What is Electrotherapy?

Electrotherapy is a physical therapy treatment which helps with pain management and treatment. In electrotherapy, electrical stimulation is applied to nerves and muscle-motor fibers via electrodes placed on the patient’s skin. Modalities that are commonly used in electrotherapy are:

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Interferential Current (IFC)

IFC is mainly a form of TENS. It modulates a higher frequency current (4000-5000 Hz) that penetrates the tissue more deeply than regular TENS unit (200-400Hz), with less discomfort for the electrotherapy patient. We use IFC at our physical therapy clinic in Vaughan.

At the same time IFC uses modulation that prevents the nervous system from accommodating to the continuous mode of TENS, thus improving duration of pain relief and pain management. Two basic modes of relieving pain with TENS and IFC modalities of electrotherapy are:

  1. Continuous (high frequency)
    When the Pulse Rate is set at 60-100 pulses per second pain relief is achieved through the “gate control theory”. The sensation produced with this setting can be described as a “tingling” in the skin and muscles between the electrodes. At this frequency the unit produces an electrical signal that is stronger than the pain signal produced by the body. Because the signal is perceived as stronger, it effectively blocks the pain signal from travelling to the brain through the nerves.
  2. Burst (low frequency)
    When the Pulse Rate is set below 10 pulses per second, electrotherapy produces visible muscle twitching. The body reacts to this type of stimulation by releasing endorphins and enkephalins (pain killing chemicals) that act as a chemical nerve block, effectively reducing pain.
Electrotherapy is used to Treat