Patients often wonder what the modalities that we use are doing to their body. While we are training a new assistant in our office I thought I would take the time to write this down for their benefit and answer some questions that I get from patients here on the blog.
IFC, TENS, Electrical Stimulation
Usually referred to as “electric stim” it goes by many other names and there are different types and reasons for using this modality. (Feel free to add uses to the comments) The primary use of this tool in our office is for muscle relaxation and pain relief.
To start four conducting pads are placed around the treatment area. The intensity is then increased slowly allowing the current to flow through you to the opposite pads. This causes kind of a numb or tingly feeling in the area. The treatment improves healing in the area, causes the muscles to relax, releases chemical pain relievers and temporarily confuses the nervous system so that it is not able to transmit pain signals as well. In essence you get temporary pain relief and improved healing. While some people like to show how tough they are, more is not always better. We will usually try to find a setting that is comfortable, even pleasant, for you.
If done before, it allows the adjustment to be more comfortable for the patient. Because the muscles are relaxed it can make it easier for the chiropractor to do the actual adjustment and decrease the risk of muscle strain. It also has been shown to improve recovery times.
There are possible negative effects from this treatment. They are rare and minimal. Some people may be allergic to the adhesive in the pads and the skin may become irritated or develop a rash. If a pad comes loose during a treatment (most machines are designed to shut off if this happens) the electricity may arc and give you a little jolt, kind of like licking a 9-volt battery or even a minor electrical burn.
E-stim should never be used with an electrical implant such as a pace maker, over the heart or the front of the neck. You should not use e-stim over known cancer or infection, as it may increase the growth (not good). Lastly because the risks are just not known it is not recommended to use during pregnancy.