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By Alex Ward

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Interferential currents used clinically are sinusoidal AC with frequencies around 4 or 5 kHz. The Nemectrodyne interferential stimulator was the first on the market and the company continues to sucessfully market interferential units. More than two decades after the introduction of interferential currents, 'Russian currents' became popular, principally due to the claims made by a Russian physician, Yakov Kots, in the late 1970s. Kots claimed that kHz frequency AC, modulated at 50 Hz with a 1:1 duty cycle, could produce large strength gains in stimulated muscle.

By contrast, ELECTRICAL STIMULATION OF NERVE AND MUSCLE 87 if short duration pulses are used, much larger changes in intensity will be needed to recruit motor and pain fibres. 10b). Short duration pulses will also be capable of producing an effective motor response with minimum pain sensation. It is for this reason that modern electronic stimulators produce higher voltage, shorter duration pulses than their predecessors. A question arising from the foregoing discussion is whether very short pulses, around 2 to 10 µs duration, will give better discrimination with transcutaneous stimulation than, say, 20 µs pulses.

If the current flow is at right angles to the fibres, much higher stimulus intensities are required. The reason is that in order to produce an action potential, current must flow in across the fibre membrane at one Node of Ranvier, along the fibre and out at an adjacent node. The amount of current flow depends on the applied potential difference and the greatest potential difference will be produced between adjacent nodes if the current flow direction is parallel to the nerve fibre. A related idea is that action potentials will more readily be generated under the negative electrode (the cathode) than under the positive electrode (the anode).

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