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What Is Interferential Therapy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Interferential therapy is a form of electrical stimulation therapy that involves the application of two currents at slightly different frequencies that interfere with each other in the tissues of the body and generate a third low frequency current. It can be used to treat sprains and other muscle injuries under the direction of a physician or physical therapist. Not all patients are suitable candidates for interferential therapy. It is important to perform a thorough patient evaluation before proceeding with therapy.

Electrical stimulation of the nerves and muscles can be performed in a number of ways. It appears to block pain signals and can also promote greater muscle strength and flexibility. In physical therapy, the use of techniques like interferential therapy can improve patient outcomes. Critics caution that interferential therapy has not been widely studied in controlled conditions, and some of the claims made about it may not withstand rigorous scientific evaluation.

In a session, the doctor applies electrodes to the area of interest and activates the machine to deliver 10 to 15 minutes of therapy to the patient. The patient may experience a tingling sensation but the interferential therapy shouldn't hurt or shock her. The continuous delivery approach varies from other techniques where patients receive a series of pulses to stimulate muscles and nerves. This therapy may be repeated several times a week and should be part of a larger physical therapy regimen.

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The origins of this therapy lie in Europe, where physical therapists began using it in the 1950s. The use of medium frequency currents bypasses some of the problems with directly applying low frequency current. Interferential stimulation can penetrate more deeply while mimicking the effects of a low frequency current through the interference between the two frequencies. The patient should experience a flood of endorphins around the site during therapy sessions, with minimal side effects.

Patients with an interest in electrical stimulation therapy can discuss it with a doctor and physical therapist. It may have some potential uses in a given case, and a doctor can clear the patient for treatment with an interview and physical examination. Patients with pacemakers and other electronic medical devices may not be able to use interferential therapy, and it is important to use equipment designed and rated for this purpose. Patients can also ask to see inspection and maintenance records to confirm that the equipment is in good operating condition and will be safe for use.

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