What You May Not Know About Electrotherapy


The use of Electrical current for successful treatment of various types of pains and injuries has been known since Antiquity.  Over the course of Time and presently, devices have been developed which use computer controlled programs to automatically send the optimal type and amount of "electricity" to the patient to maximize effectiveness in the treatment of pain from:

Radiculitis, Sprains/Strains, Lumbosacral Pain, Neck Pain, Bursitis, Cluster Headaches, Migraine Headaches,Spondylosis, Suboccipital Headaches, Causalgia,Osteoarthritis Phantom Limb Syndrome,Raynaud's Syndrome,Rheumatoid Arthritis, Synovitis, Peripheral Neuropathy, Facet Syndrome Intercostal Neuralgia,Sciatica,Sprains/Strains,Trigeminal Neuralgia,Epicondylitis, Frozen Shoulder, Peripheral Nerve Injury and many other conditions.

Electrotherapy is a widely used modality which can offer significant benefits to the Workers Compensation patient as well as to the Insurance Payor inasmuch as they can reduce the need for more costly therapies, speed return to work because of their portability and the ability to allow for self-treatment with frequent reduction or elimination of  addictive medications.

In the First Century,  Roman Physicians were aware that electric fish (like certain eels and trigger fish) can have therapeutic and pain reducing properties when applied to a patient's skin surface for headaches, arthritis and muscle pains.  The human body is among other things, a complicated electro-neuorochemical system which reacts to electricity applied to the patient and their levels of  pain perception.  The problem was,  how could you regulate the types and amount of electrical output from a fish?  Well, you can't!

In the intervening centuries scientists and inventors developed instruments which were actually like  "batteries" inasmuch as they "stored"  electricity much like the electric eels did but in a way that was quantifiable and adjustable.  The electricity produced could now be regulated and controlled by the battery "machine" . In the former Soviet Union in the early 1900's,  there was much research done on the ability of Electrical Energy to allay pain and to enhance therapy for many types of injuries and conditions.  These Scientists developed devices with the ability to control various parameters like the strength of the output, the timing of the output and other technical  considerations.

You may ask, how does "electrical stimulation" produce pain reduction and recuperative effects in Humans? Electrical stimulators are "vasodilators" (they widen blood flow in larger blood vessels) which helps to remove toxins from the injured area. Most important however is that electrical stimulation also "interrupts" or "modifies" pain signals which are transmitted via the Spinal Cord to the Brain where we actually "perceive" pain. It is also believed that this process facilitates the production of "endorphins" within the nervous system which have an analgesic effect.

If you bang your elbow for example, the automatic response is to rub the area in an attempt to make it feel better.  This "rubbing" is called "counter-irritation" and is a reflexive response to interrupt or modify the pain signal traveling from the elbow via the Spinal Cord to the Brain.  Modern stimulation devices can activate specific nerve pathways in order to interrupt or modify certain types of pain in various parts of the body.  Modern Electrotherapy Devices (they all fall into a category including TENS units, EMS units, Interferential Devices, Sequential Devices and others) have very sophisticated stimulation patterns and capabilities which may be pre-set by the Physician or Therapist to provide optimal treatment for their patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) regulates Electrotherapy Devices and have found them to be "safe and effective" based upon hundreds of long standing objective peer reviewed studies which have demonstrated their importance and value in treating pain and for rehabilitation.  In the last 20 years their use has proliferated both in the USA and Worldwide because of their effectiveness and the fact that they give the Practitioner a safe non-invasive and non-narcotic option for treating their patients.

Sy Gelbard is President of Comfort Technologies, Inc./PermaStim™, which specializes in supplying Electrotherapy Devices to Workers Compensation Payors at significant Cost-Containment pricing and at a  capitated cost.  Contact 800-321-STIM (7846).   www.permastim.com

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