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Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is a pain management technique, and as such, is part of an overall physical medicine treatment regimen. Electrotherapy is usually involved in the early treatment stages, especially right after an injury. Ice and heat therapy may be combined with electrotherapy to boost its pain-killing powers.

EMS normally involves placing small adhesive pads on the skin at various points on the body. EMS is generally not painful. Common types of EMS include:

  • Galvanic stimulation (GS) - High voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation has been used in acute low back pain to reduce muscle spasm and soft tissue edema (swelling). 
  • Radiofrequency rhizotomy - Normally used for chronic cases of facet joint syndrome, a degenerative condition in which joint cartilage wears thin, causing stiffness, inflammation, muscle spasms, and later osteoarthritis. This procedure applies heated radio-frequency waves to the joint's nerves that carry painful impulses.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - This is the most common type of electrical stimulation used today. TENS therapy is normally used to treat chronic, or long-term pain in the lower back. Small electrodes are placed inside an elastic-type belt worn around the lumbar region. 
  •  Interferential current (IFC) - This is a kind of TENS therapy in which high-frequency electrical impulses are introduced deep into the tissues near the center of the pain