How Electrical Stimulation Closes The Gate On Your Pain
By Jon Diamond, DPT

Have you ever stubbed your toe and then rubbed it to help ease the pain?

If you have, you've demonstrated the concept of the Gate Theory. The Gate Theory states that your brain can only interpret one sensation at a time coming from a particular body part. So by rubbing your toe you're intercepting the pain stimulus with the sensation of rubbing.

It's this same theory that's put to use when we use electrical stimulation, or stim, as part of your treatment routine. We attach two pads near the muscle, joint or tendon where you're feeling pain. The pads produce an electrical current that sends a tingling sensation to the brain, temporarily relieving your pain.


Don't leave with more pain than you came in with.

Most times we'll use stim at the end of your treatment. Since we're working on tissue or muscles that are injured, we don't want you to leave with more pain than you came in with. So we set you up with stim and ice so you can leave feeling less pain. The ice reduces any swelling while the stim works on the pain.


But what if you come to the office in pain?

Let's say you have a back injury and performing your exercise routine proves too painful. This is a situation where we may put you on stim before your treatment. After having an stim session the pain is lessoned to a degree that you're able to do exercises to help strengthen and improve your condition. These are exercises you wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.


This is why stim is a nice adjunct to therapy

It's important to note that stim is just a temporary fix. It should only be used as a part of a full course of treatment. It helps alleviate pain so you can function properly to do the exercises and treatments that help you achieve desirable results.


There are some times you wouldn't want to use stim

You wouldn't want to use it if you had a pacemaker, or on big blood centers to the brain like an artery. Never on the eyes or over the belly of a pregnant woman. When it comes to spinal injuries the pads should be placed on the side of the spine not directly on it because it could negatively affect the spinal fluid.


Here's what you should remember:

  • Stim temporarily relieves pain so you can perform your daily activities and exercises to improve your condition
  • Stim should be used in conjunction with full treatment. Without treatment you will not improve your condition

Now you know why we use stim as part of your treatment routine. It helps us take care of those injuries a bit more serious than a stubbed toe. And helps close the gate on pain so you can move forward to recovery.