To the Patient: About Electrotherapy

Interferential Currents (IFC) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) have been used throughout healthcare for their pain relief affects. Although the idea of being treated using electricity might sound a little strange (electroshock is not a word that has nice connotations for most people) the truth is that electricity has been used to treat these types of symptoms for a very long time. In actuality, electricity is one of the safest, most effective ways to treat pain and other types of illness. Because it is not a drug and leaves no traces in the system, is has very few side effects.

In its conventional form, TENS has been shown to selectively activate large-diameter A fibers without concurrently activating small-diameter Aand C-fibers or muscle efferents, which leads to inhibition of ongoing activity in second-order nociceptive neurons. The skin offers high impedance at pulse frequencies used with TENS, so it is likely that currents will remain superficial.27 The purpose of IFC therapy is to deliver currents to deep-seated tissue.19, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is
usually applied using a single-channel device via 2 electrodes. TENS and muscle stimulators use discrete electrical pulses delivered at low frequencies of 2-160 Hz per second. However, Interferential stimulators use a fixed carrier frequency of 4,000 Hz per second and also a second adjustable frequency of 4,001-4,400 Hz per second. When the fixed and adjustable frequencies combine (heterodyne), they produce the desired signal frequency (Interference frequency). 

Your therapist may use electrotherapy for the purpose of providing relief from chronic, intractable and/or acute post-traumatic pain, as well as for relaxation of muscle spasm, prevention or retardation of disuse atrophy, increasing local blood circulation, muscle re-education, immediate postsurgical stimulation of calf muscles to prevent venous thrombosis, and maintaining or increasing range of motion. Interferential current (IFC) is the most commonly used electrotherapy in the office is essentially a deeper form of TENS typically used by physical therapist. It allows the current to penetrate the skin more deeply than a TENS treatment-- it also gives the user less discomfort for a higher level of stimulation. The last common kind of electrotherapy is Galvanic Stimulation (GS). GS is most useful in treating acute injuries accompanied with bleeding or swelling. Unlike TENS or IFC, which apply an alternating current, GS units apply direct current to the area, and can be used to stop swelling or speed healing.

Back in the Game has chosen an electrotherapy device manufactured by Dynatronics using there newest model called solaris. This unit is the most advanced device of its kind currently available and is safe and comfortable.

Electrotherapy is introduced into the body at the injury site through the use of electrodes. Once the electrodes have been placed on the skin, the therapist will slowly increase the output intensity. The four electrodes are applied in a crisscross pattern. Initially, you will feel a tingling sensation. The intensity will be increased until you notify the therapist the current is strong but comfortable. To put it simply, electrotherapy need to be strong to be beneficial. Since your body has a tendency to adapt to the electrical current after the first couple of minutes, it may be necessary to periodically increase the intensity during the treatment period. The length of treatment may last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the condition being treated.

IFC on a low setting is used for chronic post-traumatic edema allowing a milking of the venous return thus reducing inflammation. It is important to understand that electrotherapy is not a primary treatment. Occasionally, it may be the only therapy prescribed; but more often it is used in conjunction with other therapeutic and rehabilitative treatments.

Back in the Game providers will determine when electrotherapy is indicated, how often it should be used, and the length of each application. The exact frequency of treatment depends upon the individual patient and the conditions being treated. Generally, periodic treatments are continued as long as the condition is present. Treatments may be given as often as once a day in acute or serious conditions. In less serious cases, two to three times a week is common early in the treatment program with a gradual reduction in frequency as the patient improves. To receive maximum benefit from your electrotherapy treatments, it is important to follow the recommendations and instructions of your doctor as precisely and completely as possible.

Your doctor or therapist can provide you with a list of contraindications, warnings, precautions, and possible adverse reactions.

If you are being treated in an area where you lack feeling or have decreased sensation of touch, be sure to inform your therapist before treatment is started. Extra care must be used when treating such areas.

19 DeDomenico G. New Dimensions in Interferential Therapy: A Theoretical
and Clinical Guide. Linfield: Reid Medical Books; 1987.


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