Electrical stimulation uses an electrical current to cause a single muscle, or a group of muscles to contract. By placing electrodes on the skin in various locations the current can recruit the appropriate muscle fibers. Contracting the muscle via electrical stimulation helps strengthen the affected muscle. The current setting can be changed to allow for a forceful, or gentle muscle contraction. Along with increasing muscle strength, the contraction of the muscle also promotes circulation of blood supply to the area that assists in the healing process.
A TENS unit stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It uses electrical transmission to decrease pain. Electrodes are applied to the affected area and an electrical current is sent through the electrodes. A tingling sensation is felt in the underlying skin and muscle. This signal disrupts the pain signal that is being sent from the affected area to the surrounding nerves. By breaking this signal, the patient experiences less pain.
Ultrasound utilizes high, or low frequency sound waves. These sound waves are transmitted to the surrounding tissue and vasculature to penetrate the muscles and cause deep tissue/muscle warming. This promotes tissue relaxation and therefore is useful in treating muscle tightness and spasms. The warming effect of the sound waves also cause vessel vasodilatation and increase circulation to the area that assists in the healing process. This modality is most commonly used in the acute phase of injury to help decrease inflammation.
Moist hot packs, in several layers of towels, are placed on the area needing treatment. The heat provided by the hot packs has several important benefits; It relaxes tight muscles causing tissues to relax. This decreases pain caused by muscle tension, or spasms. It also causes vasodilatation of the blood vessels which increases circulation to the area. Patients with muscle strains, spasms, or arthritis often benefit from treatment with moist hot packs.
Cold packs are a frozen gel substance used to treat areas of pain and inflammation. The cold packs are wrapped in wet towel and applied directly to the area in need of treatment. The cold transferred to the patient’s skin, muscle, and tissue has several beneficial effects. The cold temperature causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the area. This decreases the inflammation in the area. By decreasing inflammation, pain and swelling are decreased.