Electrotherapy includes a range of treatments using electricity to reduce pain, improve circulation, repair tissues, strengthen muscles, and promote bone growth, leading to improvements in physical functioning.

Electrotherapy has been used to address chronic pain and chronic fatigue in general, as well as:

  • Diabetic nerve pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraine headaches
  • Wound healing
  • Stimulating bone growth
  • Acute and chronic ankle pain and ankle joint arthritis
  • Acute and chronic low back pain associated with spinal nerve and disc pain or spinal osteoarthritis/degenerative disc disease (DDD)
  • Acute and chronic neck pain associated with soft tissue injury to the muscles, ligaments or spinal discs, joint inflammation and spinal arthritis
  • Acute, chronic and post surgical knee pain associated with muscle, tendon, ligament or joint arthritis problems
  • Acute and chronic shoulder pain associated with muscle, tendon, ligament or shoulder joint arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – pain associated with compression of the nerves in the carpal tunnel
  • Foot pain including Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendinopathy, Morton’s Neuroma and Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Post lumbar laminectomy – a type of surgery to the spine
  • Dental pain including TMJ pain (jaw joint)
  • Facial paralysis
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Hip pain
  • Post-operative pain
  • Sciatica
  • Bicipital tendonitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Wrist pain
  • Shin splints
  • Diabetes neuropathy
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
  • Acute Herpes Zoster/Post Herpetic Neuralgia
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Electrotherapy is primarily used in physical therapy for relaxation of muscle spasms, prevention and retardation of disuse atrophy, increase of local blood circulation, muscle rehabilitation and re-education electrical muscle stimulation, maintaining and increasing range of motion, management of chronic and intractable pain, post-traumatic acute pain, post surgical acute pain, immediate post-surgical stimulation of muscles to prevent venous thrombosis, wound healing and drug delivery

1. Pain management

  • Improves range of joint movement

2. Treatment of neuromuscular dysfunction

  • Improvement of strength
  • Improvement of motor control
  • Retards muscle atrophy
  • Improvement of local blood flow

3. Improves range of joint mobility Induces repeated stretching of contracted, shortened soft tissues

4. Tissue repair

  • Enhances microcirculation and protein synthesis to heal wounds
  • Increased blood flow to the injured tissues increases macrophages to clean up debris
  • Restores integrity of connective and dermal tissues

5. Acute and chronic edema

  • Accelerates absorption rate
  • Affects blood vessel permeability
  • Increases mobility of proteins, blood cells and lymphatic flow

6. Peripheral blood flow

  • Induces arterial, venous and lymphatic flow

7. Iontophoresis

  • Delivery of pharmacological agents
  • DC (direct current) transports ions through skin
  • Common drugs used: Dexamethasone, Acetic acid, Lidocaine

8. Urine and fecal incontinence

  • Affects pelvic floor musculature to reduce pelvic pain and strengthen musculature
  • Treatment may lead to complete continence

9. Lymphatic Drainage

  • Stimulate lymphatic system to reduce edema

It may help increase local blood circulation. It can also help build strength in muscles, tendons, and ligaments – especially following injury. Increased Range of Motion - Electrotherapy is often used to help relieve pain and aid in the treatment of muscle injuries such as strains, sprains, spasms, tears and bruises.


The use of electrotherapy has been supported by the American Physical Therapy Association because it has shown to provide the following:

  • Relaxation of muscle spasms
  • Prevention and cessation of muscular atrophy due to disuse
  • Improved local blood circulation and flow
  • Re-education of muscles using targeted stimulation
  • Preserve and improve range of motion
  • Management and reduction of pain (chronic, post-traumatic, and post-surgical acute)
  • Prevention of deep vein thrombosis post-surgery
  • Facilitation of wound healing
  • Improvement in the effectiveness in delivering prescription drugs-electromotive drug administration (EMDA)