Electrotherapy: The Future of Chronic Pain Relief​

Pain is an inevitable part of life, and we all experience it at some point. Whether it’s due to an injury, chronic condition, or simply aging, pain can be debilitating and affect our quality of life. But what if there was a way to relieve pain without relying on medication or invasive procedures? Enter electrotherapy, a cutting-edge technology that is changing the game when it comes to pain relief. 

In this article, we’ll explore the future of pain relief and how electrotherapy is revolutionizing the way we manage pain. From its history and benefits to the latest advancements and applications, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this exciting field and why it’s worth considering as a pain management option. So sit back, relax, and discover the benefits of electrotherapy for pain relief.

An ever-increasing number of chiropractors are turning to electrotherapy to provide relief to their chronic pain patients, and there are good reasons for it. Traditional methods of dealing with chronic pain – such as physical therapy or the use of medications – tend to be less effective over time and may even cause more harm than good if they’re not administered correctly.

 Read more about this at: 

“A rising death toll” by German Lopez, The New York Times, Feb. 14, 2022


Chiropractors are now finding that electrotherapy can be used safely alongside other traditional treatment methods and help relieve chronic pain. By stimulating the nervous system, electrotherapy devices provide pain relief and reduce inflammation through the release of endorphins, the improvement of blood circulation, and without any side effects. In some instances, electrotherapy offers long-term treatment of chronic and neuropathic pain – such as PRF electromagnetic therapies.

How Electrotherapy Works to Relieve Pain?

Electrotherapy uses electrical impulses to stimulate the nerves and muscles in the affected area, which can help reduce pain and promote healing.

There are different types of electrotherapy, each with its own mechanism of action. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is one of the most common types of electrotherapy, which involves placing electrodes on the skin near the painful area. The electrodes deliver low-frequency electrical impulses, which stimulate the nerves and reduce pain. This type of therapy is based on the gate control theory of pain, which suggests that non-painful stimuli can block the transmission of painful stimuli to the brain.

Another type of electrotherapy is neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), which involves placing electrodes on the skin over the affected muscle to stimulate muscle contraction. NMES is often used for muscle rehabilitation, improving muscle strength, and relieving pain associated with muscle spasms.


Is Electrotherapy Safe?

Electrotherapies are drug-free, have no major side effects, and provide a safe option for those in need of acute or long-term treatment options – some exemptions include individuals with cardiac pacemakers and women during pregnancies. For those with neuropathy, it is the best alternative for pain relief and does not interfere with other treatment modalities or medications.

Electrical stimulation therapy is generally safe, but there are a few potential side effects of electrotherapy. These include mild skin irritation, allergic reactions to electrode adhesive, muscle soreness, muscle twitching, temporary nerve irritation, interference with medical devices, and psychological discomfort. 

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure proper use and to monitor for any adverse reactions during electrotherapy sessions.

Case Studies of Successful Electrotherapy Treatments

You may be wondering what electrotherapy is used for. Electrotherapy has been used for pain management for decades, and there are many case studies and success stories that demonstrate its effectiveness. 

One study published in the European Journal of Pain found that TENS was effective in reducing pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis. 

Another study published in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation found that TENS was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with chronic low back pain.

There are also many anecdotal reports of successful electrotherapy treatments, particularly for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and neuropathy. While more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of electrotherapy for pain management, the existing evidence suggests that it can be a promising option for many individuals.


Electrotherapy Devices Available on the Market

There are several chiropractic electrotherapy machines available on the market, ranging from handheld devices for home use to larger devices for clinical settings. TENS units, which deliver low-frequency electrical impulses, are one of the most popular types of electrotherapy devices.

Some TENS units are designed for specific body parts, such as the back, knee, and neck, while others are more versatile and can be used on multiple body parts. TENS units come in different shapes and sizes, and some even have wireless capabilities for added convenience.

Another type of electrotherapy device is the interferential current (IFC) machine, which uses high-frequency electrical impulses to stimulate the nerves and muscles. IFC machines are often used for deep tissue pain and can provide more targeted relief compared to TENS units.

PRF (pulsed radiofrequency) therapy is a fairly new, non-invasive treatment option for relief from chronic and acute pain. Although commonly compared to other TENS devices, PRF works through a different mode of action due to its higher frequencies. Clinical investigations are continuously being produced to demonstrate which mode of action, between TENS and PRF, is the most effective against pain.

