Sacrificial animals. Rattles and gongs. Rituals. Magic. Primitive people dealt with pain in the most bizarre ways simply because they thought the affliction was divine punishment, or that it was about “pain devils” entering man’s body. Today, we think a lot differently about pain and so naturally, our ways of treating this(sometimes tormenting) experience is based on science — medical findings.
Can electrical stimulation or electrotherapy be part of this treatment?
It turns out that by sending specific electrical currents, through pads that are placed on your skin (or the affected areas) with electrodes, you can get relief from your pain. The currents produce contraction to the specific muscle or group of muscles. The contraction increases blood supply to the affected or targeted area, thus producing a healing effect as well muscle strengthening.
Aside from improving circulation to facilitate healing, electrotherapy can also be used to decrease inflammation, reduce acute and chronic pain, and allow you to return to normal function after surgery or incurring injury.
As such, it is commonly used as part of physical therapy Electrical stimulation will differ though with your specific condition and therapeutic requirements; some conditions may need high frequencies of stimulation while others may be better treated with an entirely different modality.
For example, Iontophoresis is used to decrease muscle spasm and localized swelling with the application of medication to the skin, like dexamethasone. Other medications used for this specific modality may also provide scar tissue management and decrease of calcium deposits.
Other electrical stimulation modalities include: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS, which is applied for acute and chronic pains and works by disrupting pain signals that travel from injured tissues to the brain; Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation or NMES, which is generally used to help muscles contract properly after undergoing surgery or contracting injury; high voltage stimulation, which is used to heal wounds, other than reduce pain and improve circulation, and Interferential Current or IFC, which moves currents easily and adjusts it according to target affected areas. IFC, incidentally, reduces pain while improving circulation to the injured tissues.
While you can use an electrical stimulation unit at home, like TENS, it is still crucial to be treated by a licensed physical therapist and to get your electrotherapy in a controlled and appropriate facility. Managing your pain through proper physical therapy will ensure that you receive the right electrotherapy plan, avoiding potential side effects. This will not only facilitate faster recovery but also greater results, no matter your condition.