5 Most Common Electrotherapy Mistakes
1. Too much salt in your saline solution
Adding salt to water significantly increases the conductivity of it. Clearly the more salt, the more conductive it gets?! That is true, however when you add too much salt, you get spots of high concentration on your electrodes where most of the current goes. Often the current concentrates at the edge of the sponge, and for high currents this can cause pain or even burning! If you wish to make your own solution, you only need a tiny amount (about 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1.5 cups). Alternatively you can buy contact lens solution, which is often 0.9% saline. Also remember that water evaporates, but not salt. So if you don’t wash your sponges, salt will start building in them until they start to feel uncomfortable.
2. Current set too high
It may make sense that raising the current intensity would boost the effectiveness of stimulation. Not necessarily. According to one study on CES, the current intensity has less to do with the effects than the frequency of stimulation. A current that is too high will just make you dizzy and nauseous. If you want more of an effect, stimulate for longer, but no longer than 40 minutes or the treatment can be counterproductive.
3. Wrong time, wrong place…
Electostimulators often come in small neat packages that allow you to take them anywhere and do things while you are wearing them. This is great, however be cautious about using this outside the home. Never do this before or while you are driving or you could literally kill someone. Don’t drink alcohol whilst using this for obvious reasons. Any exercise, heavy lifting or any other activity which would raise your heart rate is strongly unrecommended. On the one hand your device is attempting to put you in a sleepy/meditative state, whilst on the other hand you are pumping blood around your body and making yourself more alert. The result? You will feel very unwell for at least the rest of the day/night and it will probably put you off further treatment.
Electrotherapy works to help you feel calm and relaxed. It is best to use this when you are winding down for the day e.g. listening to music, watching a film or reading a book. About 3 hours before sleep is best and in a warm, relaxed environment. It is not a productive, multitasking tool that you wear at work, in the gym or in the car.
4. Too much or too little water/saline
Leaving your sponge electrodes saturated with water will not only make your skin wet, it will also make your hair wet, face wet and clothes wet. After saturating your sponges with water, squeeze them gently to drain excess water. This will provide a sufficiently moist environment for electricity flow, whilst also keeping you mostly dry and comfortable. Always soak sponges before squeezing, rather than dripping water on the sponge. Too little water will lead to dry areas of the sponge and ‘hot’ spots in the wet areas leading to similar burning effects as with too much salt.
5. Not replacing your sponges
Good quality sponges, should last a fair amount of time. With regular cleaning, you can probably get a few weeks out of them. However, they must be replaced for important reasons. Firstly, when you use these sponges, oil and microbes from your skin are absorbed into the sponge. If these sponges are made out of cellulose (an organic material) they will start to biodegrade over time. Wet sponges are an ideal place for bacteria to grow and thrive, like a damp household cloth. When you do electrotherapy, there is a chance that the electricity will break the skin and any microbes that are on the electrodes will be free to enter. On top of this, the sponges start to becomes less conductive and absorbent, leading to nasty hot spots.