What is electrical stimulation?
While it may sound a bit intimidating, electrical stimulation really isn't at all! When used correctly and provided under the guidance of a licensed and skilled physical therapist, electrical stimulation is a safe and efficacious modality that can be used to treat a variety of conditions.
While individual units and modes of delivery can vary, the standard electrical stimulation device utilizes electrodes placed around the target treatment area on the body. These electrodes are connected via wire leads to the unit, through which electricity can pass and ultimately interact with sensory and/or motor nerves (depending on the type of current utilized).
What is electrical stimulation used for in physical therapy?
Our clinic frequently utilizes electrical stimulation in order to provide a variety of beneficial healing effects, including:
- Reduce, eliminate, and/or control pain (both acute and chronic)
- Increase local circulation
- Decrease swelling
- Improve range of motion
- Reduce muscle spasm
- Provide biofeedback (aka improve body awareness)
- Improve motor coordination
- Provide neuromuscular re-education
- Prevent or reverse muscle atrophy (especially after prolonged immobilization, such as a limb being casted as a fracture heals)
Pain control and reduction is probably the most frequent indication of electrical stimulation usage. Specifically, this modality can trigger an innate and completely natural analgesic effect by stimulating specific sensory nerve fibers which both disrupt or decrease the sensation of pain and also elicit the release of certain neurotransmitters which can prolong the pain-relieving effects.
What is Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is a type of mechanical energy that has been used for many years to treat chronic pain and improve the healing process. There are several specific ways a physical therapist can use ultrasound therapy to treat injuries and reduce pain and improve your ability to perform daily activities and tasks.
How Ultrasound Technology Works
Ultrasound therapy is the use of sound waves to treat a variety of muscle and ligament conditions. The sound waves cause vibrations which generate heat. When tissues in the body are vibrating, the friction produced occurs at the molecular level. This ultimately causes the temperature in the tissues to rise. This is one of the many advantages ultrasound application provides. It can penetrate deep into the tissues in ways that a hot pack can't.
During physical therapy, gel is normally used on the surface of the applicator to minimize friction as well as to promote the transmission of the ultrasound waves. The waves are then absorbed by your tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues.
Benefits of Ultrasound Therapy
- Increase Blood Flow - Just as cold decreases blood flow, heat will increase it. Ultrasound therapy will cause your blood vessels to increase in size and therefore increase the blood flow.
- Increased blood flow means more nutrients will be delivered to the area of your injury while waste is carried away. This ultimately enhances the healing process.
- Reduce Swelling and Inflammation - Ultrasound therapy has been shown to reduce stiffness in muscles and joints while increasing range of motion. Once blood flow is increased and swelling and inflammation is reduced, this will allow your muscles and joints to respond more favorably to manual stretching exercises and different types of massage.
- Promote Tissue Healing - Ultrasound not only improves your muscles and joint range of motion but can aid in the healing of wounded tissues. The metabolism of the cells in the tissue is affected by ultrasound. The vibration produced by the ultrasound can help prevent scar tissue from forming.
Conditions Treated with Ultrasound
While increased blood flow, reduced swelling and inflammation, and tissue healing are general benefits of ultrasound, there are several specific conditions these processes can help heal. The following are a few of the physical conditions that can be treated.
- Bursitis and Tendonitis - Frozen shoulder is a form of bursitis that can be effectively treated with ultrasound therapy.
- Muscle Strains and Tears - The use of ultrasound therapy can reduce the amount of time sprains, strains, and tears take to heal.
- Muscle Spasms - Heat applied at various places on or near the site can help relax the muscles and decrease spasms.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis - These are chronic conditions that respond well to the deep heat provided by ultrasound.
What is therapeutic massage?
Therapeutic massage involves a wide range of explicit manual techniques (delivered by a licensed therapist's hands) that can be used to target specific tissues in your body, including muscles, fascia, lymph nodes, joints, and tendons.
Specific benefits of therapeutic massage include:
- Improved circulation and lymphatic drainage
- Accelerated healing
- Reduced swelling and inflammation
- Improved range of motion
- Reduced pain
- Decreased adhesions and scar tissue formation
- Decreased stress
- Improved mood
We use therapeutic massage to help people manage or recover from a wide range of conditions, including fibromyalgia, back pain and neck pain, arthritis, migraines, diabetic nerve pain, sports and auto-accident related injuries.