Physical agent modalities (PAMs), such as the use of electrical stimulation, are used in hand & upper extremity therapy to prepare tissues to receive the best benefit of the therapeutic activities that follow (mobility, strengthening, manual therapy techniques). PAMs help
reduce swelling and inflammation
reduce pain and muscle spasm
decrease joint stiffness
improve scar mobility
enhance joint mobility and muscle performance
promote tissue healing.
Depending upon the goal of treatment, hand therapists can use a variety of electrical stimulation units to enhance rehab goas. An electrical stimulation modality is simply a piece of equipment that is designed to take ordinary electrical currents and convert them to produce a specific physiologic effect on the human body. Some of the more commonly used types of electrical stimulation applications include:
A TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) - uses an alternating current to stimulate sensory nerves which reduces pain.
A Galvanic Stimulater - uses alternating current to reduce swelling.
A NMES unit (Neuromuscular Electrical Stim) - uses electrical currents to create a stronger muscular contraction for strengthening or to reduce wasting or atrophy of the muscle.
An Iontophoresis unit - uses low voltage, direct current to drive a medication through the skin.