What is Electro-Stimulation Therapy and why do we use it?

Electro-stimulation therapy (also called electrotherapy or electric muscle stimulation) is a treatment used by chiropractors and other health care practitioners that utilizes electrical frequencies and waveforms to relieve both chronic and acute pain and speed the healing of damaged tissues.

This therapy was first developed in 1855 by the French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, who discovered that using an alternating current on a patient with a nervous or muscular disorder had a therapeutic effect.

Though the mechanism by which electro-stimulation therapy works is not precisely known, it is believed that stimulation with electrical pulses may block the transmission of pain signals along the nerves, in addition to stimulating the release of pain-killing natural endorphins. In addition, the electrical pulses fatigue the muscle tissues, causing a release of tension and increasing blood flow to the area. This enhances the amount of nutrients brought to the area of affected muscle tissue while at the same time helping to clear away accumulated toxins.

The most commonly used forms of electro-stimulation therapy are Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), Interferential Current (IFC) and Galvanic Stimulation (GS). Each produce different waveforms, frequencies and effects, though all use the same method of applying adhesive pads to the skin that deliver electrical stimulation to the nerves and muscles.

The use of electrotherapy is known to be helpful for a number of situations, including:

  • Reducing the intensity of muscle spasms
  • Improving range of motion in joints due to injury or arthritis
  • Treating neuromuscular dysfunction by increasing strength, motor control and blood flow and retarding atrophy of muscles
  • Speeding tissue repair by stimulating microcirculation and enhancing the health of connective and dermal tissues
  • Reducing swelling by speeding the rate of fluid absorption and affecting the permeability of blood vessels
  • Increasing muscle strength

The Chiropractor’s at Sheldon Road Chiropractic & Massage Therapy treat many people with back pain or spasms by incorporating electrotherapy into the patient’s care plan. Patients receiving electro stimulation therapy generally lie on the treatment table, as they would for an adjustment. Then four electrical pads will be applied to the area of involvement . A low electrical frequency is used at first, and this level is raised gradually to the patient’s comfort level without causing any discomfort. If the patient finds the frequency is too high, it can always be turned down.

Contrary to what one might imagine, electrotherapy is not at all painful most patients find it very relaxing. The sensation begins as a tingling feeling, then develops into a sensation similar to a massage as the frequency increases. A therapy session usually lasts from 10 to 20 minutes. Though it is most commonly used on the back or neck, electro-stimulation therapy is also used on the limbs or wherever there are muscle spasms.

In tandem with the use of electrotherapy, our Tampa chiropractors may suggest special stretches, strengthening exercises and massage therapy to help restore strength and resiliency to damaged muscles.


Sheldon Road Chiropractic & Massage Therapy
10930 Sheldon Road
Tampa, FL 33626