves through adhesive pads that have been placed on the skin. Each device will produce a different set of waveforms, frequencies, and effects.
TENS, for one, can produce low and high frequencies. You can even have an affordable unit to use at home, but you will need to know which frequencies are best for treating your specific pain. High-frequency stimulation on TENS is said to be tolerable, but pain relief only lasts for a shorter period of time while low-frequency stimulation may be uncomfortable and feel “acupuncture-like,” but it will provide longer pain relief.
IFC, on the other hand, penetrates the skin deeper than TENS, and like cold lasers, IFC also prevents scar tissue in the process. IFC units cost more than TENS. Meanwhile, Galvanic Stimulation, which is used for acute injuries resulting from major tissue trauma, with bleeding and/or swelling, applies alternating currents, through positive and negative pads. The positive pads are intended to take on the role of ice, reducing circulation and swelling to the affected area; the negative pads take on the role of heat, increasing circulation and then expediting the healing process.
While electrotherapy can produce pain relief, acting as a rehabilitative and preventive tool, know that there may be side effects caused by improper usage of certain electrical units. So before you take on this hundred-year-old therapy for pain management, seek advice from a physical therapist. And instead of self-treatment, get a customized pain treatment plan that is guaranteed to help you finally end the physical discomfort.