What Is Interferential Therapy and How It Helps Neck Pain?

Physiotherapy plays major role in pain management as well as in rehabilitation conditions.

Some of the major health problems where physiotherapy provides good relief are sciatica, intervertebral disc problems, paralysis, stroke, cerebral palsy, facial palsy, bell’s palsy, cervical spondylosis, lumbar spondylosis, post traumatic rehabilitation, post surgical rehabilitation, etc.

Interferential Therapy for Pain
Interferential Therapy

Physiotherapy treatment has two major divisions, one is exercise and the other one is Electro therapy.

In case of Electro therapy there are many treatment options available for managing pain in any part of the body part.

Some of the major Electrotherapy treatment modalities which provides relief in pain are:

ultrasound, traction, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, wax treatment, infrared ray treatment, Interferential therapy, etc.

Among these various electro therapy treatment modalities for pain management, the best and highest prescribed treatment measure is Interferential Therapy or IFT therapy.

What Is Interferential Therapy?

Interferential therapy (IFT) – also called as Interferential current (IFC) therapy – uses mid-frequency electrical stimulus to remove muscle sprains, strains and spasms. When applied appropriately, this mid-frequency current waves creates a massaging effect on the affected area and muscles at intermittent levels.

This intermittent current stimulation causes production or secretion of endorphins and encephalins hormones which is found to be helpful in relieving the pain.

(Endorphins and encephalins hormones are considered as the natural analgesics which our body cells produce during painful conditions to reduce the pain)

The Interferential therapy is principally used:

  • To relieve the pain
  • To increase the blood flow mainly cutaneous and local blood flow
  • To stimulate the muscles so that the recuperation process will be fastened
  • To reduce swelling and edema of the bodily parts

In case of open wounds, cut injuries, infections, etc. the Interferential therapy should not be used as it may increase the problems.

Procedure of Interferential Therapy

How Does Interferential Therapy Work?

Basically four electrode pads are used in the Interferential therapy, out of which two of them are red colored and another two are blue. The four electrode pads are kept opposite to each other so that the current communicates at the center of the four electrode pads.

By this electrical communication the natural pain killing chemicals endorphins and encephalins gets secreted in good amount and is accumulated over the affected area which helps in reducing the painful sensation.

Modern Interferential therapy units comes with an inbuilt frequency modulations, timing adjustments, etc. The only thing therapist need to do with these Interferential machine is operating and monitoring the intensity levels.

By asking the patient they can increase the intensity of an interferential therapy unit maximum to their tolerable levels. Generally the time duration of Interferential therapy for a single part is maximum of 10 minutes.

Side Effects of Interferential Therapy

Overall, the Interferential therapy is a wonderful painless treatment option for reliving neck and back pain. Although it is one of the best non-addictive treatment options, it should not be used for long without any recommendation.

Side effects of interferential therapy are less known and only in very few cases temporary loss of concentration and drowsiness is felt. In certain cases irritation of the skin may also be felt, especially at the point where the electrodes are placed.

These symptoms are usually experienced after every treatment session, which may prolong for few hours. Most of the times these get cured after 1-2 days.

Due to the obvious reasons and minimal side effects use of these machines should be avoided on patients who are allergic to electrodes, gels or tapes. Direct contact of the electrodes on the skin part with conditions such as eczema and others should also be avoided.

IFT machines are also not recommended for the patients with pacemaker due to the safety concerns of the patients.

Interferential Therapy vs Tens: What Is The Difference?

TENS and IFT (or IFC) are the two common palliative methods for relieving unmanageable & severe chronic pain.

Both of these make use of electric currents and are considered to be effective in controlling the pain risk free in various painful conditions such as during post-operative and post-traumatic periods. Both IFT and Tens machines are portable, easy to carry and convenient to use.

Although both the terms are some times used in place of one another, there are evident differences between the machines and technology, based on their working and features.

Make use of stimulation of interferential electricity that mainly focuses at the intersection point of the electrodesStimulates the current generated to flow through its leads and electrodes focused on specific location on the body part or skin
Concentrate on blocking the pain message on peripheral nerve fibersTargets the sensory and motor nerve fibers for relieving the pain
Works at high frequency range up to 4000HzWorks at lower frequency range up to 125Hz
Works to relieve larger tissues and at greater depthsInffective for larger tissues and deep muscles
Delivers electric current comparatively easily and comfortably Less comfortable and effective than as compared to IFT
Highly effective in controlling pain and inflammation due to trauma and other conditions which involves softer tissues Meant for relieving only low risk pains such as back pain
Focuses on healing and controlling the pain by restoring the tissues Focuses mainly on relieving the pain

Overall, IFT therapy for neck and back pain is one of the most effective therapies which can help to cure the chronic pain in your body part.

IFT treatment therapy is now available in all physiotherapy as well as  pain management centers. Hence getting the treatment to get rid of your pain is much easier. The treatment is much affordable and worth trying out if you are experiencing painful neck, back and shoulders for long.

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