Electrotherapy is the use of electrical equipment as a medical treatment. It can apply to a variety of treatments, including ultrasound, interferential therapy, TENS and electrical stimulation.

Electrotherapy is used to reduce pain, muscle spasm, to promote healing and to activate muscles. Electrotherapy can be used with other protocols to achieve the best results. These include exercises, massage/manual therapy, kinesio taping and/or other kinds of electrotherapies.

In my practice I use different types of electrotherapy:

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS
Ultrasound/ Phonophoresis
Galvanic current
Diadynamic Therapy

What should wear?

I would advise comfortable loose fitting clothes. The physiotherapist will need to see the affected body part, for the lower limbs bring shorts, for back problems the therapist may require you to remove your top.

Electrotherapy is not suitable for you if:

You are pregnant
You have epilepsy
Active or suspected malignancy (cancer) except in hospice/palliative/terminal care
You have an electronic implant, such as a pacemaker
You have metal implants
You are taking anticoagulation therapy or have a history of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis
Advanced cardiovascular conditions or cardiac arrhythmias
You have a recent infection, fever
Your skin is in poor condition in the area to be treated
You have had recent radiotherapy/chemotherapy
If you are not able to consent to treatment

1. Interferential

Interferential Therapy is one form of wide range of electrotherapy, it used to treat injuries or issues of the muscles, ligaments or bones.

Interferential current uses a medium frequency current that has been in use for therapeutic purposes for over 25 years. It involves the placement of damp sponges or self-adhesive pads on the body which deliver a mild current similar to the sensation of pins and needles or tingling.

Depending on the frequency of the current applied to the body, interferential therapy can give pain relief, improve blood flow and / or improve muscle activity.


Indications for Interferential therapy:

Acute and chronic pain, especially for lower back pain and sciatica
Muscle spasm
Swelling following ligament sprains and muscle strains
Muscle weakness
Lateral epicondylitis/tennis elbow
Frozen shoulder
Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa)
Tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon)

Benefits of interferential include:

Reducing or eliminating your pain safely
Noticeably decreasing swelling and inflammation
Restoring lost movement and improving restricted movements and coordination
Stimulating the natural hormones which can help your body heal faster
It is considered by many experts as a highly effective form of treatment for chronic pain (pain which has been long standing)

2. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS

TENS works by intercepting and blocking pain messages sent to the brain which gives the patient pain relief. The electrodes from TENS creates a vibrating feeling in the tissue.

TENS is effective at reducing pain in the following ways:

When using a high frequency, TENS stimulates certain 'non-pain' nerve fibres to send signals to the brain that block other nerve signals carrying pain messages.
When using a low frequency, TENS promotes the production of endorphins which are natural pain-relieving hormones.

TENS is used to relieve pain and may include the following:

Acute pain – such as sports injuries, acute low back pain and joint pain
Chronic pain – such as low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral nerve injuries and phantom limb pain.

Indications for TENS:

period pain
pelvic pain caused by endometriosis
knee pain
neck pain
back pain
sports injuries

3. Ultrasound/ Phonophoresis

Therapeutic ultrasound has been used as a treatment technique since the 1950’s and it remains a popular treatment for a range of clinical problems.

Ultrasound promotes healing and reduces inflammation at a cellular level. An ultrasound machine creates mechanical sound waves that pass through the skin causing, the tissues in the affected area, to micro vibrations in the cells improving tissue healing and reducing pain.
During ultrasound treatment an ultrasound head is placed onto the affected area (using specialised gel) and moved.
Ultrasound is a painless treatment, so while you are receiving an ultrasound treatment, you will most likely not feel anything happening, except perhaps a slight warming sensation or tingling around the area being treated.

Ultrasound can assist phonophoresis. This treatment is a non-invasive way of administering medications to tissues below the skin; perfect for patients who are uncomfortable with injections. With this technique, the ultrasonic energy forces the drug through the skin. Cortisone used to reduce inflammation, is one of the more commonly used substances delivered in this way.

Ultrasound/ Phonophoresis is used for acute and chronic conditions. Therapeutic Effects include:

Increased circulation and metabolism of cells
Breaking up and softening scar tissue
Reducing inflammation or swelling
Diminishing muscle spasm and relaxation of muscles
Relieving acute and chronic pain
Enhancement of natural healing processes

Indications for Ultrasound/ Phonophoresis:

Carpal Tunnel
Low Back Pain
Cervical Radiculopathy
Whiplash injury
Sprains and Strains
Plantar fasciitis
Tennis/Golfer Elbow

4. The Galvanic current electrotherapy

Galvanic current is one of the oldest forms of therapeutic electricity. Galvanic Current rectified to a safe, low-voltage level is applied to the body via electrodes placed on the skin. These electrodes with special pads allow a rush of electrical current to be released for the purpose of stimulating the nerves and muscles. For treatment we always use two pads: the positive pad: decreases circulation to the region beneath the pad while also minimizing swelling. The negative pad boosts circulation, which helps speed up wound healing. The pads also stimulate the muscles and nerves.

Beautiful woman getting electro stimulation
Cropped view of therapist setting electrode on patient back during electrode treatment on grey background

Indications for Galvanic current therapy:

sciatica, neuralgia
back pain
muscular spasm
sprains, strains
frozen shoulder
joint pain
carpal tunnel syndrome
adhesions, dissolution of scar tissue

5. D’arsonval

During the high frequency treatment, enriched oxygen molecules are produced that create an anti-bacterial action and a "natural" thermal tissue warming. This reaction helps your blood vessels push away toxins, while the cells in your skin are enriched with nutrients and hydrating volume.

The primary benefit of these high-frequency treatments is their effect on circulation: promote the tone of blood vessel’s walls and in this case it helps to reduce inflammation, oedema and pain, because it increased blood flow bringing more nutrients, while helping to eliminate wastes.

In this treatment the physiotherapist holds the glass electrode and applies it upwards and outwards over the client’s skin. Sparking between the glass electrode and the skin ionises the air producing ozone.

Darsonvalization of the face or rejuvenation of the face with the help of electrotherapy. Photo of darsonval for the face. Current therapy. The patient is at the beautician

Indications for D’arsonval:

Back pain
Sciatica, neuralgia
Raynaud syndrome
Varicose veins
Acne, skin inflammation
Hair loss, weak hair bulbs

6. Diadynamic Therapy

Diadynamic therapy is a type of electrotherapy which uses certain parameters of electric current: sine-wave current at the frequency of 50–100 Hz. The current is primarily to affect nerve tissue; in which it contributes to weakening pain impulses. Depending on the strength and interval of the sine-wave current, it also causes muscle contraction, which is perceived as slight tremor and buzzing in the area where the electrode is placed.


Impact of diadynamic currents:

analgesic effect
stimulation of blood circulation
improvement of tissue tropism

Indications for diadynamic therapy:

analgesic effect
stimulation of blood circulation
improvement of tissue tropism

7. Medi-wave

Medi-wave can be used to provide skeletal muscle contraction without fatigue of the muscles. Medi-wave can provide stimulation at the muscle motor points and result in a controlled contraction that is usually rhythmical to provide pumping of the muscles to stimulate weak or underused muscles and can help with lymphatic drainage to reduce swelling. This machine can stimulate, exercise and strengthen muscles.


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