What Is Electrotherapy?


Electrotherapy has provided people with a drug-free, non-invasive and non-addictive treatment option. With that, it poses minimal risk for side effects and complications due to adverse drug effects. While it offers several inherent advantages over orthodox medical treatments for pain and for more of man’s common health complaints, a number of electrotherapy modalities were developed to offer the safest lifelong solution to managing the symptoms of chronic health conditions.

Nature of Treatment

Electrotherapy is a treatment based on electrical stimulation. It uses a specific range of energy waves of an electromagnetic spectrum to produce the desired physiological as well as chemical body responses. Unlike drugs and any other forms of treatment, it helps improve and manage a number of symptoms without compromising health due to side effects.


There are two common modalities of electrotherapy that are used to treat a variety of diseases: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and the iontophoresis. TENS are mainly used to relieve pain by stimulating proprioception nerve fibers to block or slow down the transmission of pain signals. Iontophoresis is the transdermal electrotherapy modality that uses a drug-carrying electrode to deliver direct current to the affected area. The ionic charge of the drug used in this treatment will stimulate healing by aiding the conduction of electricity through the problem areas.


Electrotherapy is known to treat pain due to post-operative incisions, fractures, arthritic inflammation or tendinitis, muscle loss or weakness and depression. The main therapeutic purposes of electrotherapy include pain relief, physiochemical stimulation and muscle contraction stimulation.

How it Works

To manage acute and chronic pain, the electrotherapy uses electric signals to interfere with the transmission of neural pain signals into the brain. It effectively slows down neural signal transmission to lessen the pain and make it more bearable for the patient. In some cases, the treatment may use analgesics and inflammatory medications on the managed area. To stimulate physiochemical changes, electrotherapy uses electric signals to introduce heat into the deep tissues. This deep heating procedure increases blood flow to and from the affected region to improve drainage. To stimulate muscle contraction during rehabilitation, it draws a specific amount of current into the problematic area to relieve muscle spasms, re-educate the muscles after trauma and prevent muscle atrophy.


For pain-relief electrotherapy, the contraindications are undiagnosed pain, current use of narcotic medications, hyposensitivity at certain body areas and pregnancy, except when managing labor and delivery pain. For physiochemical treatments, the contraindications are acute inflammation, hemorrhage, metal implants, pulmonary tuberculosis, lupus erythematosus and photosensitivity. For muscle contraction stimulation therapy, contraindications include new fracture, hemorrhage and phlebitis.

Electrotherapy Devices

The health benefits of electrotherapy extend to its treatment devices. These devices include the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), muscle stimulator (NMES), High Volt Pulsed Galvanic Stimulation (HVPGS) and Microcurrent Electrical Nerve Stimulation (MENS) units. To effectively stimulate intracellular functions, these electrotherapy devices deliver healing current to induce the healing process of chronic wounds and manage the pain-related symptoms of pressure ulcers or venous stasis ulcers, injuries and other musculoskeletal problems.

Possible Complications

At the end of the scheduled therapy, patients are usually checked for burns from electrodes. Burns are caused by poor placement of wires, which increases electrical resistance. For iontophoresis, one possible complication is chemical burn due to the accumulation of too many negative electrodes. In general, these complications are caused by lack of understanding of the nature of electrotherapy. This explains why electrotherapy is best done by medical professionals.

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