Electrotherapy is the use of electric currents passed through the body to stimulate nerves and muscles, mainly the treatment of various forms of paralysis.
Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy as a medical treatment. In medicine, the term electrotherapy can apply to a variety of treatments, including the use of electrical devices such as deep brain stimulators for neurological disease. Electrical stimulation for pain control was used in ancient Rome, was reported by Scribonius Largus that pain was relieved by standing on an electrical fish at the seashore. From the 16th to 18th centuries various electrostatic devices were used for headaches and other pains, even Benjamin Franklin was a supporter of this method for pain relief.
Electrotherapy equipment physiotherapy uses electrical signals to interfere with the transmission of neural pain signals into the brain. It effectively slows down or distracts the message from the nerve to the brain. From a physiotherapy point of view, affecting one’s ‘Pain Gate’.
Electrotherapy equipment physiotherapy can also involve the use of this electric current to speed tissue healing where tissue damage has also occurred.
These are some of the electrotherapy instruments which are highly effective–
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS is widely used around the world for a variety of painful conditions such as;
- Low back pain
- Labor pain
- Nerve related pain such as phantom pain
Working of Tens – A small electrical device (think back to the days of the Walkman!) delivers electrical impulses across the skin. Lightweight versions not much bigger than a credit card are available these days. This can be clipped to your jeans or placed in your pocket.
The device is connected by wires to sticky pad electrodes, which are placed on the skin in the area of the pain. This allows a small, low-intensity electric charge to be passed across the area.
TENS Can Work In Two Ways:
1) On a high frequency by selectively stimulating certain ‘non-pain’ nerve fibres to send signals to the brain that block other nerve signals carrying pain messages. High frequency stimulation, sometimes called “conventional”, is tolerable for hours, but the resultant pain relief lasts for a shorter period of time.
2) Lower frequencies stimulate the production of endorphins, natural pain-relieving hormones – your own built-in pain management system. Low-frequency stimulation, sometimes called “acupuncture-like”, is more uncomfortable and tolerable for around 20-30 minutes, but the resultant pain relief lasts longer.
Unlike many pain-relieving drugs, TENS isn’t addictive and has few side-effects. Most people can use a TENS machine but it is unsuitable for:
-Patients with pacemakers and certain other types of heart disease.
-Certain body sites in pregnancy (other than in labor)
-Certain skin conditions
Electrotherapy instruments users should experiment with various electrode placements. Electrodes can be placed over the painful area, surrounding the painful area, over the nerve supplying the painful area, or even on the opposite side of the body. TENS users need to try the unit for several days with several electrode placements prior to deciding if it will be useful. A home trial for several days to weeks is preferable.