The video is in Italian with the possibility of selecting English subtitles

The principles of tecar therapy

Tecar therapy lies on 4 core principles. Let’s see what they are and why they’re so important.

These 4 principles are:

  1. Transferred energy
  2. Frequency
  3. Power
  4. Waveform

Transferred energy

To understand this concept, think of tecar therapy as baking a cake. If you bake a cake at 180 °C for 60 minutes, you’ll get a nice result. If you bake it at 360 °C for 30 minutes, you’ll end up with a cake that’s burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. If you bake it at 90 °C for 120 minutes, it won’t be good either.

In all these “baking sessions”, you will have transferred the same amount of energy but with very different results. Well, the same thing happens with our patients. If we use a lot of energy in a short time, we’ll get one result. If we transfer the same amount of energy in twice as much time, the outcome will be completely different.

To grasp this concept, think about music. Let’s say we’re treating a patient in our studio. Outside, a car passes by with the radio on full blast. We will undoubtedly notice that car because we hear the music, as it’s a low-frequency sound. We won’t be able to hear the high frequencies, only the low ones.

That’s because low frequencies penetrate better and can even pass through the car’s and the studio’s walls to reach our ears. High frequencies, on the other hand, will remain inside the car. Tecar therapy works in the same way. If we use a low frequency, we can go deeper, while with a high one, we remain at a more superficial level.

For example, a 300 kHz frequency is more suitable for treating coxarthrosis, but if we want to treat a scar, we’ll use a 1 MHz frequency.

Based on the tissue and condition we’re treating, we will have to adjust the power. Normally, it’s better not to increase the power in acute patients if we want to avoid a negative outcome. Higher power is more indicated for chronic conditions, as it allows for stimulating the tissues more intensely.

Waveform is the only parameter we cannot control because it depends on the quality of the equipment. Let’s continue with our “musical” examples. Imagine a € 60 violin and a Stradivari. Both instruments will play the same notes, but not in the same way. The timbre will make the difference. Similarly, if we have a tecar therapy unit with a high-quality waveform, the patient’s feeling and the outcome of the treatment will be much better. 

 It’s important to keep these principles in mind when we choose the equipment and treatment.

Tecar therapy has three main effects. Many know only one of its benefits, i.e. local hyperaemia.

The three effects are the following:

  1. Chemical
  2. Thermal 
  3. Mechanical

Chemical effect:

An inflammatory process alters cell polarity, making intracellular and extracellular exchanges more difficult. With tecar therapy, we use high-frequency current, which normalises cell polarity, making those exchanges easier.

Thermal effect

This is the best-known effect of tecar therapy. Tecar therapy produces local hyperaemia. This means that the area will be supplied with blood rich in nutrients, raising the local temperature and relaxing the muscles.

Mechanical effect

Tecar therapy stimulates tissues not only by transferring energy but also through the electrode’s mechanical action. Let’s not forget that we’re talking about diathermy by contact, and the electrode’s direct stimulation of the tissue is its distinctive feature. Moreover, this thermal effect produces local vasodilation to allow for increased blood flow to the area.

Together, these three effects of tecar therapy help activate a repairing and anti-inflammatory process, thanks to a washout effect (i.e. supplying the area with blood rich in nutrients and removing toxins), cell membrane normalisation, and mechanical stimulation.

Alessio Papaianopol
Physiotherapist and Expert in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders
Specialised in manual therapy
Specialised in spinal manipulation therapy (CERT-SMT)

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