Electrotherapy is a treatment that reduces discomfort by using electricity to disrupt pain signals sent from the affected area to the brain. There are a couple of different therapies that use electricity in this way, but not all of them are effective. Here's what you need to know to help you choose the right treatment for you.

Electrotherapy Treatment Options

One of the most popular types of electrotherapy is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). In TENS therapy, a device is placed near the pain site that delivers continuous pulses of low-voltage electricity to stimulate the nerves. This, in turn, scrambles the pain signal sent to the brain, resulting in reducing a person's perception of discomfort.

TENS has been found to be effective for alleviating pain associated with diabetic neuropathy. Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Neurology, it doesn't work very well at treating chronic low-back pain. A study of medical literature involving the use of this treatment appears to confirm the AAN's findings.

Another type of electrotherapy, however, appears to offer more promise. Called Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET), this treatment actually uses heat from electricity to destroy pain receptors in the affected area. It is a minor surgical procedure that's typically performed on an outpatient basis.

Though this procedure is still being studied, it appears to be an effective means of treating low-back pain. In one study involving 93 patients, 86.52 percent of patients experienced improvements in their back pain after undergoing this treatment, with at least four of them becoming symptom free. About 80.90 percent maintained their results after a year and 73.91 percent continued to experience pain relief after 3 years.

Improving Efficacy

Electrotherapy treatments like TENS may not be effective by itself but could help alleviate back pain as part of a holistic program that involves a combination of therapies. For instance, TENS may work better if you also combine it with hot/cold therapy, exercise, massage, and/or physical therapy. If you are carrying a few extra pounds, losing the excess weight can reduce the stress on your back as well as improve the device's ability to reach the nerves sending out the pain signals.

If you think electrotherapy is a good option for you, it's best to consult with your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of this treatment option as well as to develop a treatment program that addresses your specific needs. For more information about this or other back pain management options, contact a specialist, such as at Pain Stop MD.