Electric stimulation uses a gentle electric current to stimulate the contraction of a single muscle or a group of muscles. The stimulation causes an increase in blood flow and can improve the functional ability of the particular muscles involved. Stimulation also can stimulate certain nerve fibers found within the belly of the muscles to reduce the sensation of pain and can assist the body in the healing process for damaged muscles and the joints they supply. Muscle stimulation can also be use to cause a stronger contraction to aid in better symmetry of muscle firing and restore normal strength and function to muscles that have atrophied as a result of being immobilized (e.g. in a cast) or as a result of deconditioning. Muscle stimulation is a safe physical therapy and is used judiciously for appropriate patients. Please ask the doctors at Benchmark Medical Group if this therapy is appropriate for you.
Electric stimulation as a therapy has been used for 1000’s of years, even before the electric was harnessed. As early as 400 BC, the electric torpedo fish was applied to painful parts of the body to cause an electric “shock, “ this shock reportedly decreased pain. Thankfully, with the invention of the Leyden jar in the 1700’s, a precursor to the battery, physicians were able to regulate the amount of current that was applied. Clinical evidence was confirmed by Wall and Sweet in 1967, when they were able to show that certain electric frequencies were successful in treating chronic pain. The therapy has become more advanced and specialized over the years and now, we are able to focus the electric stimulation over the painful area to improve tissue circulation, improve muscle function, decrease swelling or edema, and improve the body’s ability to heal damaged tissues.
The pain gate theory has been studies extensively and is used by many therapists to relieve pain. The theory essential states that pain is felt in the brain as a result of abnormal chemical or mechanical stimulation or the potential for abnormal chemical or mechanical stimulation. Pain nerves are very small diameter and cary essentially only one- sensation, pain. Knowing this, certain therapies can stimulate other nerves with a larger diameter that essentially “block” the sensation of pain. Motion can be used to override pain, as in shaking your hand following touching a hot stove; the motion nerves prevent the pain nerves from getting the signal to the brain. Stop shaking the hand and the pain nerves will make it to the brain and, Wham! There’s the pain. TENS uses those sensory nerve fibers which transmit touch and temperature to the brain, the stimulation of these fibers “blocks” the pain sensation in damaged tissue when they are stimulated.
Trans-Cutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS is used to send small electrical stimulation through your skin, t he signal reach nerve cells and cause a mild tingling sensation that suppresses and relieves pain. TENS is a safe, non-addictive method used primarily for pain control.
Endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine are our bodies naturally produced pain relievers. When TENS is applied to the body, the natural response is to release these chemical pain relievers therefore block the perception of pain. This pathway of these endorphins is similar to opiate drugs, without the risk of addiction or the toxic side effects found with those drugs.
Electric stimulation therapy and TENS should not be used if:
- You have an implanted pacemaker
- TENS should not be applied through the head
- TENS should not be applied over the carotid sinus (front of the neck, on each side of the trachea)
- If you are pregnant (consult with the doctors at Benchmark Medical Group first!)