What is Electrotherapy?
Electrotherapy covers a wide range of medical treatment methods. For example, ultrasound is electrotherapy. Additionally, more than pregnant people can benefit from ultrasound. Ultrasound may be able to help patients heal from injuries. The vibrations of the machine help the body’s tissues heal more efficiently. Pulsed shortwave therapy is also electric therapy. Similarly, this form of therapy helps with soft tissue injury healing. Furthermore, patients should not feel ultrasound or pulsed shortwave therapy. Any discomfort should be mentioned immediately. Usually, the style of electrotherapy depends on the condition. Likewise, the number of sessions is dependent on the patient’s condition. In general, electrotherapy is a safe form of treatment for many patients. Moreover, it is a treatment that might be performed by a professional or at home. However, not all patients can it at home.1
What is Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation?
Cranial electrotherapy stimulation, or CES, is another type of treatment. Interestingly, it is a device that is about the size of a cellphone. Further, the device stimulates the brain and it has a number of mental health implications. In fact, it has been suggested that CES can help people who have ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. These are just a few examples of what CES could assist in managing. A prescription is required to obtain a CES, but it is a device that can be used safely without professional supervision. Although further research is necessary, there are no known common side effects of using the device. Additionally, there have been no tests to determine differential effects on children. Fortunately, cranial electrotherapy stimulation shows promise. Truly, it is a viable option when other treatment options have not been effective enough.2
Another type of electrotherapy is a TENS machine. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. In practice, the machine uses electric stimulation to block pain or stimulate the body to produce its own pain-easing chemicals. The chemicals that are released are called endorphins. In order to block pain, the TENS temporarily impedes the travel of pain signals between the brain and the body. The machine is not for everyone, so patients should only use it when advised by a health professional. Often, patients who have musculoskeletal pain will benefit from electrical stimulation. Additionally, the machine may help migraines, menstrual pain, sports injuries, and provide pain relief in the early stages of labor. The TENS is often used in combination with other treatments. Certain patients, such as those who use pacemakers, have epilepsy, have undiagnosed pain, or have certain types of heart disease, should not use the TENS machine.3
Conditions Treated by Electrotherapy
Fortunately, there are many conditions that can be treated with electrotherapy. Usually, it is used in conjunction with other treatments. Most often, it is used to relieve pain so that the patient can undergo physical therapy more effectively. Electrotherapy is not a new method of healing, but it is becoming more common in the United States. Chronic pain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression might all be treated with electrotherapy. Specifically, the treatment can help with diabetic nerve pain, fibromyalgia, and stimulating bone growth. It is safer than pain medications due to the minimal side effects.4 Complex regional pain syndrome, arthritis, temporomandibular joint syndrome, and poor circulation disorders are more examples of conditions that can be treated with electrotherapy. The treatment can help patients who suffer from chronic pain and those who are experiencing acute pain. There are many medical professionals who use electrotherapy in their treatment.5
Chiropractors and physical therapists will often recommend the use of electrical stimulation. In addition to potentially aiding the healing process, the stimulation provides pain relief. As a result, patients who are in less pain are more likely to be compliant with the physical therapy. In fact, electrotherapy is supported by the American Physical Therapy Association. It relaxes muscle spasms, prevents muscular atrophy, improves blood circulation and flow, re-educates muscles, and improves range-of-motion. Patients who get chiropractic or physical therapy with sciatica, bursitis, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome will be treated with electrical stimulation. The physical therapist will control the machine and use different levels of currents to treat different conditions. In some cases, the physical therapist will recommend that the patient use an electrical stimulation machine at home. Usually, the physical therapist will perform the electrotherapy on the patient as part of the patient’s appointment.6
Patients who want to use an electrotherapy unit at home have a number of options at their disposal. First, the patient should talk to a medical professional to find out if at-home electrical stimulation is the right choice. Patients may want to learn from their doctor or physical therapist about how to use their electrical stimulation machine. An example of a company that provides TENS units for at-home use is Omron. The company claims that its TENS units are easy to use, and they come with extended warranties. Omron has standard electrical impulse machines, and they also offer machines that combine electrotherapy and heat for pain relief. Additionally, the company offers a companion app that works with the TENS unit. Further, Omron offers replacement pads for the TENS units. Patients who are considering purchasing a personal device might consider Omron.7
Popular TENS Units
Of course, Omron is not the only company on the market that offers TENS units. There are many companies that sell TENS machines, as well as other electrotherapy devices for at-home use. Many sources offer their preferred brands. Patients should always do their research when purchasing a new medical device. Furthermore, their doctor or physical therapist might have recommendations. HiDow offers a TENS unit that has been cleared by the FDA. Additionally, the device works with up to four pads and it comes with a dozen preprogrammed massage combinations. iReliev offers fourteen massage combinations as well as the option to personalize massages. Easy@Home allows the patient to be massage for two hours rather than the standard one hour. Unfortunately, this device comes with only five preprogrammed massages and three modes available for personalized programs.8
Read about another type of electrotherapy: electric muscle stimulation.