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Electrotherapy Indications and Contraindications


This article reviews the use of medical electrotherapy and summarizes the indications and contraindications associated with electrotherapy treatment. The indications and contraindications of electrotherapy listed here are referenced from the user manual for the Intelect Legend XT Therapy System.

Intelect Legend XT Therapy Machine

The Intelect Legend XT Electrotherapy Machine from Chattanooga is used by physical therapists to treat patients according to the indications listed here.


Electrotherapy (also known as electrical muscle stimulation) involves applying electrical energy to a patient to promote healing in muscle and other body tissues. Electrotherapy is most commonly used by physical therapists and chiropractors. The use of electrotherapy has been acknowledged by the American Physical Therapy as appropriate treatment for such applications as:

  • managing and reducing pain
  • helping with blood flow
  • repairing muscle and other body tissues
  • improving the effectiveness in delivering prescription drugs – electromotive drug administration (EMDA)

Electrotherapy Modalities

Electrotherapy can be administered using one or a combination of several different waveforms, the most common of which are:

  • Russian
  • TENS
  • High Voltage Pulsed Current (HVPC)
  • Interferential
  • Premodulated
  • Microcurrent

Indications of Electrotherapy

Indications of electrotherapy include:

  • Relaxing muscles spasms
  • Preventing or slowing tissue atrophy due to disuse
  • Increasing blood circulation
  • Re-educating muscles, such as in situations where a muscle injury limited its use
  • Maintaining or increasing range of motion

Indications for microcurrent, intereferential, premodulated, and TENS electrotherapy waveforms also include:

  • Treatment of symptomatic, chronic, intractable pain
  • Acute pain related to trauma
  • Acute pain related to surgery

Contraindications of Electrotherapy

Electrotherapy as described here should be used subject to these contraindications:

  • It should not be used to treat symptomatic local pain unless the cause of the pain has been clearly diagnosed.
  • Electrotherapy should not be used in areas of the body where cancerous lesions exist.
  • The treatment should not be applied in areas of the skin that are swollen, infected, or inflamed (e.g. varicose veins)
  • Patients suspected of having serious infectious diseases or diseases that require heat or fevers to be suppressed should not be treated with electrotherapy.
  • Electrotherapy current should not be applied to the anterior neck (carotid sinus) or through the head.
  • Women who are pregnant should avoid electrotherapy treatment, as safe use has not been established for pregnancy.
  • Patients with cardiac demand pacemakers should not be treated using powered muscle stimulators.
  • TENS waveforms should not be used on patients who have cardiac demand pacemakers.

For specific precautions and detailed information regarding the proper use of electrotherapy, please refer to the user manual for your electrotherapy device. We publish the user manual for the Intelect Legend XT Electrotherapy and Combination Therapy Systems as a convenience.

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