Electrical conduction through biological systems has been recognized for centuries to alter physiological and pathologic events which result in pain relief. Recently, science has discovered many additional deficiencies respond favorably to electrical stimulation:

  1. Limb swelling and inflammatory reactions.
  2. Slow-to-heal wounds and ulcers.
  3. Muscle atrophy and impaired motor control associated with orthopedic and neurological damage.
  4. Circulatory impairments.
  5. Joint motion dysfunction.
  6. Postural disorders.
  7. Incontinence associated with pelvic floor incapacity.

Electrotherapy Basics

The following section and accompanying modality pages with treatment protocols are designed to direct clinicians toward a sound, systematic, objective, and predictive approach to electrical stimulation.


In the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, electrical stimulators are classified as the following:

  1. Direct Current (DC):Electrical current that flows in one direction for about 1 sec or longer.
  2. Alternating Current (AC):Electrical current that changes the direction of flow, with reference to the zero baseline, at least once every second.
  3. Pulsed Current (PC):Electrical current that is conducted as signals of short duration. Each pulse lasts for only a few micro or milli-seconds followed by an interpulse interval.


The shape of the electrical current:

  1. Monophasic:Indicates that there is only one phase to each pulse.
  2. BiPhasic:wo opposing phases are contained in a single cycle.

  • Symmetrical:Same size and shape for each phase in both directions.
  • Asymmetrical:Uneven size and shape for each phase; when balanced the net charge is equal in both directions.
  1. Amplitude:Intensity is the output of electrotherapy distributed by the unit to the patient. Depending on the waveform, intensity is measured in milliamps (mA), volts (V), and microamps (μA); affects the muscular response - higher intensity = increase excitability.
  2. Pulse Duration/Width:Indicates the length of time the current is flowing per cycle; affects patient comfort.
  3. Pulse Rate/Frequency:Indicates the number of pulses or cycles per second; affects the quality of contraction and can create muscle fatigue at higher rates.