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. The term has also been applied specifically to the use of electric current to speed wound healing. Additionally, the term “electrotherapy” or “electromagnetic therapy” has also been applied to a range of alternative medical devices and treatments.

Electrotherapy is a common name for various treatments that use electricity to fight back pain. The most common form is called TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). These are devices that deliver electricity into the body through the use of electrodes applied to the skin.The usual form of treatment is called High Frequency Stimulation. It is relatively comfortable, but the resulting pain relief is only short term. Low Frequency Stimulation has a longer lasting result, but is less comfortable to receive the treatment.

How Does Electrotherapy Work?
TENS units work by blocking signals that pass along the nerves. Nerve messages are electrical in nature and the current from the TENS unit disrupts the neurological signal. Another benefit of using a TENS Unit is that electricity stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers produced by the body.Electric therapy is very controversial and very little definitive evidence exists proving that it actually works at all. Regardless, TENS units remain a very popular device for controlling back pain and have enjoyed wide spread usage. Some patients have claimed that this treatment has worked wonders for them, but scientists often speculate that this reaction might be a conditioned response or place.

Independent studies have shown a similar rate of success comparing real TENS Unit stimulation and a device designed to simulate actual electric therapy treatment.There have been rare reports of heart and/or blood pressure problems developing from electricity therapy. It is also linked to problems with pregnancy and should be avoided by any woman who might be pregnant.
I have personally tried several different varieties of deep and superficial electric treatments. I found the sensation to be annoying and sometimes even painful. I never received any back pain relief from any of them. I think the only effect I ever noticed from TENS was to make me cranky from getting zapped for an hour with no benefit!!!

The use of electrotherapy has been researched and accepted in the field of rehabilitation (electrical muscle stimulation).

1. Pain management

  • Improves range of joint movement

2. Treatment of neuromuscular dysfunction

  • Improvement of strength
  • Improvement of motor control
  • Retards muscle atrophy
  • Improves local blood flow

3. Improves range of joint mobility

  • Induces repeated stretching of contracted, shortened soft tissues

4. Tissue repair

  • Enhances microcirculation and protein synthesis to heal wounds
  • Restores integrity of connective and dermal tissues

5. Acute and chronic edema

  • Accelerates absorption rate
  • Affects blood vessel permeability
  • Increases mobility of proteins, blood cells and lymphatic flow

6. Peripheral blood flow

  • Induces arterial, venous and lymphatic flow

7. Iontophoresis

  • Delivery of pharmacological agents

8. Urine and fecal incontinence

  • Affects pelvic floor musculature to reduce pelvic pain and strengthen musculature
  • Treatment may lead to complete continence

Electrotherapy is used for relaxation of muscle spasms, prevention and retardation of disuse atrophy, increase of local blood circulation, muscle rehabilitation and re-education electrical muscle stimulation, maintaining and increasing range of motion, management of chronic and intractable pain, post-traumatic acute pain, post surgical acute pain, immediate post-surgical stimulation of muscles to prevent venous thrombosis, wound healing and drug delivery.