Electrotherapy is a form of medical treatment that uses small electrical impulses to help repair tissue, stimulate muscles and increase sensation and muscle strength.
There are different forms of electrotherapy including Ultrasound (pictured here), Interferential therapy, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (you may recognise this as TENS), laser therapy, electro-acupuncture and muscle stimulation.
At Bodyfix Therapies I currently offer electro-acupuncture and ultrasound where appropriate.
Electro-acupuncture works to make acupuncture treatment more effective by gently stimulating the relevant points through the acupuncture needle (more details in the section below).
The effects of electrotherapy include pain reduction, reduction in oedema (swelling), increased strength, increased range of movement, and increased speed and strength of muscle contraction.
Both electro-acupuncture and ultrasound can be used to help speed up the healing process especially for "over-use" injuries and to maximise the effect of acupuncture for chronic and painful conditions.
Ultrasound is an electronically produced mechanical vibration. It has sometimes been described as micro-massage.
The mechanical vibrations are essentially the same as sound waves but used at a higher frequency. Such waves are beyond the range of human hearing and can therefore be called ultrasonic.
Quartz crystals are used, cut to the appropriate thickness, so that they resonate at the chosen frequency to achieve maximum vibration. Thus a stream of compression waves is generated that form a sonic beam. Energy is forced into the tissues, creating heat.
Heating fibrous tissue structures such as joint capsules, ligaments, tendons and scar tissue may cause a temporary increase in their extensibility (functionality) and hence a decrease in joint stiffness. This mild heating can also reduce pain and muscle spasm and promote the healing process.
There have been various studies done which show the therapeutic effectiveness of ultrasound on different problems such as:
- Varicose ulcers, pressure sores. (McDiarmid et al., 1985)
- Pain relief, especially low back pain. (Nwuga 1983)
- Acute tissue injury especially sports injuries and soft tissue injuries. (Downing and Weinstein 1986)
- Scar tissue - improvements in the quality of scar, also in Dupuytren’s contracture and plantar fasciitis (Markham and Wood 1980)
- Bone injury - given in the first 2 weeks after bony injury can increase bony union. Ultrasound can also aid in the early diagnosis of stress fractures. (Lowden 1986).
Electro-acupunture is the stimulation of acupuncture points with an electric current via needles or pads on the skin.
The therapeutic purpose is to promote the circulation of Qi (energy), stimulate the body’s own healing processes and decrease musculoskeletal pain.
Manual acupuncture works well but the needle manipulation is brief and intermittent. It is also “low frequency” and strong manipulation risks tissue damage. In electro-acupuncture, the stimulation is continued for the duration of the treatment. There is no limit to the frequency of the stimulus and the strength of stimulation is limited only by patient tolerance.
There is some evidence that the results from electro-acupuncture can be more rapid and longer lasting than manual acupuncture. The effects of pain, relaxation, circulation and muscle are also slightly different from manual acupuncture.
Electro-acupuncture is very useful for:
- Pain - both acute and chronic
- Muscular tension pain
- Overuse injuries - frozen shoulder, tennis/golfers elbow
- Trauma, strain, sprain etc
- Joint problems
- Internal condition such as IBS, lymph drainage issues, respiratory problems, traumatic edema, insomnia, headaches, depression, urinary tract conditions, allergies
- Chronic spasm
- Stagnation in the channels (blood circulation issues)
- Nerve damage and dysfunction