What is Electrical Stimulation?

Electrical stimulation is a treatment modality used by physical therapists to help relieve pain.  Electrical stimulation uses a low voltage electrical current to stimulate nerves and sends signals to the brain that block or interrupt normal pain signals. It can be used for muscle pain, joint pain, tendonitis and bursitis.

Another use for electrical stimulation is to strengthen muscles. This type of stimulation is called NMES (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation). When there is muscle weakness (atrophy), electrical stimulation is used to elicit a contraction of the muscle. The electrical impulses work to retrain muscles to function normally. This is most commonly used after ACL surgery and a stroke.

Electrical Stimulation

Clinical Question- Ultrasound

What is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is used during physical therapy when a patient presents with pain, soreness, or tightness of a specific body part.  It uses high frequency sound waves that travel to muscle and tissue and warm up the targeted areas by increasing blood flow.  The majority of the time, ultrasound is used in conjunction with massage techniques to further decrease muscle tightness and pain in the treated area.

Clinical Question – Ice vs. Heat

Should I apply ice or heat for pain?

First you need to determine if you have pain from an acute injury or chronic injury.  An acute injury has a rapid onset and is short-lived.  A chronic injury happens gradually and is long-lasting.  For acute injuries, you should apply ice for 10-15 minute intervals several times a day for up to 3 days.  For chronic injuries, you should apply heat for 15-30 minutes intervals as needed.  If you find your symptoms still persist after approximately 48 hours of heat/ice treatment, you should contact your physician or physical therapist for further treatment options.