Immediate therapeutic effect of interferential current therapy on spasticity, balance, and gait function in chronic stroke patients: a randomized control trial

Clin Rehabil. 2014 Sep;28(9):885-91. doi: 10.1177/0269215514523798. Epub 2014 Mar 7.


Objective: To determine whether a single trial of interferential current therapy (ICT) can immediately alleviate spasticity and improve balance and gait performance in patients with chronic stroke.

Design: Randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.

Setting: Inpatient rehabilitation in a local center.

Subjects: A total of 42 adult patients with chronic stroke with plantar flexor spasticity of the lower limb.

Intervention: The ICT group received a single 60-minute ICT stimulation of the gastrocnemius in conjunction with air-pump massage. In the placebo-ICT group, electrodes were placed and air-pump massage performed without electrical stimulation.

Main measures: After a single ICT application, spasticity was measured immediately using the Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS), and balance and functional gait performance were assessed using the following clinical tools: Functional Reach Test (FRT), Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Timed Up and Go Test (TUG), and 10-m Walk Test (10MWT).

Results: Gastrocnemius spasticity significantly decreased in the ICT group than in the placebo-ICT group (MAS: ICT vs placebo-ICT: 1.55±0.76 vs 0.40±0.50). The ICT group showed significantly greater improvement in balance and gait abilities than the placebo-ICT group (FRT: 2.62±1.21 vs 0.61±1.34, BBS: 1.75±1.52 vs 0.40±0.88, TUG: 6.07±6.11 vs 1.68±2.39, 10MWT: 7.02±7.02 vs 1.96±3.13). Spasticity correlated significantly with balance and gait abilities (P < 0.05).

Conclusion: A single trial of ICT is a useful intervention for immediately improving spasticity, balance, and gait abilities in chronic stroke patients, but not for long-term effects. Further study on the effects of repeated ICT is needed.

Keywords: Stroke; balance; gait; interferential current therapy (ICT); spasticity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / etiology
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Lower Extremity / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / rehabilitation*
  • Postural Balance*
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Sensation Disorders / etiology
  • Sensation Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*