Electrical stimulation uses an electrical current to cause a single muscle or a group of muscles to contract. By placing electrodes on the skin in various locations the physical therapist can recruit the appropriate muscle fibers. Contracting the muscle via electrical stimulation helps strengthen the affected muscle.
The physical therapist can change the current setting to allow for a forceful or gentle muscle contraction. Along with increasing muscle strength, the contraction of the muscle also promotes blood supply to the area that assists in healing.
A TENS unit stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It is a small battery operated machine that uses electrical transmission to decrease pain. Electrodes are applied to the affected area. The machine is turned on and an electrical current is sent through the electrodes.
A tingling sensation is felt in the underlying skin and muscle. This signal disrupts the pain signal that is being sent from the affected area to the surrounding nerves. By breaking this signal, the patient experiences less pain.