The amount of different electrical stimulation alternatives can be overwhelming: the market offers a wide variety of devices which often can be difficult to distinguish. Being able to decide which type of electrical stimulation to use for a certain condition is important: each device uses specific sets of electrical currents (e.g., intensity of stimulation and frequency of stimulation) on different areas of the body. The mode of action on symptoms and pain conditions also differs in each electrotherapy device.

Here below, we want to provide you with a summary of pain relief electrotherapy machines that are most commonly used in chiropractic care. We will focus on the intended use, on the mode of action, the pros and cons for each device:

1. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Intended for:

Symptomatic relief of chronic and neuropathic pain, short-term relief of muscular soreness

Mode of action: 

Based on the gate-control theory, TENS impulses override painful stimuli. Read more about this at: “Gate control theory of pain” by Physiopedia


  • Cheap alternative


  • You can find several types of TENS machines online which can be confusing.
  • The amount of different devices on the market suggests that the technology behind this machine is still unspecific and there is no consent on which stimulation parameters are the most efficient.
  • Limited results.

2. Pulsed Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Therapies (PRF)

Intended for:

Chronic intractable pain, pain control, post-surgical or post-traumatic acute pain

Mode of action: 

High-frequency (100-300kHz) electromagnetic fields travel at fast speed along nerve axons and target nerve mitochondria. PRF triggers gene expression changes and recovery from chronic or acute pain. Read more about this at: “PRF research” by Algiamed Technologies


  • The only long-term alternative for chronic and acute pain. Long-term relief is achieved in 3 to 5 sessions.


  • Often confused with TENS, even though its mode of action is completely different.
  • Fairly new device.

3. Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

Intended for: 

Muscle strengthening, muscle spasms and muscular rehabilitation

Mode of action: 

Based on improvement of blood circulation and increased muscle contractions


  • Optimal for muscle recovery after sport injuries and enhance atrophy from disuse


  • Short-term effects, so repeated applications are necessary
  • Enhances but does not directly provide function

4. Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES)

Intended for similar to NMES but with more therapeutical intervention on neurological rehabilitation

Mode of action: 

Based on the idea that muscle contractions can be turned into functional movements


  • Daily use of FES can help improve walking and range of motion


  • Usually paired with physical exercises.
  • Repeated applications are necessary.

5. Interferential Current (IFC) Electrical Stimulation

Intended for:

Relief of pain from muscle spasms

Mode of action: 

Similar to TENS but more powerful stimulation leading to strong muscle contractions


  • Higher frequencies travel to muscles or joints, so to deep tissues


  • Non-specific for chronic or neuropathic pain, but only for acute pain from muscle injuries

6. Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS or Russian stim)

Intended for:

Muscle strengthening, muscle endurance and muscle recovery. Strong muscle contractions

Mode of action: 

Similar to NMES and FES


  • Used by professional athletes, also known as Russian stimulation, since it was used by the Russian team to enhance performance of their Olympic athletes


  • Non-specific for pain, used for functional recovery after muscle/sport injuries


The Stimpod NMS 460 is the World’s First Non-Invasive Pulsed Radio Frequency Treatment System. The Stimpod is indicated for:

  • The symptomatic relief and management of chronic intractable pain
  • An adjunctive treatment in the management of post-surgical pain
  • An adjunctive treatment for post-traumatic, acute pain problems
  • An adjunctive treatment for pain control due to rehabilitation

Chiropractors, Physical Therapists and Medical Doctors use the Stimpod to treat so much more.

Common Misconceptions About Electrotherapy

Despite its many benefits, there are still some common misconceptions about electrotherapy. One of the biggest myths is that it is painful, but in reality, electrotherapy should not cause any pain or discomfort if done correctly. Another myth is that electrotherapy is only effective for acute pain, but it can also be an effective option for chronic pain.

It is important to note that electrotherapy may not work for everyone, and it is always important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new pain management regimen.

Conclusion - The Potential of Electrotherapy for Pain Relief

Electrotherapy is a promising pain management option that is gaining popularity due to its many benefits and convenience. From its ability to reduce pain and promote healing to its non-invasive nature and cost-effectiveness, electrotherapy has much to offer individuals who are seeking relief from pain.

While more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of electrotherapy for pain management, the existing evidence suggests that it can be a valuable tool for many individuals. With new innovations and advancements being made in the field, the potential of electrotherapy pain relief is only set to increase in the future.

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