Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:
Electrical Stimulation has many uses in outpatient physical therapy.
It can be used as a source of pain relief, for swelling reduction and for muscle re-education, depending on the settings you apply to your machine.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENs is generally used for pain relief. It works by sending signals to your brain to block pain signals.
High Volt Electrical Stimulation can be used for swelling reduction. It works by creating an electrical response in your small blood vessels or capillaries, which allows them to open up more and drain the soft tissue better.
Functional Electrical Stimulation is used to increase strength in weakened muscles. It works by stimulating the neuro-muscular junction to produce a strong contraction within the muscle. If you sustain the contraction long enough and with several repetitions, it can, in theory, improve muscle strength. It will only work in severely deconditioned muscles (where there is a severe loss of function).
There is some scientific research evidence which supports all forms of electric stimulation listed above, and can be beneficial in a therapy setting.
All of the Catholic Health outpatient rehab facilities can provide electric stimulation as an adjunct to your physical therapy. Click here to find a rehabilitation center near you.
– Richard Szabala PT, OCS
Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.
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