- General

Carryover Pain Relief From Interferential Therapy is Not New, Only the Equipment Is

Today there is a great deal of “Medical Buzz” about the onset of carryover pain relief, also known as residual pain relief, after using portable interferential equipment for treatment of chronic pain. This is not a new phenomenon but has been going on for more than half a century and quite successfully. The “newness” is the same clinical results are occurring but without having to go to a clinic or hospital.


Interferential therapy has been used by physical therapists, chiropractors, pain clinics, physicians since 1953 with the same carryover pain relief results. It has been the mainstay of those medical professionals in treating patients suffering from chronic pain diseases. Some of the best results have been obtained for those who have been unable to find adequate treatments and they are successfully treated by “alternate”, non drug methods and interferential treatments are the mainstay for those treatments. These are the typical diagnoses that have been treated by interferential therapy:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Shingles
  • RSD – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sciatica
  • Chronic Low Back Pain
  • Post Herpetic Neuralgia
  • Neuralgia pain
  • Phantom Limb Pain
  • Headache pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Neck and Shoulder pain
  • Inflammatory pain
  • Multiple Sclerosis Pain

Many other pain conditions where the patient has been doped out on drugs or told “there is nothing else we can do”. Often the processes of rehabilitation, such as you see where one has suffered a “frozen shoulder”, are enhanced and healing increased by using interferential therapy in conjunction with doing the painful exercises. The interferential helps to overcome the pain created by the exercises and shortens the pain that follows after the exercises are over. None of this is new though.

Let me describe the process that has been going on and on for decades and is totally dependent upon interferential providing carryover pain relief.

1. The patient enters the Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Pain Clinic or Physician office. Generally at the time of entry the patient has been very uncomfortable due to pain. It has reached the point the patient needs help or it has reached the point the patient is tired of using drugs and not being able to live life due to the masking in the brain. The patient is not going to keep using the drugs but is now hurting and it’s to the point of being unbearable.

The health care practitioner will normally greet the patient and begin to either, if chiropractic, do a manipulation if indicated, or if Physical Therapy, apply warm moist heat and soft tissue massage or stretching. Most chronic pain patients have already tried surgery, injections, pills, and conventional treatments to no avail. They are looking for something that just might work.

After the practitioner has completed the initial treatment the chances are excellent the patient will then lay on a treatment table and begin a 12 to 20 minute interferential treatment. There is a large clinical machine beside the table and the practitioner will apply 2 to 4 self adhering electrodes to the patient. The machine is turned on with the instructions to the patient to tell the practitioner when the patient “feels the sensation”. The interferential machine is turned up till the patient declares it is feeling good to the patient and the pain has diminished. At this point the practitioner sets the timer on the interferential unit and will leave the room. The patient quietly lies on the table until the interferential machine stops treating. Once the machine stops then the patient in almost all cases actually feels better and the pain is either gone or severely diminished.

2. Now the “guessing game” begins. The patient, especially in the Chiropractic field, goes to the payment window and is asked to pay the bill. This is a crucial step in determining the efficacy of the interferential treatment. For many Chiropractic Physicians the service may not have been covered by insurance and the patient is paying out of pocket for the treatment.

If the treatment did not help the patient the patient will be:

1. Reluctant to pay the bill or,

2. Not come back for any future treatments

This is a critical moment for the patient and practitioner. In most cases due to the chronicity of the pain there will be follow up visits for care. The next appointment is also a guessing game. The guess is “when will the pain return” and a guess is made to have a return visit prior to the onset of pain, prevention is always the best course of action, or when will the patient be in so much pain an interferential treatment is needed. This isn’t something to ignore.

It will help to understand the patient now feels much better but the key is how long will the treatment last and the pain stay away. That is the carryover or residual pain relief period that interferential is famous for. That is also the guessing part of when to reschedule the return. This protocol is based on carryover pain relief and has been such for the last 60+ years clinically. It is also the proof of interferential therapy efficacy. The pain free period has to last at least till the patient pays the bill, and hopefully much longer so the patient will return!!!

It’s not only science but also patient success that matters. Did the interferential treatment work? If so the patient returns, if not,then good by or the next appointment is missed or not scheduled at all. That is the strength of interferential therapy over the decades. It has worked and worked well on the most difficult pain patients. The newness now is not that there is carryover pain relief, but with a patient being able to treat when needed with a portable interferential pain machine, then the carryover pain relief is getting extended over time. The newness of extended pain relief is what is and has emerged in the past 18 months.

It’s the advent of self treatment with interferential, without drugs, that is now challenging the understanding of the medical community.

Is there a physiological answer as to why longer periods of no, or reduced pain, is occurring?

It’s my contention there is.

As stated there is no surprise that interferential provides immediate and long lasting pain relief. What is surprising is how, with self treatments, the pain is prevented or treated and the treatments become less frequent.

There is an answer to the physiological side of electrical charges being used to heal. Nothing new as it’s well known anytime positive and negative charges of electricity are applied to the body there are very distinct chemical changes occurring. These charges have been used beneficially therapeutically for decades.

For years positive and negative charges have been used to promote bone healing, non union fractures, so the chemical and physiological changes are known. For many patients suffering with crush injuries amputation was the normal course until it was learned to electrically stimulate for unionization. The use of electricity would restart the process of the bones merging together and effecting a functionally stable reunion.

Equally impressive is the continuing use of electricity for healing bed sores, decubitus ulcers, which started with the use of the form of electricity known as pulsed galvanic stimulation. In the physical therapy profession small, portable electrical devices have been used to make bed sores fill in with tissue and eventually to close and heal completely.

Of course with bones and soft tissue repair the body must have the necessary nutrients to effect the changes electricity can do. Electrical charges alone will not suffice since the electricity initiates the body’s response to heal and the body requires the necessary nutrients and hydration to accomplish the task.

There is no doubt with the pain patient that there exists a chemical process that is causing the pain sensation to be created and transmitted to the brain. That process is indicative of sickness, since chronic pain of unsubstantiated cause, is unnatural and requires therapeutic healing to stop the injurious processes. Possibly the use of interferential with the positive and negative charges is chemically altering the pain stimulus area and the repeated usage of the interferential unit to stop and prevent pain, is altering the chemistry of the area. That alteration may become permanent and it is that permanency which is stopping the unnatural pain impulses. With preventive treatment the body is stopping the chemical changes before they can cause pain.

The electrical intervention is supporting the permanent change that we call carryover pain relief.