Treatment of Back Pain

Electrotherapy For Back Pain

Electrotherapy is generally associated with the word electricity. Electricity has been used for treating pain for many years. Electrical stimulation directly blocks transmission of pain signals along the nerves. Electrical stimulation has resulted in promoting the release of endorphins which are natural painkillers produced by the body.

There are several electrical stimulation devices available, each producing different frequencies and effects. Some electrical modalities are:
1) Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS unit can be used by patient at home for relieving pain on a long term basis. It allows the user to adjust the intensity of the stimulation, select high frequency stimulation or low frequency stimulation. High frequency stimulation is called conventional which is tolerable for hours but results in pain relief for shorter period of time. Whereas, low frequency stimulation is called acupuncture- like which is uncomfortable and tolerable for 20 to 30 minutes but results in pain relief for longer period of time. TENS unit users can also use electrode placements by placing the electrodes over the painful area or over the nerve supplying the painful area or even on the opposite side of the body.

2) Interferential current: Interferential current is mainly a form of TENS. It modulates a high frequency carrier waveform with the same signal as produced by a TENS unit. This high frequency waveform penetrates the skin more deeply than a regular TENS unit, with less user discomfort for a given level of stimulation. It is useful for those patients who have not got relief from TENS unit. However, interferential current devices are more expensive than the TENS unit.

The positive pad behaves like ice which causes reduced circulation to the area under the pad and reduces swelling whereas negative pad behaves like heat causing increased circulation and results in speedy healing.

3) Galvanic stimulation: Galvanic stimulation is beneficial for acute injuries associated with major tissue trauma with bleeding or swelling. Galvanic stimulators apply direct current whereas TENS unit and interferential current devices apply alternating current. An electric field is created over the treated area by direct current which changes blood flow. So, all these methods apply electrical stimulation to nerves and muscles by adhesive pads placed on the skin. These devices are powered by batteries but some also use adapter. These have very rare side effects, mainly including allergic skin irritation under the adhesive pads and transient pain from the electric charge. Electrical stimulation should not be applied over malignancies or infected areas.