“What is e-Stim?” – A Common Physical Therapy Question

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Electrical stimulation, or E-stim for short, is a modality used in physical therapy treatment. It works by stimulating your muscles with a light and customizable level of electrical current. It may be a part of your treatment plan if your therapist believes it will help your recovery process. Typically, the modality is used if your injury/condition causes pain or limited mobility.

To get set up on stim, your physical therapist or medical professional will place electrodes (which look like sticky pads) on your skin surrounding the muscles of the treatment area. They will start the e-stim on a low frequency and slowly turn it up until it gets to a comfortable yet effective level. There are actually multiple types of e-stim, and they all have different uses and benefits. Here are some of the most common types you might see at physical therapy.


TENS stands for Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It helps decrease pain by altering signals of pain.


IFC stands for Inferential current. It is a lot like TENS, in that it helps improve your circulation and decrease pain. However, it’s different because it can be moved around to address different areas of pain and injury.

Russian Stimulation

Russian stimulation helps contract your muscle, so it is often used when your muscles are weak, such as after surgery or after an injury where you’ve had to take time off from activity.


Iontophoresis is a form of electric stimulation that helps apply medication into your skin and spread throughout your body. Inflammation, calcium deposits, and scar tissue are among the typical conditions treated with iontophoresis.


From ankle sprains to headaches, electric stimulation can be a very helpful addition to the treatment of your injury or pain. If you have additional questions about this modality or any other forms of treatment we would be happy to talk to you!

Thanks for reading! – OSI Physical Therapy

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