Electro Therapy Definitions


Characterized by applying small electrical impulses (milliampere or microampere) to specific acupuncture or trigger points on the body through acupuncture needles or with electro-stim handheld probes. The frequency of stimulation may vary from 1 to 1,000 Hz. Lower frequencies (1 to 20) are tonifying, whereas the higher frequencies (i.e. greater than 50) are more sedating in nature.

How it differs from TENS: TENS units use higher voltage stimulation.

High Voltage Pulsed Galvanic Therapy

Characterized by high voltage, pulsed galvanic stimulation, used primarily for local blood flow stimulation through muscle pumping and through the “polarity effect.” Excessive fluid is comprised of negatively charged plasma proteins, which leak into interstitial spaces. By placing a negative electrode over the site and a positive electrode at a distant site, the monophasic high voltage stimulus applies an electrical potential, which disperses the negatively charged proteins away from the site, thereby helping move the excess fluid.

Common uses: Maintain or increase range of motion of small muscles, prevent disuse atrophy and muscle reeducation of small muscles, increase circulation and prevent venous thrombosis. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Diabetic Foot, post-op orthopedic surgery, pain control, sprains and strains and degenerative joint disease are other common indications.
How it differs from TENS: Pulsed direct current vs. Alternating current; able to use in water bath (immersion technique) and increases local blood flow.

Interferential Therapy

Characterized by the crossing of two medium, independent frequencies that work together to effectively stimulate large impulse fibers. These interfere with the transmission of pain messages at the spinal cord level. Because of the frequency, the IF wave meets low impedance when crossing the skin to enter underlying tissue. This deep tissue penetration can be adjusted to stimulate parasympathetic nerve fibers for increased blood flow.
Common uses: Pre- and post-orthopedic surgery, joint injury syndrome, cumulative trauma disorders, increasing circulation and pain control of various origins.

How it differs from TENS: Deeper penetration with more comfort (compliance) and increased circulation.

Microcurrent Therapy

Characterized by subsensory current that acts on the body’s naturally occurring electrical impulses to decrease pain and help facilitate the healing process.

Common uses: Chronic and acute pain, swelling, TMJ dysfunctions, post-op care, sports injuries, and arthritis. In horses it can treat bowed tendons, tendon and ligament injuries, sore muscles, abscesses, laminitis, confounding lameness problems and more. Dogs, cats, and other animals can also be healed and helped by microcurrent therapy.

How it differs from TENS: Uses current at a millionth of an amp (microampere). TENS uses milliamperes and “blocks” pain, while micro amps act on the naturally occurring electrical impulses to decrease pain.

Neuromuscular Stimulation Therapy

Characterized by low voltage stimulation targeted at motor nerves to cause a muscle contraction. Contraction/relaxation of muscles has been found to effectively treat a variety of musculoskeletal and vascular conditions.

Common uses: Prevent or retard disuse atrophy, re-educate muscles, post-op orthopedic surgery, joint replacement, strengthening programs, gait training, shoulder subluxation, and reduction of muscle spasms.

How it differs from TENS: Stimulates motor nerves to contract muscles and increases circulation through muscle pumping, while TENS stimulates sensory nerves to help block pain.

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation)

Characterized by biphasic current and selectable parameters. Stimulates sensory nerves to block pain signals, stimulate endorphin production to help normalize sympathetic function distal to the electrodes.

Common uses: Acute and chronic pain, back and cervical muscular and disc syndromes, RSD, arthritis, shoulder syndromes, neuropathies, and many other painful conditions.

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