Additional Therapy Used By Chiropractors

When you think of chiropractic, you typically think of back problems and spinal adjustments. Though chiropractors do make adjustments to your spine, they have many tools available to them for many different problems. Let’s take a look at a few therapies used by chiropractors today.


A TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) unit is a small, battery-powered, portable machine that stimulates muscles in order to control pain. This treatment works best for those trying to reduce short-term (acute) pain, however, it has been used successfully to treat chronic pain. TENS units are adjustable and provide the right stimulation for your particular issue. Your chiropractor can adjust the intensity by controlling the voltage and the length of each pulse. The pads shown above, known as electrodes, are placed in different areas of your body depending on where you have the pain. The current then travels through your skin, stimulating specific nerve pathways. There is no need to worry about the electrical current because it is mild and will not provide any kind of shock. In fact, it will produce a mild tingling or massaging sensation.

The TENS unit works two different ways. The first is called the Gate Control Theory. In your spine is a neural gate that opens and closes depending on the signals it gets. When the gate is open, the signals make it to the brain. When it is closed, the signals do not make it to the brain. The TENS frequencies keep the gate close, keeping pain signals from reaching the brain.  The other way the TENS unit works is through the Endorphin Release Theory, where the electric stimulation causes the body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers that work much like morphine and block pain messages from reaching the brain. The good thing about endorphins is that you get the pain relief without the side effects of drugs.

The TENS unit is good for both acute pain and chronic pain conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Low back pain
  • Fibrositis/Myofascial pain syndromes
  • Tendinitis/Bursitis
  • Carpal Tunnel syndrome
  • Radiculopathy
  • Peripheral nerve injuries
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Post-operative pain
  • Spinal cord disorders
  • Pain in the terminally ill
  • Labor pain

Clinically, TENS has been widely used for patients with pain. It is a very safe and non-invasive technique.

Interferential Current (IFC)

IFC has been used in chiropractic for many years and has been proven to be very safe. The IFC machine produces electrical currents that pass through the affected area of the patient by placing two electrodes on the skin at a painful area or the spinal nerve root associated with a painful region. Alternating currents are applied and the currents rise and fall at different frequencies. These frequencies cause the body to produce endorphins, which stops the pain signals from reaching the brain.

Most people consider pain reduction something for the sheer benefit of the patient’s comfort. The truth, however, is that pain produces spasms and unnatural movement within the body that can lead to more injuries. How is IFC different from the TENS unit? The current tends to penetrate deeper. It also crisscrosses instead of going in a straight line. The crisscrossing current confuses the nerve endings and keeps them from adjusting to the treatment.

During treatment, the patient will feel a tingling sensation. This pins and needles feeling may continue for a short time after treatment ends.

The benefits of IFC are:

  1. Increase local blood flow to reduce swelling
  2. Increase blood flow to remove damaged tissue from the area
  3. Increase blood flow to promote healing in the injured area
  4. Stimulate local nerves to reduce pain
  5. Stimulate muscles to help them move more freely

Treatments typically last 10-14 sessions and each session is 10-15 minutes long. Your chiropractor will typically use IFC twice a week for the most effectiveness.

Electrical Muscle Stimulation

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) uses electrical impulses to create contractions in the muscles in the affected area causing increased blood circulation. EMS reproduces the effects of exercise and can prevent muscle atrophy after a prolonged injury where movement is inhibited. Research show EMS is used to help treat and even prevent many medical issues.

These include:

  • Carpal tunnel
  • Connective and dermal tissue repair
  • Increase in the range of motion in joints caused by such problems as arthritis and injury
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle tension associate with long periods of sitting, standing or lifting heavy objects
  • Post-surgical muscle regeneration
  • Sciatica
  • Sports Injuries
  • Tennis elbow
  • Ulcers and chronic wounds
  • Constant headaches
  • Numbness of limbs
  • Back pain

EMS feels like a gentle tingling or massaging sensation and treatments typically last from 10-15 minutes. Side effects are mild and are generally tenderness in the muscles or skin irritation.

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