What is Electrical Stimulation?
While it may sound a bit intimidating, electrical stimulation really isn’t at all! When used correctly and provided under the guidance of a licensed and skilled physical therapist, electrical stimulation is a safe and efficacious modality that can be used to treat a variety of conditions.
While individual units and modes of delivery can vary, the standard electrical stimulation device utilizes self-adhesive electrodes placed around the target treatment area on the body. These electrodes are connected via wire leads to the unit, allowing electricity to pass and ultimately interact with sensory and/or motor nerves (depending on the type of current utilized).
What is Electrical Stimulation Used for in Physical Therapy?
There are several electrical stimulation modes that use different types of currents intended to stimulate different nerves in a variety of specific ways. These include modes such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), interferential, pre-modulated, russian, and symmetrical or asymmetrical bi-phasic. Your physical therapist will decide the right mode to meet your unique needs.
Our clinic frequently utilizes electrical stimulation to provide a variety of beneficial healing effects. It helps to:
- Reduce, eliminate, and/or control pain (both acute and chronic)
- Increase local circulation
- Decrease swelling
- Improve range of motion
- Reduce muscle spasm
- Provide biofeedback (aka improve body awareness)
- Improve motor coordination
- Provide neuromuscular re-education
- Prevent or reverse muscle atrophy (especially after prolonged immobilization, such as a limb being casted as a fracture heals)
Pain control and reduction is probably the most frequent indication of electrical stimulation usage. Specifically, this modality can trigger an innate and completely natural analgesic effect by stimulating specific sensory nerve fibers (including A-beta, A-delta, and C fibers) which both disrupt or decrease the sensation of pain and also elicit the release of certain neurotransmitters which can prolong the pain-relieving effects.
While there are contraindications and this treatment shouldn’t be used on patients with deep vein thrombosis, pregnant women, patients with pacemakers, and patients with impaired cognition, as well as areas including the anterior neck, eyes, or over areas with damaged skin or decreased sensation, electrical stimulation can be used for a wide variety of conditions as indicated, including acute injuries resulting from sports, auto accidents, repetitive stress injuries, muscle and ligament sprains, and even neurological conditions, such as stroke.
Does Electrical Muscle Stimulation Hurt?
No, the intensity of the electrical muscle stimulation or sensory nerve stimulation is easily modifiable to what you can tolerate. Typically, electrical stimulation will feel tingly or prickly (some patients describe it as a comforting “pins and needles” sensation). Sometimes, as in the case when used for muscle strengthening, the intensity level can be high and somewhat uncomfortable, but it should never cause pain.
What Should I Expect During an Electrical Stimulation Session?
Our patients’ comfort, safety, and dignity are the number one priority. For this reason, we’ll ask you to come in comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and sturdy shoes when you come to see us for an appointment.
After your initial evaluation, if your physical therapist decides that electrical stimulation is an appropriate part of your plan of care, he or she will first educate you about the specific modality. You’ll be asked to sit or lie in a comfortable position, your skin in the target treatment area will be cleaned and prepped, and your PT will guide you step-by-step through the entire treatment.
Expect Great Results!
Are you interested in trying electrical stimulation? Wondering if it can help your pain or dysfunction? Our physical therapy services, including electrical stimulation and other modalities, are evidenced-based, state-of-the-art, effective, and have minimal to no risk of side effects. Come experience the difference. Call today to Request A Free Consult at either our Great Neck or Farmingdale facility.