More and more patients are seeking alternative methods to treat their pain and inflammation from a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. Just like cold therapy machines, electrotherapy is a wonderfully effective and medication-free way to promote efficient recovery and pain relief. However, electrotherapy is only beneficial when used correctly - this means using this therapeutic device in line with its prescribed duration and frequency. 

If you’re ready to start electrotherapy but are unsure how long to use it, read on before proceeding! 

What is Electrotherapy Treatment? 

Electrotherapy is the gentle and non-invasive application of an electric current to affected body areas to accelerate healing and reduce swelling and pain. Using specialized therapeutic medical devices, portions of the body affected by various musculoskeletal issues can be specifically targeted for relief and stimulation.

History of Electrotherapy Treatment

Electrotherapy has a history of thousands of years of use - ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans recognized that electric fish could provide electric shocks that reduced pain in areas of the body. More scientific applications of electrotherapy advanced in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the first TENS unit being devised in 1971 by an Australian physical therapist named Jim Lamers. 

Why Use Electrotherapy Treatment?

Electrotherapy works dynamically in a variety of ways, with benefits such as: 

  • Sending out electrical impulses that block or interfere with the body's pain signals leading to reduced pain.
  • Helping release endorphins, specialized chemical messengers already in your body, naturally decreasing pain in select portions of the body.
  • Stimulating muscle tissue causing the tissue to contract and release, which helps to reduce atrophy.
  • Creating a heating effect within the body which improves circulation and stimulates healing.
  • Stimulating cells which reduce inflammation, promote collagen production, and inhibit pain.

Importance of Informed Usage

Several factors contribute to how long electrotherapy should be used. Before beginning any use of electrotherapy, it is critical to consult your doctor or healthcare provider. Following verbal and physical assessment by your doctor or healthcare provider, electrotherapy should always be used following their recommendations. 

Multiple different electrotherapy devices exist, and each type may affect the duration and frequency of use as they are all used for different reasons. The six main types of electrotherapy machines include: 

  1. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  2. Therapeutic Ultrasound
  3. Interferential
  4. Electroacupuncture
  5. Shockwave Therapy
  6. Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS)

How Long Should I Use Electrotherapy Treatment?

The most common form of electrotherapy is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It is delivered using a handheld, battery-powered device and is usually very safe with minimal complications. For most patients, TENS can be used for as long as is needed, though therapy often begins with several short periods of 5 to 20 minutes before incrementally increasing duration. It can be used several times throughout the day, but many specialists recommend only using it for 60 minutes before taking a break. 

Ultrasound therapy is often recommended for use in durations of 5, 10, and 15 minutes. Different from TENS units, ultrasound electrotherapy is usually used less frequently, with about 1-2 applications per day and 2-3 times per week. 

Interferential electrotherapy can be used in short sessions of 10-20 minutes, but for some specific conditions, it can be used up to an hour. Once again, depending on the patient’s condition, this electrotherapy is sometimes recommended to be used only once a day but sometimes up to three times daily. 

Electroacupuncture is usually only used in intervals of 10 minutes, once or twice a week for four weeks. 

Shockwave therapy has a common application duration of 3-6 minutes throughout at least three treatments but can even be used over an entire year. 

Electrical Muscle Stimulation often uses treatment durations of 30-60 minutes, with only one or two sessions per week. 

Can You Use Electrotherapy Too Much? 

Yes, it is indeed possible to use electrotherapy for too long or too frequent. Some electrotherapy methods, such as TENS, can be used much more frequently and, in some cases, as much as a patient needs (with breaks). Other electrotherapy methods should only strictly be used as directed by a doctor or healthcare professional. 

Is it Bad if You Do Not Use Electrotherapy Frequently Enough? 

There are no severe side effects from not using electrotherapy as frequently or as long as needed. The only downside is that you will not receive the full beneficial effects of electrotherapy. 

The Bottom Line: Use Electrotherapy Wisely 

Electrotherapy remains a very popular method for treating a plethora of musculoskeletal issues. When used correctly with the proper duration and frequency, thousands of patients have benefited from the ease and effectiveness of electrotherapy. 

Contact your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about whether you should be using electrotherapy and how best to optimize its integration as a therapy method, and if you have any questions regarding the proper operation of your electrotherapy device, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Medcom Group today! 


The Medcom Group, ltd. is not responsible for any complications arising from using the machines based on this article; patients should consult a healthcare professional for healthcare advice before performing electrotherapy on themselves or another individual.