Therapists use various modalities during your physical therapy session to help with pain relief, reduce inflammation, and promote soft tissue healing. Many of the modalities listed below are used in conjunction with heat or ice.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): this device uses electric current to help stimulate the nerves at a particular frequency to help alleviate pain and relax muscles.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS): a higher electric current is used to help stimulate muscle contraction to aid with muscle retraining and strengthening. It can also be used to promote muscle relaxation through muscle inhibition.
Interferential Current (IFC): similar to TENS, however, this device uses two electric currents at alternating frequencies to decrease resistance at the skin and achieve stimulation of deeper tissues. It also helps decrease swelling, improve circulation, and alleviate pain.
Ultrasound: this device emits high frequency sound waves which travels through soft tissues by compression and expansion; in essence creating a “micro massage” which works at the cellular level to help decrease inflammation and scar tissue. With the depth the sound waves travel, the heat produced at the deeper level also helps to promote circulation and improve tissue healing.
Mechanical traction: if our goal is to decrease compressive forces in the spine, your physical therapist may choose to use this machine to provide a distractive force to joints, thereby decreasing irritation of soft tissues and nerves. This can help decrease pain along the spine and improve your mobility.