What is an Interferential Stimulator?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2018
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An interferential stimulator is an electrical nerve stimulation device used in pain management and conditions where such stimulation may benefit patients with circulatory problems. It works by delivering a low electric current deep into the muscles and nerves. It does not shock or hurt the patient, producing only a low buzzing, and can be used very effectively for management of certain medical conditions. Depending on the law in a nation where the patient lives, a prescription may be needed to purchase an interferential stimulator.

This device works with an interferential current, where two electrical currents at different frequencies cross each other, bringing stimulation deep into the body's tissues. It is often compared with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units, but works differently. This unit penetrates the body more deeply and can be more comfortable than a TENS unit in addition to providing better pain management and circulatory stimulation.


An interferential stimulator consists of a base unit with a control panel for adjusting the device, with leads attached to pads. The pads are fixed to various points on the body. Many come with a simple peelback sticker, allowing people to peel the backing from the pad and fix it where it needs to go. These devices cannot be used in people with electric medical devices like pacemakers. If a doctor thinks electrical stimulation will benefit a patient, the patient is usually provided with a session in the doctor's office to see if it is effective before a prescription is written for a device like an interferential stimulator.

In patients with chronic pain, using an interferential stimulator will block and confuse pain signals sent by the nerves, providing patients with relief. In combination with other pain management techniques, the patient will feel more comfortable. The device can be worn strapped to the body for people who want to engage in activities like working while stimulating the nerves, and people can also lie down for nerve stimulation sessions. Patients are instructed in use of the machine when it is prescribed.

For certain circulatory conditions, electrical stimulation may also be prescribed. In patients with these conditions, the electrical stimulation is designed to promote bloodflow, preventing damage to the extremities caused by limited blood supply. People with medical conditions associated with interruptions in bloodflow may benefit from electrical stimulation therapy, provided on a short- or long-term basis, depending on the needs of the patient.



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