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How to use TENS and FES in physical therapy treatments?

Electrotherapy is a great ally of physical therapy and rehabilitation. In addition to the traditional techniques, which use specific accessories for each type of need, the electric currents help the treatment and provide faster and efficient results.

The TENS and FES units are known for promoting electrical stimulation in order to relieve pain and/or activate musculoskeletal areas, accelerating the recovery of those facing some physical disorder. In fact, the main objective is to treat pain in an assortment of the body's areas.

So what are the TENS and FES in the physical therapist protocols?

TENS: Particularities and Recommendations

A TENS unit is a transcutaneous electrical stimulation, made possible by the fixation of electrodes in the region to be treated. The intensity of the electrical current varies according to the patient's dysfunction and, once applied after clinical evaluation and in observance of medical history, is completely safe.

TENS devices are typically used for treating acute and chronic pain. The stimulus activates internal mechanisms of the nervous system, triggering analgesic action and easing the discomfort of the patient.

The treatment - which is non-invasive and does not generate side effects - is an excellent option for patients that suffer from chronic pain and are also increasingly being used in physical therapy clinics for pain and injuries in certain areas, such as:

  • cervical, lumbar, headache (including face, dental and TMJ pain);
  • joint (such as arthritis and bursitis) and muscle pain (bruises and tendonitis, for example);
  • thalamic pain and spinal cord injury;
  • neuropathies and neuritis;
  • postoperative recovery. 

FES: Characteristics and Indications

An FES device, in turn, has a slightly different application and a very different objective: to cause muscular contractions and, from the stimulus, to treat and rehabilitate musculoskeletal injuries.

It is quite common for patients with neurological cases; for example, people that have suffered a stroke; to be recommended for FES current therapy. The sessions aim to strengthen muscles, favor voluntary motor control, minimize spasticity and encourage lymphatic venous return.

The treatment - which, similar to TENS, is not invasive and does not cause unwanted side effects - is mainly used to:

  • facilitate and strengthen muscles
  • gain or maintain the joint amplitude
  • contract in order to build muscle and soft tissue
  • regain spasticity control

 TENS and FES in Physiotherapy

TENS and FES machines are widely used in physical therapy and rehabilitation procedures. The results are excellent and help to accelerate patient recovery, maximizing the individual's quality of life during and after treatment.

More and more people are using electrical impulses to improve their pain management and maximize their pain relief. TENS and FES devices are also a great compliment to manual therapy, improving physical therapists' practice.

Please keep in mind that the number of sessions varies according to the clinical conditions, as well as the ideal combination of therapy. A professional diagnosis is therefore essential to ensure the protocols’ safety and efficiency.