There are many different types of electrotherapy used by physiotherapists. At Walker and Hall we have found the most effective to be
- Therapeutic Ultrasound
- Interferential Therapy
- Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)
Ultrasound (also known as Therapeutic Ultrasound)
Ultrasound is high frequency sound waves in a range greater than 20,000 Hz. Therapeutic ultrasound works within the frequency range of 0.9 – 3 MHz and is thought to:
- the reduce inflammation, swelling and pain
- facilitate healing at a cellular level
- reduce nerve root irritation
- break up scar tissue and adhesions
- create a deep heat to a localized area to ease muscle spasms (much deeper than can be achieved with a hot pack – up to 5 cm)
- increase soft tissue extensibility prior to stretching and exercise
- increase metabolism and improve blood flow
Interferential Therapy uses medium-frequency alternating electrical currents applied directly to the skin for therapeutic purposes. Medium frequency currents encounter less resistance than low frequency currents and are therefore more comfortable at the higher intensities necessary for physiotherapy treatment. Interferential Therapy is used to:
- Reduce inflammation – achieved by increasing localized blood flow through the area that is affected.
- Reduce pain – achieved by the stimulation of local nerve cells which has a pain reducing / anaesthetic effect by blocking the transmission of the pain signals (via the pain gate mechanism) and by stimulating the release of pain reducing endorphins.
- Reduce muscle spasm and promote muscle relaxation. It has been shown that the external application of an electrical current overcomes the muscle inhibition caused by local injury and swelling.
- Stimulate circulation. It has been shown that Interferential Therapy increases the blood flow through the soft tissues being treated. This may also have the added benefit of removing damaged tissue and bringing nutrients necessary for healing to the injured area, thus promoting healing.
- Promote healing – thought to occur by increasing the permeability of the cell membranes which helps ion movement to and from cells and thus promotes healing.
TENS (also known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and TNS)
TENS is the transmission of electrical impulses through the skin to stimulate the underlying nerves. It is used for pain relief and works by stimulating the release of endorphins (the body’s own pain-relieving hormones) and stimulating the underlying nerves to block pain signals before they reach the brain.
Low Level Laser Therapy (also known as LLLT)
LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Radiation. It is coherent light and is thought to have the following biological effects:
- Increased healing rate in wounds and burns
- Decreased inflammatory oedema
- Increased healing response of fractures
- Increased regeneration of damaged nerve by stimulating axon sprouting
- Modulation of nerve conduction velocity depending on treatment regime