The use of electrical energy to treat patients with various medical problems is known as electro stimulation therapy. There are various ways of using electro stimulation therapy; one can use device such as deep brain stimulators or use electric current to heal wounds faster. In addition, many alternate medicine devices and treatments are also known as electrotherapy.
Physical therapists commonly use electrotherapy which involves electric current transmission using electrodes which are placed on the skin. Physical therapists receive training in effective dissemination of electrotherapy in patients. Since he is completely in charge, he is the primary care provider for the patient. It is his duty to ensure therapeutic care of the patient along with administering electrotherapy. In the book named ‘Clinical Electrotherapy’ by Roger M. Nelson et. al., electro stimulation aids in inflammation, pain treatment, joint dysfunction, healing of wound and circulation impairments. Although it is safe to use electro stimulation for treating various conditions, there exist a few conditions wherein electrotherapy can prove to be fatal.
Below are some of the conditions during which the use of electro stimulation therapy is not advised. These contraindications include;
- Cancer: It is not safe to use electrotherapy on cancerous cells or tumor tissues as the current that is produced from the device can trigger spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
- Carotid Sinus: Carotid sinus on the lateral part of the neck too should not be treated with electro stimulation therapy as may cause sudden increase in blood pressure and a drop in heart rate.
- Broken Skin: If the patient suffers from broken skin, it is advisable not to use electrotherapy as it may be uncomfortable as well as painful to the patient.
- Metal: It is extremely important to steer away from treating the patient near metal or the areas where the patient may have metal rods, braces or staples in the body. Topical ointments containing metal ions too should be avoided while using electrodes. According to experts, metal is a good conductor of electricity, thus when the electrodes are used over these areas, it causes injury and pain to the patient.
- Young or Disoriented People: Experts advise against the use of electrotherapy on disoriented people or young children as they would be unable to give coherent feedback. It is only suitable for people who are able to express accurately whether they are comfortable or not.
- Use of Narcotics: There are many patients who are under the influence of narcotic medications. Electrotherapy should not be used on such patients as they are unable to respond to stimuli and will be unable to give feedback.
- Heart Issues: One must not make use of electrotherapy on patients who have heart conditions and have placement of defibrillators or pace maker as it can interfere with the signals. It should also not be placed in the thoracic area of patients with heart conditions.
- Laryngeal Musculature: The laryngeal musculature is situated over the throat and experts suggest avoid the area of the throat while electro stimulation therapy. It is believed that the electrical currents from the equipment or modality can cause muscle spasms, leading to breathing difficulty.
- Pregnant Women: Since fetuses are susceptible to birth defects caused due to the electrical currents from electro therapy, it is advisable not to administer electrical stimulation in pregnant women.
Electrotherapy is therefore aimed at providing pain relief and reduced inflammation symptoms. But as stated above, it has its own set of contraindications which should be kept in mind by healthcare professionals. In case people having the above mentioned criteria are recommended for electro stimulation therapy, it can cause severe damage to the body, muscles and tissues.
Thus, physical therapists first evaluate the person thoroughly and study the patient’s past medical history in order to gain a better understanding. This will help the physical therapist from committing can problems to the patient.
Michelle Tyler is a freelance healthcare writer with more than 10 years experience in the healthcare communications field. A Certified Medical Assistant, she works with the Local Media group to research and report on the latest medical breakthroughs.