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Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy in the treatment of impairments of health and a conditions of abnormal functioning. [1] It is basically composed of the use of electric currents, referred to by the IEEE as "Tesla currents" [2], in therapeutic applications. While many of these procedures have been developed to alleviate physical illness some of them are of interest to psychologists.


Historically, in its first experiments by researchers, electrical stimulation was used to activate electrically excitable tissues and read muscle and nerves. Other experiments more than a century ago, by such pioneers as Nikola Tesla[3] [4], investigated the health benefits of this field (and what whould become known as medical diathermy). Today electrotherapy has developed into a whole area of diagnosis and treatment in physiotherapy. The various modern applications includes stimulation of tissue with the objective of healing or restoring a lost function.

Applications and fields

Various cells in the body are influenced by electricity, these include fibroblasts, macrophages, neutrophils and erythrocytes, along with bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. It is believed that stimulating these cells can promote healing in injured tissue.

Electrotherapy, in the form of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is increasingly used in the management of certain types of pain, although there is still much debate regarding its actual effectiveness. Some research has reported TENS to be as much as 65% effective in reducing pain in acute injuries.

Other forms of electrotherapy include Ultrasound (US), Pulsed Shortwave Diathermy (PSWD), Interferential Therapy (I/F), TECAR therapy, Laser Therapy and Combination Therapy.

Proponents of electrotherapy argue that the different modalities affect different tissues, e.g. ultrasound affects small areas such as ligaments and tendons and has no effect on muscles. Pulsed shortwave, however, can have a therapeutic effect on muscles.

List of procedures

See also

References and notes

  1. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "The IEEE standard dictionary of electrical and electronics terms". 6th ed. New York, N.Y., Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, c1997. IEEE Std 100-1996. ISBN 1559378336 [ed. Standards Coordinating Committee 10, Terms and Definitions; Jane Radatz, (chair)]
  2. IEEE, "The IEEE standard dictionary of electrical and electronics terms".
  3. Rhees, David J., Electricity - "The greatest of all doctors': An introduction to `high frequency oscillators for electro-therapeutic and other purposes". Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol. 87, no. 7, pp. 1277-1281. 1999 ISSN 0018-9219
  4. Tesla, Nikola, "High Frequency Oscillators for Electro-Therapeutic and Other Purposes". 1898-09-13. (ed., available from

Further readings

  • Watkins, Arthur Lancaster, "A manual of electrotherapy.". 2d ed., thoroughly rev. Philadelphia : Lea & Febiger, c1962. 272 p.
  • Scott, Bryan O., "The principles and practice of electrotherapy and actinotherapy". Springfield, Ill., C.C. Thomas, c1959. 314 p. LCCN 60004533 /L
  • Neuroelectric Conference (1969 : San Francisco, Calif.), " Neuroelectric research; electroneuroprosthesis, electroanesthesia and nonconvulsive electrotherapy". Editor, David V. Reynolds and Anita E. Sjoberg. Springfield, Ill., Thomas, 1971. LCCN 75115389 (ed. Selected papers presented at the 1969 Neuroelectric Conference, the second annual conference of the Neuroelectric Society.)

External links

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