Electric therapy: Do you feel the vibrations?
Interferential current therapy involves the use of electric currents to stimulate healing in chronically injured tissues within the body. The therapy is very similar, in ways, to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, except that some people tolerate this type of current better than the one used for TENS.
Physiomontreal.com has an extensive explanation of interferential current therapy, and also does a good job of footnoting sources. Unlike many complementary therapies, there is hard science backing up the claims made for IFC.
A typical treatment regimen will involved 12 sessions, lasting between 10 and 15 minutes each. The absolute maximum length for an IFC treatment is half an hour. The therapist will likely book your treatments at least twice a week for effectiveness. Less often than this is virtually useless. Usually, four electrodes supplied by two channels are used on the patient. They can be attached to the skin through a variety of methods.
Interferential current is effective in relieving pain and reducing swelling. According to the theory behind IFC, pain needs to be relieved because it produces spasms and unnatural movement within the body. These restrictions can lead to even more injuries. The IFC current has an analgesic effect - it deadens the pain - and a vasodilatory effect on the tissues, which means it causes the blood vessels to dilate or expand. Swelling is reduced because the permeability of the cells increases and venous and lymphatic flow are also improved.
The therapist and patient work together to determine current intensity. At the start of the IFC session, the current will be increased until the patient feels a "definite prickling." The sensation should pass after a minute, at which time the current is increased again until the patient can feel slight muscle contraction. The current is then backed off of that intensity slightly for the treatment.
An interesting study reported on places (on the human body) where IFC technicians choose to place their electrodes. Only 5 percent of technicians would choose to place the electrode on an acupuncture point to treat lower back pain. Most would place it on the painful area, with a significant number also choosing the spinal nerve root and peripheral nerves. Ten percent would place it on a trigger point. What's the significance of this? Well, IFC practitioners aren't beholden to ancient tradition; they know what works and they do it.