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Alyssa Schmidt Electrotherapy, the use of electrical stimulation in the treatment of issues with health and normal functioning, is used to reduce acute and chronic pain and block waves of pain signals along nerves. Electrical stimulation also causes the release of endorphins which are natural painkillers that the body produces. This system of treatment has been around for over 100 years. The idea of electrical stimulation was first thought of by Luigi Galvani, an Italian professor of medicine, in 1786. After touching a dead frog’s leg with a metal knife it twitched violently showing, according to Galvani, that the muscles of animals contain electricity. However, a different Italian scientist in 1792, Alessandro Volta, did not agree. He realized that there was a tin plate covered in moisture that the frog was lying on and electricity was created when the steel knife came close enough to the plate. Towards the end of the 18th century, Galvani experimented on the nervous system using electrical techniques. The actual idea of electrotherapy was not developed until around the second half of 19th century however. In present time society, electrotherapy is used to aid in the relief of muscle spasms through relaxation, prevent and slow down atrophy from disuse, and increase the blood circulation of that area. This form of therapy is also used for muscle rehabilitation and re- education, maintaining and increasing the range of motion, management of chronic pain and pain that will not go away, acute pain after surgery, and wound healing. Evidence of electrotherapy’s healing abilities was found in a meta-analysis in 1999. After trials were done it was found that it could speed up the process of healing. There are many different types of electrotherapy. Transcutaneous spinal electroanalgesia (TSE) is one of the most advanced forms of electrotherapy offered today. TSE has many advantages over the other types. It is extremely effective and the person receiving the treatment does not feel anything. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is another type. TENS is one of the most well-known forms of electrotherapy and is often used. It works by stimulating the peripheral and sensory nerves. This causes relief for arthritis and shoulder syndromes. A patient using this on its high frequency could tolerate its stimulation for hours, however the pain relief lasts for a shorter period of time than when using the low frequency stimulation which is only tolerable for about 20-30 minutes. Interferential current therapy (IC or IFC), also a form of electrotherapy, is a deeper stimulation than TENS. It is commonly used by physiotherapists to reduce swelling and inflammation. The use of IC helps patients who have asthma and gives relief from back pain and osteoarthritis. Using Electrotherapy for Osteoarthritis 2.5 2 1.5 Improvement 1 0.5 0 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 Weeks Legend: Top line graph = use of electrotherapy Bottom line graph = no electrotherapy http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.rsmedical.com/bionicare/images/img_graph_electrotherapy.gif&imgrefurl=http: //www.rsmedical.com/bionicare/bionicare_electrotherapy.asp&usg=__Nithvo_WXS3bknT9fkmA6wA_xRM=&h=301&w=331&sz=1 2&hl=en&start=39&um=1&tbnid=w5nNwxuOTTxZ6M:&tbnh=108&tbnw=119&prev=/images%3Fq%3Delectrotherapy%26start%3 D36%26ndsp%3D18%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN Galvanic stimulation (GS), one of the most useful electrotherapy forms in treating acute injuries that involve tissue trauma with bleeding or swelling. Unlike TENS or IC, GS applies a direct current to the injury. This changes the blood flow by creating an electrical field over that are being treated. GS uses two pads, one positive and one negative. The positive pad reduces the circulation to the area that it is on which causes a reduction in swelling while the negative pad increases circulation causing a faster healing rate. Side effects to these treatments are rare. However, some patients get a skin irritation under the stimulation pads and pain from the electrical charge. If the pads are placed over the heart or a pacemaker it could lead to cardiac arrhythmia, while placing them over the throat could cause low blood pressure. Placement over the uterus of a pregnant woman could cause damage to the fetus. These areas should be avoided.
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