he Uses of Electrotherapy in RehabilitationElectrotherapy machines are a popular modality used in physical therapy and rehabilitation. Electrotherapy (also known as electrical muscle stimulation or e-stim) uses an electrical machine that delivers electrical impulses to a patient’s body.
THE USES OF ELECTROTHERAPY IN
Electrotherapy Machines are a popular
modality used in physical therapy and
rehabilitation. Electrotherapy (also
known as electrical muscle stimulation or
e-stim) uses an electrical machine that
delivers electrical impulses to a patient’s
body. This stimulation is done in order to
promote and facilitate muscle healing
and tissue regeneration. Not only is
electrotherapy a popular modality in
physical therapy, but can also be used
by other rehabilitation practitioners
because it has several numerous
The use of electrotherapy has been supported by the American
Physical Therapy Association because it has shown to provide
• Relaxation of muscle spasms
• Prevention and cessation of muscular
atrophy due to disuse
• Improved local blood circulation and flow
• Re-education of muscles using targeted
• Preserve and improve range of motion
• Management and reduction of pain
(chronic, post-traumatic, and post-surgical
• Prevention of deep vein thrombosis post-
• Facilitation of wound healing
• Improvement in the effectiveness in
delivering prescription drugs-
electromotive drug administration (EMDA)
How Does Electrical Stimulation Therapy Work?
Electrotherapeutic devices can offer different therapeutic waveforms. An
electrical stimulation device includes electrodes that are attached to the
treatment area and when activated, the electrical energy of the device causes
the muscles to contract. This contraction imitates the body’s natural movement
during activity and can prevent muscular atrophy.
The most common waveforms found in electrical stimulation are: TENS,
Russian, Interferential, Premodulated, Biphasic, High Voltage and
Microcurrent. Each waveform has its own therapeutic benefits, so many
devices may offer the practitioner multiple waveforms in order to offer them the
most use across diverse patient
Different Waveforms Used in
The various waveforms used in e-stim are designed to target
specific areas of the body and to provide customized forms of
energy transfer. This variance in energy transfer helps address
diverse therapy needs.
Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulator (TENS)
TENS works to decrease pain by blocking pain signals from reaching the
brain. The stimulation of TENS also encourages the production of endorphins,
making it a popular waveform for treating neck and back pain.
The Russian Current waveform delivers medium frequency in alternating
pulses of energy. This makes it a popular waveform to use when there is a
need to increase muscle strength and re-educate specific areas. The Russian
current can also stimulate the relief of pain-relieving endorphins, increasing its
versatility and applications.
Interferential Current (IFC)
Interferential Current (also referred
to as IFC) is the waveform to use
when treating chronic, post-surgical
and post-trauma acute pain. IFC e-
stim is non-invasive with minimal
side effects. IFC delivers higher
frequency energy so it crosses the
skin barrier easier for deeper access
into areas of pain, but also has
Premodulated Current (Premod)
Premodulated Current, also referred to as “premod”, is similar to interferential
current. The main difference is that with premod current, a single channel is
used to mix the frequencies prior to before current reaches the patient. This
makes it a good choice when treating smaller areas of the body like: elbows,
ankles, feet, or hands.
"Biphasic" has two pulses of 2 different intensities. These alternate during
treatment which makes it very versatile. Biphasic can be used for both acute
and chronic problems for different goals including:
• Strengthening & re-
• Improving blood circulation
• Decreasing edema &
High Voltage electrical stimulation is a monophasic waveform which uses
polarity (positive or negative) to stimulate the tissue. This is a popular modality
to aid in decreasing pain and swelling, reducing muscle spasms and
facilitating wound healing.
Microcurrent is also used for wound healing, utilizing micro-size, pulsing
current. Because of its low intensity, Microcurrent is the most tolerated
waveform in electrotherapy.
How Electrotherapy Can Be Used in Physical Therapy
Used alone or in conjunction with other modalities, such as therapeutic
ultrasound, electrotherapy can be used in physical therapy to treat many
diverse patient issues including:
• Post-Surgical Pain & Swelling
• Complications associated with
• Tennis Elbow
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Scientifically Supported Treatment for Pain &
Electrotherapy is scientifically supported as being a useful modality to
reduce both pain and swelling while improving healing outcomes for
diverse patient groups.
1. A study published in Current Rheumatology found that
daily 30-minute TENS treatments for a period of 10 days was
able to reduce acute, emergent and postoperative pain.
2. An article, Sports Medicine studies the positive use of
electrical stimulation in reducing swelling and edema caused
by sports-related injuries.
3. The Belgium Orthopedic Journal published promising results
that showed TENS treatments to Achilles tendon injuries may
actually facilitate healing.
4. A study published in the Journal of the American Physical
Therapy Association found that electrotherapy helped patients
regain femoral strength following total knee arthroplasty (TKA).
5. A study published in Experimental & Translational Stroke
Medicine found that electrical stimulation improved hand
motor recovery in stroke patients.
Whether treating acute injuries or chronic pain, electrotherapy, with its
various waveforms, offer physical therapists the ability to non-invasively
treat many diverse patient issues without complications or side effects.
With available portable units, electrotherapy can also be used by patients in
home and office settings in order to provide them with a therapeutic
alternative to traditional oral pain medications. These benefits make
electrotherapy one of the most powerful and popular modality in physical