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Electrotherapy Current Waveforms Commonly Used in Physical Therapy

Updated on November 17, 2014

Waveforms Used in Stimulation Therapy


There are several different waveforms commonly produced by electrical stimulation equipment. These various waveforms are designed to target specific areas of the body and to provide customized forms of energy transfer that address specific therapy needs.

Stimulation Therapy Use in Healthcare

Electrical stimulation therapy is used to treat the muscle and other body tissues of patients who suffer from injuries, diseases, or other problems. Stimulation therapy is used for:

  • improving circulation
  • decreasing pain
  • improving muscle control
  • increasing muscle strength and tone
  • other specific conditions (e.g. as a treatment for unnatural sweating)

Waveforms Used in Electrotherapy

The Russian current waveform involves bursts and interburst intervals.
The Russian current waveform involves bursts and interburst intervals. | Source

Russian Current

Russian current is used for strengthening muscles and to re-educate muscle groups that have become debilitated due to injury or disease.

Interferential Current - IFC

Interferential current relieves pain. This kind of current is very common because patients find it to be one of the most comfortable of stimulation therapy treatments. Interferential current is also common because it can treat acute and chronic pain conditions.

Interferential Current (IFC)

Microcurrent Waveform

Microcurrent is used for healing body tissues. Microcurrent treatments are almost imperceptible by patients. This kind of treatment is often used in beauty treatments.

Microcurrent Waveform Used for Healing Body Tissues

High Voltage Current

High Voltage current is used mainly to increase circulation. This kind of waveform is also commonly used to relieve muscle spasms. The theory behind the use of high voltage current centers on the ability to achieve deeper tissue penetration. High voltage current was developed as a monophasic waveform that would overcome skin impedance to reach deeper into the body tissue.

High Voltage Current

Premodulated Current

Premodulated Current is essentially the same as interferential current. The difference with premod is that the mixing of frequencies is done prior to the current being delivered through the electrode. This set up is helpful for treating areas of the body where it is impractical to place the four electrodes required when using IFC.

Premod Current

Clinical Use of Electrotherapy Waveforms

Most electrotherapy equipment includes at least some combination of these waveforms. Physical therapists and other medical professionals receive significant education regarding which electrotherapy waveforms should be used for treating different ailments.

The range of current waveforms available in any particular clinic depends upon their expertise and target specialties. Some therapists are set up to use only one or two waveforms to treat narrow patient profiles, whereas other generalized clinics may offer stimulation therapy equipment that employs the waveforms discussed here in addition to several others.

Your Clinic

What stimulation waveform do you use most often in your clinic?

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