9 Types of Electrical Stimulation Physical Therapy

People might experience trauma and accidents throughout their life. These misfortunes usually end up in an injury, illness, pain, and loss of functional mobility. At these times, healthcare providers may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapists utilize physical therapy to improve their patients’ ability to function. For instance, they use electrical stimulation.

Electrical stimulation is a common type of therapeutic treatment. It serves as a multipurpose medical practice in physical therapy. Electrical stimulation is often used to

  • Decrease pain.
  • Decrease inflammation.
  • Improve circulation.
  • Help muscles contract correctly.

Although electrical stimulation helps patients with their mobility after an injury or illness, it should not be the only treatment they receive when attending physical therapy.

This article will share information about different types of electrical stimulation and how they function to make you understand it better.

If you want to educate yourself more you can read our article about electrical stimulation.

Different Types of Electrical Stimulation

Here is a list of electrical stimulation types:

  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation)
  • IFC (Interferential Current Electrical Stimulation)
  • High Voltage Electrical Stimulation
  • EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation)
  • FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation)
  • NMES (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation)
  • Russian Electrical Stimulation
  • Galvanic Electrical Stimulation
  • Faradic Electrical Stimulation


Don’t let all these different names confuse you. They all refer to the same thing: using electricity to increase or decrease activity by applying electricity to the nervous system. However, these different names differentiate the various types of applying the current to different body parts for different reasons.

In general, the different names are assigned either according to the intended use or according to the characteristics of the electrical stimulation. Here are two examples:


EMS VS. Russian electrical stimulation

Both of these types are intended for athletic training. However, Russian stimulation sends sinusoidal waves, whereas EMS typically uses rectangular waveforms at lower frequencies.



Although both TENS and NMES units employ similar stimulation waveforms, TENS units are typically used for pain relief, while NMES units are used to retrain muscles after an injury.


TENS or Transcutaneous electrical muscle stimulation is the oldest form of muscle stimulation used by physical therapists for pain relief. TENS has become the most common form of electrical stimulation. In transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), a therapist uses a low voltage electrical current to relieve pain. An electrotherapy (TENS) unit is a battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses through electrodes attached to your skin. For example, during Stimtec2, therapists place electrodes at or near the nerves where the pain is located or at trigger points.



ArthritisFibromyalgiaKnee painBack pain
Neck painDiabetic neuropathyPelvic pain from periods or endometriosis



Interferential Current Electrical Stimulation uses two medium frequencies. Therapists use these frequencies carefully and try not to cause any significant side effects. The interferential stimulation like a Stim3 is the same as low-frequency treatment. AMF settings will affect the sensations induced by IFT. In the lower AMF, there is a tapping or beating sensation, while in the higher AMF, there is a tingling or buzzing sensation. The IFT will have the most impact in the affected area after approximately 10 to 15 minutes.



Muscle spasmEdemaHematomaChronic ligament lesion
RadiculopathyStress incontinenceChronic ligament lesion


High Voltage Electrical Stimulation

High Voltage Electrical Stimulation is essentially involved in deep wound healing. This type of electrical stimulation improves the time of the healing process up to three times. High Voltage Electrical Stimulation like Anagesic Pulser 439 Plus helps patients with their blood flow and improves replacing lost cells. This function reveals a completely new area for healing and processing.



Adhesive bursitisWound healingCervical sprainDegenerative Disc
EpicondylitisSprainPost-operative pain



Electrical muscle stimulation or EMS is exclusively used for facial muscle stimulation. This type of stimulation is effective in treating similar neurological disorders like Bell’s Palsy.

Electrical muscle stimulation like NMS-498 is considered a new technique to relieve pain and stress. In addition, it does not compromise the body’s metabolism. Therefore, EMS can be used for muscle strengthening, muscle conditioning, and weight management.



Physical rehabilitationWeight lossMuscle spasm relaxation
Restore the functionality lossAtrophy 



Functional Electrical Stimulation uses low electric currents required and stimulates the body to restore lost functionality. FES has proven itself useful in cases of paralysis or lost functionality. Therapists mostly use Functional Electrical Stimulation for people who have lost the capability to walk. FES helps patients gain bowel and bladder function. FES plays a major role for patients who cannot perform general functions well, such as breathing, grasping, transferring, standing, or walking.



Regaining the lost functionalityIn paralysis
Lost muscle functionality



Therapists apply neuromuscular electrical stimulation to a group of muscles. Repetitive contractions retrieve the lost functionality of the muscles and joints. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation has proven itself to be crucial for retraining and strengthening the weak urinary muscles.



IncontinenceMuscle rehabilitation
Muscle weaknessNeuromuscular re-education


Russian Electrical Stimulation

The Russian Electrical Stimulation consists of a medium frequency current. This modality is used to strengthen and re-educate the muscles. The electrical current is applied in alternating pulsed or burst mode. The International Journal of Rehabilitation and Science conducted a study that showed the effectiveness of Russian Electrical Stimulation in improving quadriceps strength in burn patients.



Muscle StrengtheningMuscle re-educationQuadriceps strengthening


Galvanic Electrical Stimulation

To apply the frequency of 30 pulses/min, therapists use an interrupted direct current. The current must be reduced if the duration increases the frequency. Galvanic Electrical Stimulation works on the neural endings. In this stimulation, the cathode electrode enhances the sensitivity of nerves. In the same way, the anode diminishes the pain. The stimulation disrupts the signals of pain in order to eliminate pain. These act on the denervated muscle to produce the effect.



AxonotmesisNeurotmesisImproving skin elasticity
Minimizing fine lines and wrinklesBoosting blood circulation & oxygen levels in the skin


Faradic Electrical Stimulation

Faradic Electrical Stimulation uses an interrupted direct current with a frequency of 50-100Hz. The pulse duration of this simulation ranges from 0.1 -1 millisecond. Faradic Electrical Stimulation is highly effective in innervated muscles. Patients usually feel a prickling sensation when they use this therapy. This is because the motor nerves react to this stimulation. Faradic Electrical Stimulation acts on innervated muscles. This fact differentiates Faradic from galvanic in terms of physiological effects.



Muscle re-educationPain relief in knee syndrome
Muscle atrophyRestoration of nutrient blood flow in the area treated


Let’s sum up …

Electrical Stimulations, such as EMS, NMES, IFC, and other types have helped plenty of people in times of injury, illness, pain, and loss of mobility. These methods of physical therapy apply electrical currencies to muscles and help them to recover and strengthen.

In this article, we talked about different types of electrical therapies, their indications, and examples.

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