As a chronic pain patient, or perhaps as a post-surgical patient, you may have heard the term “interferential therapy” cropping up during discussions about your physical therapy. As a part of an overall recovery treatment plan, or pain management, interferential therapy can help patients to gain back a fair amount of mobility while simultaneously experiencing a decrease in the intensity of their pain.
How Interferential Therapy Works
Using a controlled mid-frequency electrical current, this form of therapy works to treat the muscle strains and spasms that could be contributing to the patient’s pain.
The electric current that is transmitted to the patient’s body through his skin causes a massaging sensation at programmed intervals. This has the effect of causing the patient’s body to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. With the pain relief that comes from the release of the endorphins, the patient’s injured muscles will be allowed to relax; relaxed muscles will heal at a much more rapid pace than muscles that are bunched or strained.
While low-frequency stimulation is rarely painful, it can cause a bit of discomfort to patients who require extensive therapy sessions. When a mid-frequency is used, the discomfort that patients experience will decrease drastically as a higher frequency will pass through the patient’s skin, via attached electrodes, and into the affected areas a lot easier than the lower-frequencies will.
Think of the skin as a barrier – when you are attempting to force an object through the barrier using gentle force, you will require a lot more energy to do so. If, on the other hand, you attempt to force the same object through the barrier with a lot more force, you will find that passing through the barrier is a lot easier.
The nerves in the body are capable of rapidly adjusting to the sensations that they are experiencing, which is what allows the body to pick up even the slightest change in temperature and allows for electrical nerve stimulator therapy to be effective. However, it will only be effective up to a point – then the body’s nerves will adjust. Unlike the form of therapy offered by transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation units (TENS units), Interferential Therapy offers pulsing frequencies that will keep the nerves from sending messages of pain to the patient’s brain. If you are familiar with the way that a TENS unit operates, think of Interferential Therapy as being a much more intense version of TENS therapy.
There are several key advantages of using Interferential Therapy, including the following:
- Interferential Therapy can help to increase circulation and reduce swelling in post-operative patients, which will then aid in the healing process.
- There have been several studies that have demonstrated significantly lower post-operative complications in patients who use Interferential Therapy over prescription pain killers.
- Unlike prescription pain medications, there are no risks of addiction with Interferential Therapy.
- Prescription pain medications can cause respiratory issues as well as slow the healing process whereas Interferential Therapy is relatively free of side effects.
- Interferential therapy can target special areas, like a patient’s spinal system; whereas prescription medications will affect the patient’s entire body.
Side-Effects of Interferential Therapy
Many patients may hesitate to start electrical stimulation as a part of their physical therapy out of a fear of the unknown, yet most will not hesitate taking prescribed medications to relieve pain. Unlike the numerous side-effects of taking potentially addictive painkillers, there are virtually no side effects from using Interferential devices. Patients may feel a sensation of vibrating or tingling, much like feeling your mobile phone vibrating in your pocket.
Interferential therapy should never be used in an area that has an infection or has not yet fully healed from a surgical incision; consult with your medical profession to find out if interferential therapy is the best option for your type of pain.
Is Interferential Therapy Right For You?
There are a select group of patients with certain medical conditions that excludes them from being ideal Interferential Therapy patients.
- Patients who use a lifesaving pacemaker should not use any therapeutic device that could interfere with the pacemaker’s functionality.
- Pregnant women should consult with their physician before using an Interferential device.
- Rheumatoid arthritis patients, and patients who suffer from other bone and joint conditions, should use caution before switching from TENS therapy to a more intense version of electrical stimulation therapy.
- Patients who have high blood pressure are advised to avoid placing the electrodes on their neck unless advised by their medical professional.
If you have any questions or need additional information about how Interferential Therapy can help you on the road to recovery, be sure to discuss them with your health professional.
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