Electrotherapy is the therapeutic application of electric currents through the body to help stimulate nerves and muscles. This stimulation results in muscle contractions which are induced by passing current through the body via electrodes that are glued to the skin. Electrotherapy is often used to treat pain, discomfort, and to strengthen weak muscles. Depending on the severity of a patient’s condition, the applied electrical currents may vary between low, medium, or high frequency. This therapy is typically prescribed as part of a larger treatment regimen.
The electrodes are placed near the painful areas, but rest assured the treatment itself is not painful – and patients often report feeling a tingling sensation on their skin. In some situations, rather than applying the current directly to the affected area, instead, the electrodes are placed on the spine to stimulate the corresponding nerve ending. These areas are then stimulated with high frequencies and low currents which results in a counter-stimulus which has been proven to both improve pain and strengthen muscles.
The Principle of Counter Irritation
As in acupuncture, the main principle of electrotherapy is called counter-irritation: the lessening of pain and discomfort with the help of electrical currents or vibration stimulus. Conditions that can be improved with electrotherapy include muscle rheumatism, neuralgias such as sciatica, osteoarthritis, and even paralysis. Electrotherapy is also an effective treatment for muscle weaknesses and lack of muscle feeling, lack of blood circulation due to circulatory disorders, bone diseases as a result of damage, and arterial occlusive diseases. Additional applications include phlebitis, decubitus ulcers, delayed wound healing, osteoporosis and delayed bone healing.
The following positive effects can be achieved with the aid of a wide variety of possible applications:
- Pain relief
- Circulation stimulation
- Stimulation of lymphatic reflux
- Tonus regulation of the musculature
- Stimulation of damaged nerves
- Prevention of muscle loss after surgery
- Introduction of medications with the aid of iontophoresis or phonophoresis