Each day, we use electricity to light our homes and operate the appliances that make everyday tasks simpler. However, you might be surprised to learn that electricity — with its many uses — is being utilized in chiropractic treatment to reduce acute and chronic pain.
How Does Electrotherapy Work?
Known as electrotherapy, there are three different stimulation devices, and each generates its own effect, wavelength, and frequency. One of those devices is called interferential current (IFC). It, like the other two devices, uses electrodes. These electrodes are connected to the machine, but also extend outward. These extensions are covered by adhesive pads that are placed on the skin, and through these pads, a steady flow of electrical current or a surge of electrical current is released in order to stimulate the muscles and nerves.
When the current is released, the expectation is that one of two things will happen:
- The nerves will be awakened and encourage the body to produce its own natural painkillers (endorphins).
- The electricity emanated from the electrodes provokes the nerves to send signals to the brain, allowing it to block pain signals.
About Interferential Current (IFC)
This device is commonly used when users have not obtained enough relief from the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device, which is another type of electrotherapy. Thought of as a deeper form of TENS, interferential current uses a higher frequency.
Whereas TENS maxes out at 200 Hz, the IFC device has a much higher frequency at 4000 Hz. Also, when the current is applied to the skin, skin resistance declines while pulse frequency rises. This allows IFC to penetrate the skin with more ease and with less stimulation than TENS, but it reaches greater depths and does so over a wider range of tissue. It also improves circulation.
Because IFC is able to reach greater depths and boost circulation, IFC is able to treat edema (swelling) and inflammation caused by soft tissue irritation.
It is more commonly used, however, to treat acute and chronic pain associated with:
- Back pain
- Sprains and strains
- Nerve damage
- Degenerative joint disease
- Interstitial cystitis (bladder inflammation)
Is IFC Safe?
The most common side effect associated with IFC is skin irritation at the treatment site. That said, IFC is noninvasive and safe. However, like any device, if it is used improperly, adverse reactions can arise. This is why it's important to consult with your chiropractor before starting treatments at home. He or she will advise you on how to use the device properly and will help you determine the frequency that is right for you and the symptoms/condition you are aiming to treat.