How Electric Current Can Help Relieve Pain And Promote Healing

interferential current therapy on patient

In this guide from Kinetic Spine and Sports in Weddington, NC, we explain how stimulation from electric current has been shown to provide pain relief and accelerate healing in sports medicine and physical therapy.

What Is Interferential Current Therapy?

Interferential current therapy, also abbreviated as ICT or IFC, is the most common form of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) used in physical therapy and rehabilitation centers to address chronic pain from injury, trauma, or surgery. As a strategy used to reduce pain in therapy and rehab facilities, ICT is non-invasive and drug-free. Interferential current therapy specifically utilizes higher frequency energy than other forms of EMS and can go past the surface of the skin to target the source of chronic pain without discomfort.

How Does Interferential Current Therapy Work?

ICT sends small amounts of electrical stimulation to damaged tissues in the body to encourage the body’s natural pain response. The increased blood flow and hormone production from this electrical muscle stimulation therapy also promote healing. The “interference” and “currents” in the name are two electrical currents of differing frequencies measuring approximately 4000 hertz and 400 hertz. While the healthcare provider guiding the session can control the exact frequencies, the idea is that the difference in frequencies creates interference, which is how the ICT electrical current can travel deep within nerves or muscle tissue for effective targeted treatment.

Patients who undergo interferential current therapy describe the sensation of this therapy as a “tingling” or “pins and needles” feeling. Compared to other types of electrical muscle stimulation, most patients report less discomfort and fewer side effects.

What Conditions Can ICT Treat?

IFC is an incredibly beneficial tool as a part of a pain management program and to address inflammation and swelling. Interferential current therapy can:

  • Be used to target the neck, shoulder, back, or knee and alleviate soreness and speed up recovery time

  • Provide relief from arthritis

  • Be used to address sports injuries, muscle spasms, joint damage, and edema (swelling resulting from excess fluids being trapped in body tissues)

  • Encourage joint mobility and increased range of motion

  • Be used to prevent atrophy of the muscles (thinning or loss of muscle tissue due to lack of use)

  • Be used to increase strength and muscle tone in athletes

  • Be used to stimulate inactive muscles after major reconstructive surgeries

  • Interferential current therapy also promotes the release of endorphins, which is your body’s natural anti-stress hormone that relieves pain and improves your sense of well-being.

Is Interferential Current Therapy Right For Me?

If you have chronic pain or a sports injury and are considering interferential current therapy, talk to your healthcare provider. Electrical muscle stimulation is not recommended for people with pacemakers, women who are pregnant, people with severe health conditions, or small children. ICT is also not recommended for patients with skin sensitivities. Electrical muscle stimulation is most effective when combined with other strategies in your physical therapy or rehabilitation program. Consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

For patients seeking pain relief and rehabilitation from sports injuries in the Weddington, North Carolina area, consider Kinetic Chiropractic and Sports Medicine. Kinetic Spine and Sports is proud to offer interferential electro-muscle stimulation and a number of other techniques, such as massage therapy. Call and request an appointment today at 704-849-0344.