As a part of a comprehensive physical therapy program, electrical muscle stimulation is a therapeutic modality that is commonly used in physical therapy. Different types of electrical stimulation or E-stim may be used to accomplish different goals during the rehab program.
Physical therapy is generally for people who face difficulties in moving around after injury or illness. It helps them restore normal mobility. E-stim might be helpful in such cases, it can help get the body parts moving with the help of specific electrical tools and techniques.
What exactly is electrical stimulation?
Electrical stimulation or e-stim is a type of physiotherapy modality that focuses to cure the immobility caused after an injury. It is the method of elicitation of muscle contraction using electric impulses.
Many different types of electrical stimulation may be used to attain different physiotherapy goals. Following are such different types:
TENS Machine Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is a type of physical therapy that helps to deal with acute and chronic pain in physical therapy. This method involves applying electrodes to the body over the painful areas and passing mild electrical current. These electrical impulses reduce the pain signals and block them from going to the spinal cord and brain which helps in alleviating pain and relaxing muscles. They are even known to stimulate the production of endorphins that are the body’s natural painkillers.
Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES):
NMES i.e neuromuscular electrical stimulation involves using a device that sends electrical impulses to nerves. This act causes the muscles to contract and increase strength and range of motion. The contraction of the muscle doesn’t just improve muscle function it also promotes blood circulation to the areas that assist in healing. NMES even treats muscular spasms by tiring your muscles in spasm artificially and thus allowing it to relax.
Russian stimulation is the type of electrical stimulation that executes the same task as NMES. Russian stimulation too improves muscle contraction. The only difference between the two is that Russian stim uses a waveform which is known to be a little easier to tolerate.
Interferential therapy is often used to cure pain, reduce muscle spasm and improves localized blood flow in various muscles or tissues. The IFT machine for physiotherapy works by summing up two alternating current signals of different frequencies.
Iontophoresis is a process that involves delivering a drug into the body using a voltage gradient on the skin. It is an effective process to treat sports injuries. Different medication is induced into your body through this iontophoresis electrical stimulation to accomplish different goals. The addition of anti-inflammatory medicines during iontophoresis cures heel pain, other soft-tissue injuries or muscle spasm.
High voltage galvanic current (HVGC)
The process of high voltage galvanic current stimulation involves the usage of high voltage and low-frequency electricity to pierce deeply into tissues. It improves blood circulation, relieves pain, cures muscle spasm and improves joint mobility.
You have to keep in mind that several types of electrical stimulation are actually submissive treatment methods that require minimum to no efforts from your side. While some e-stim requires you to be active during the process. Although electrical stimulation may be worth giving a try, it should not be the only treatment you receive during physical therapy.
Many pieces of research have shown that active involvement in a physical therapy program that may or may not include electrical stimulation gives the best results.
Precautions to take
Some risks come with electric stimulation such as muscle tearing, skin irritation, or tissue burn.
In case of muscle tear
If the intensity of electrical stimulation gets too high to handle due to which you might feel severe muscle pain resulting in a muscle tear. In that case, stop the process immediately and start the treatment for muscle injury. The treatment may include taking proper rest, rubbing ice and elevation of the body part.
In case of skin irritation
At times people with sensitive skin suffer from skin irritation while using electrical stimulation because of the electrodes underneath the skin. In case you start feeling skin irritation stop the process immediately and apply a mild lotion all over the area.
In case of a tissue burn
Tissue burns occur due to the high-intensity application of electrical stimulation. Although it is very rare and unlikely to happen, if it still happens, again, stop the procedure immediately and provide your skin with an appropriate cure at that point.
There are alternatives to the electrical stimulation, reach out to your physical therapy specialist or a doctor to understand well about the treatment you require. We would recommend you to get yourself approved before trying any sort of electrical stimulation on your own.