Electrical Stimulation

In health care, there’s no substitute for clinical skill, judgment and decision making. These essentials help you diagnose, manage and treat a host of patients. But sometimes, you need help to achieve treatment goals. In those cases, you can turn to modalities to jumpstart the healing process. The following is a brief primer on electrical stimulation.

Various types of electrical stimulation exist: microcurrents, interferential, Russian current, functional electrical stimulation, high-voltage pulsed stimulation and variable muscle stimulation.

Electrical stimulation uses electrical current to provide active exercise to muscles that are incapable of voluntary contraction. E-stim promotes blood flow to the muscle to maintain nutrition, slow the atrophy process, decrease fibrotic muscle changes and decrease muscle spasm.

In addition, it can strengthen healthy muscle, increase range of motion, promote circulation and provide proprioceptive input. For someone with upper trapezius tightness, e-stim can decrease muscle trigger points and increase circulation.

E-stim offers numerous advantages. The electrodes can be used multiple times, the intensity and type of current can be individualized, and treatment can be done in the clinic or at home with a home unit. Most insurance companies will pay for home units. On the flip side, an e-stim machine for the clinic can be expensive, and uninnervated muscles will atrophy over time.

Although many different modalities exist for treatment, familiarize yourself with studies of the latest findings to best serve your patients. This article merely touches on the indications, contraindications and precautions. To learn more, familiarize yourself with the literature on these modalities. This will help you choose the most effective method for your patients.

Advance for Physical Therapists & PT Assistants

Making Progress: Modalities can jumpstart the healing process

By Danielle Montbriand, MPT, and Jessica F. Broussard, OTR/L