What is electrotherapy?

Electrotherapy is a treatment that is sometimes offered by physiotherapists to help reduce pain and swelling after an injury.

It is important to note, however, that the scientific evidence for these treatments’ effectiveness is not 100% conclusive. 

To help you make an informed choice, here’s a general overview of what electrotherapy entails and what other options for pain management you have access to at Brecken Health Care Bunbury.

How does electrotherapy work?

Electrotherapy refers to various treatments in which a patient’s tissues are stimulated via a special device that delivers energetic impulses through the skin.

Common types of electrotherapy

Some of the most common electrotherapy modalities used for pain relief include:

  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). This is a technique that aims to relieve pain by stimulating the sensory nerves with a low-voltage electrical current, through adhesive electrode pads that are placed on the skin.

    The purpose of this nerve stimulation is to ‘activate’ the physiological responses that naturally reduce the perception of pain, thus providing a type of natural pain relief for a wide range of conditions, such as for chronic pain or menstrual cramps.

    The convenience of TENS is that it has minimal side effects or contraindications (that is, conditions or situations where TENS could be harmful.)

    It can also be affordably purchased or rented from a chemist for regular use at home.
  • Interferential current therapy (ICF). With ICF, low-frequency electrical impulses are used to stimulate the nerves and muscle tissue, which helps increase blood flow and reduce swelling and pain.

Is electrotherapy a proven treatment for pain management?

One of the key reasons why a patient may choose to undergo electrotherapy is that it is a non-invasive, drug-free option for pain management.

To date, however, there have been mixed research findings around whether or not electrotherapy can provide consistent results or clinically-relevant outcomes for patients who receive the treatment. 

The bottom line is that these treatments’ effects are almost always short-lasting, and they are in most cases employed in addition to more evidence-based treatments.

For instance, if you are experiencing low back pain, the Australian Physiotherapy Association does not currently recommend using electrotherapy as a treatment for this issue. 

Instead, it is advised to speak to your GP or physiotherapist about your specific symptoms and intensity of the pain so that the appropriate treatment can be provided for your condition. 

For example, short-term relief can be more easily and affordably provided through prescribed medication, activity modification, movement-based interventions and manual treatments.

Other options for long-term treatment and recovery could involve a prescribed exercise program.

Talk to a Bunbury physio about your pain or injury concerns

Our team of qualified Bunbury physiotherapists and GPs can provide a thorough assessment and tailored health advice on treating and managing your pain.

If you’d like to book an appointment with one of our doctors, please get in touch here or call (08) 9791 8133.