Electrotherapy includes a range of treatments using electricity to reduce pain, improve circulation, repair tissues, strengthen muscles, and promote bone growth, leading to improvements in physical functioning.
Electrotherapy units usually consist of a battery-powered device connected by wires to adhesive electrode pads which are placed on the skin. The electrode pads are sticky, so they will adhere to the skin. Once the electrodes are attached and the unit is turned on, a mild electric current is sent to the skin via the electrode.
A number of newer electrotherapy devices bypass the wires, combining electrodes and battery power into a single unit that can be worn inconspicuously on the back, arm, leg, or elsewhere during work or other daily activities. A hand-held controller is used to adjust the level of stimulation.
Electrotherapy is typically used in conjunction with other treatments, rather than by itself. For people undergoing physical therapy, electrotherapy may alleviate pain sufficiently for an individual to participate more actively in targeted exercises. Electrotherapy is among pain relief options gaining attention as the potential risks and side effects of opioid (narcotic) medications have become more apparent.