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Electro Therapy

Electrotherapy is the application of an electrical current to the body for medical purposes. In the electrotherapy treatment weak electrical impulses stimulate tissues to improve blood circulation and relieve pain. It uses different types of electric currents to improve blood circulation in tissues, loosen tension and smooth muscles. Electrotherapy delivers a small, pulsating current to a person’s muscles and nerve endings. This current causes the muscles to contract and then relax. Repeated stimulations allow the muscles to strengthen, relax, and feel less painful.

Electrotherapy promotes nerve conduction, blood circulation, and also helps the body to heal on its own. The effects of electrotherapy are cumulative, so you will see more benefits after repeated treatments.

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.

Several different electrical stimulation devices exist, each producing different frequencies, waveforms, and effects.

Electrical modalities include:

Diathermy is a deep tissue heat treatment. The temperature of the injured tissues is raised by a high frequency current and deep heat speeds up healing by increasing blood flow to the injury/pain. Diathermy helps reduce pain, relieve muscle spasm, decrease soft-tissue contractures, resolve inflammation and promote healing.

Hyperthermia is an experimental method of treating malignant tumors that uses heat alone, heat in combination with ionizing (x-ray) radiation, or heat with chemotherapy. One form of heating involves the application of radio-frequency energy.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a method of producing pain relief by the application of a pulsed biphasic rectangular wave form through electrodes on the skin. It is non-invasive form of nerve stimulation designed to reduce both acute and chronic pain. Scientific studies show that both high and low frequency TENS therapy stimulate different types of nerves in the body, and essentially block the pain. 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.

Interferential therapy is the use of two medium–frequency currents around 4000 Hz to produce a low–frequency effect within the body without the problem of high skin resistance. Low–frequency is required to high skin resistance, require a high intensity to achieve the desired effect and this causes marked sensory stimulation to the part. Medium–frequency causes low skin resistance; require a low intensity to achieve the desired effect, which in less sensory discomfort.

Galvanic stimulation (GS) is most useful in acute injuries associated with major tissue trauma with bleeding or swelling. It applies direct current. Direct current creates an electrical field over the treated area that, theoretically, changes blood flow. The positive pad behaves like ice, causing reduced circulation to the area under the pad and reduction in swelling. The negative pad behaves like heat, causing increased circulation, reportedly speeding healing.

Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS) is a variant of TENS, only it uses a needle probe to stimulate nerve endings instead of a felt pad. PENS treatments are thought to be more effective than TENS treatments. This is because the needle electrodes are able to bypass your skin, providing less resistance to the electric current. It allows for nerves to be stimulated more accurately and efficiently.

Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) delivers a very mild electric current (about a millionth of an amp) through your head. Two electrodes are clipped onto your earlobes and a low electrical current is transmitted back and forth through your head. Cranial electrotherapy stimulators work to relieve pain and improve mood by stimulating the hypothalamus. This is the part of your brain responsible for governing mood, cognitive function, and emotions.

Ultrasound– high frequency sound waves are applied to the tissues to accelerate the rate of healing by promoting the inflammatory response and increasing the extensibility of scar tissue. It is a painless non-invasive procedure.

Stimplus is a safe, hi-tech electronic substitute for acupuncture, without the use of needles. Stimplus can detect the acupuncture points and stimulate them with a unique waveform. It has been clinically proven to improve blood flow which in turn reduces pain and accelerates tissue healing.

Infra–red radiation When the radiations are absorbed the radiant energy is converted to heat. There are two types of generators: Luminous, producing rays from 350 nm to 450 nm which penetrate the epidermis and dermis to the subcutaneous tissues, Non–luminous, producing rays from 770nm to 1500 nm which penetrate only as far as the superficial epidermis. The tissues are heated directly on one aspect only and the patient should remain in one position throughout the treatment. Infra–red is used to treat large superficial areas.

Paraffin Wax has a low melting point and is contained in a bath thermostatically controlled between 40°C. Owing to its low thermal conductivity, wax heats more slowly but retains its heat for a longer period than water. .

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It obeys the laws of radiation. Specific substances are stimulated laser rays electrically to emit radiations which produce greater energy levels. Laser is different from other forms of light because it is monochromatic (one wavelength only), the beam of light being narrow, parallel and uniform. The laser waves are identical, superimposing on each other and therefore giving an amplifying effect.

Heat pads are plastic–covered pads similar to but smaller than electric blankets. A pad has three levels of heat and is useful for treating the neck or back. The patient lies on it and heat passes to the tissues by conduction. An advantage is that the heat can be applied at the same time as traction.

Hot moist packs are canvas bags filled with a hydrophilic substance and stored in a thermostatically–controlled cabinet of water between 75°C and 80°C. The packs vary in size and shape and are returned to the cabinet for reheating after use. The superficial tissues are heated by conduction, relieving pain and muscle spasm.

Ultraviolet Rays (UVR) is electromagnetic rays between the visible rays and X–rays in the electromagnetic spectrum (400–100nm). Ultraviolet Rays are governed by the law of inverse squares which states that the intensity of rays falling on a plane surface varies inversely with the square of the distance from the point source. To irradiate a smaller area the source is moved nearer to the patient but the time of exposure must be altered to maintain the same intensity in accordance with the law of inverse squares.

Hydrotherapy in the strictest sense refers to the therapeutic use of water. Pool therapy should be considered for patients with problems arising from muscle weakness, loss of joint mobility, poor coordination or balance, pain or lack of confidence. The warmth of the water reduces pain and can relax muscle spasm. The medium enables mobility for patients who may be wheelchair–bound or recovering from prolonged immobilization.

Ice therapy is the local or general application of cold for therapeutic and preventative uses. When ice is applied to the skin it melts and removes heat from the tissues–the energy required to change its state (the latent heat of fusion). Ice can be used to relieve pain and muscle spasm, reduce swelling, reduce spasticity, facilitate muscle contraction, increase muscle endurance, reduce haematoma formation, prevent pressure sores and promote healing of wounds.

Short–Wave Diathermy (SWD) is the application to the tissues of electrical fields which oscillate at a frequency of 27.12KHz and have a wavelength of 11.06M (condenser field method). Short–wave diathermy can be used to treat both deep and superficial lesions. Large areas can be treated and it is useful for soft–tissue injuries, degenerative and inflammatory arthropathies, slow healing wounds, sinusitis and conditions of the deep–seated pelvic structures.

Side Effects of Electrotherapy:

  • If too strong a current is used, there is a risk that you could burn or irritate your skin.
  • Sometimes, people are sensitive to the glue or tape used to affix the electrodes to the skin.

Complications can occur in some individuals, though. You shouldn’t use electrotherapy if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have a pacemaker
  • Have an implanted defibrillator.

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