A short presentation
Anyone who has ever had a tendinopathy, an accident, or an orthopaedic operation will most likely have already heard of it. Those who own rehabilitation centres or work in sport will, on the other hand, definitely know what we are talking about. Tecar is a medical technology widespread throughout Europe, used to aid the healing process after an accident.
Does it work or not? In this case the answer is, once again, it depends! But what does it depend on? Here things become complicated but we could simplify by saying: it depends on the characteristics of the equipment and, largely, on the experience and skill of the person using it.
To better understand this answer, let’s take a step back and focus on what this equipment may generate when applied to the human body: increased blood perfusion, vasodilation, increased in cell proliferation—all phenomena closely connected with both the inflammatory process and the repair of biological tissues.
The first important thing to understand is that these reactions, while influencing each other, can be stimulated with variable intensity, at different times and in smaller or larger areas depending on how the equipment is applied to the body according to the therapeutic objective. And this is one of the characteristics that make tecar technology particularly useful.
Let’s get to know tecar therapy with examples from everyday life
Treating a damaged body, or rather, aiding its natural capacity for self-repair, is not just like a quick fix job in the home. There are some extremely complex physiological processes involved in how the human body works. However, we can try and understand a few of them with examples taken from everyday life.
Imagine you are doing some DIY in the home and you have to use an electric drill for the work. The drill may have 4 functions: screw, unscrew, vibrate and drill. If you have to use screws to assemble the parts of a new wardrobe you can use function 1. If you are taking down an old shelf you can use number 2. If you need to remove dried glue from a surface you have number 3 at your disposal and if, on the other hand, you need to make a hole in the wall there is number 4.
The four functions are all useful, but would they still be useful if they all worked at the same time? Imagine: could you tighten a screw while your drill attachment was also vibrating? Obviously not.
It is probably better to opt for a model of electric drill that gives you the option of deciding which function to activate at any given moment. This will allow you to be faster and more accurate and, above all, it will prevent you from causing further harm. Tecar technology works just like this last drill.
What else could affect the quality of your DIY efforts? The more tools you have to hand, the better the chances are, probably, that you will obtain the desired results. But who tells you which tool to use when? What height to drill the holes at? Is it better to unscrew the old screws and then put in the new ones or vice versa? Which drill attachment should I use to remove the glue from the shelf without scratching the paint? Your experience and skill provide you with the answers. A good electric drill and a hammer do not automatically make you a good home repairman—you need to have gained experience in the field and have as much information as possible on how to use the tools at your disposal. And the same is true when using tecar technology; you must always avail of the services of a professional, who has in-depth knowledge of the equipment.
But what is inflammation?
Now imagine you wake up one nice sunny Sunday morning. While you are going to bathroom (to have a wee), you accidentally stub the little toe on your right foot against the corner of the bed. A classic!
No serious damage, but it hurts like crazy!
A few minutes go by… Pain, swelling, if you touch the toe it is hotter than the rest of your foot, the bit that hurts is also slightly reddened and if you try to move the toe, it hurts even more, so you prefer to keep it still.
The inflammatory process is already underway and what you are seeing and feeling are the five classic reactions that characterise this very useful process: rubor (redness), tumor (swelling), dolor (pain), calor (heat), and functio laesa (limited movement).
There is a lot of confusion surrounding inflammation, so let’s digress a moment here. We often hear adverts that talk about products that block inflammation or turn it off, as if it were an exclusively negative or harmful process. The truth is that phlogosis, more commonly known as inflammation, is a process that has evolved for millions of years in response to an aggression, having become what we know today as series of almost perfectly synchronised result-oriented events. The symptom that makes inflammation less than pleasant is definitely pain, something we would all like to get rid of as quickly as possible. Obviously, even pain has a fundamental function that, in the case of the little toe, is that of persuading the rest of the body to protect the damaged area through repairs activated internally. This close connection between pain and inflammation, and the natural desire to be free of this unpleasant symptom before anything else, has ended up with the focus of many medicines being concentrated on this, at times even to the detriment of a solution to the problem that originally caused the pain.
Inflammation is the first response by the immune system to infections and damaged tissues, and it protects the human body against these insults. Whatever the cause of the inflammatory response, its “purpose” is to remove or block the origin of the problem, allows the host to adapt to the anomalous condition and, finally, to restore the correct working and homeostasis of the tissue.
Let’s go back to our examples
Inflammation is therefore a process that is not just useful, but also necessary and desirable, even for solving your tiny, hypothetical morning accident above. After a few days, you go to a specialist and discover that the famous stubbing on the corner of the bed damaged some fibres in the surface transverse metatarsal ligament as well as a few surrounding capillary veins. The situation in the area concerned with the tissue damage can be compared to what would happen if rather violent weather had damaged a building. Let’s imagine the Marina Bay Hotel in Singapore…
Strong wind takes off part of the façade and scatters debris in the area around the building causing local traffic congestion, a few holes on the pavement around the hotel due to pieces of plaster and other bits of masonry that damage the ground as they fall. Fortunately no-one is hurt.
The CCTV system soon sends out a signal to the competent unit calling for intervention to cordon off the area and permit repair work to be carried out before things complicate any further. A few sirens aid prompt arrival of those responsible, barriers are erected to stop unauthorised personnel walking through the damaged area to prevent further accidents, specialist vehicles and workmen move in to remove the debris, and a few extra police officers are called in to check that nobody seizes this opportunity to commit a crime.
Over the next few days, scaffolding is put up and all the necessary equipment is brought in so that the workmen can carry out the repairs. Every day materials are supplied for the repair work, while site rubble is taken away to keep everything tidy. As the damage is gradually repaired, the no-go zone is reduced until, a few months later, the entire district gets back to its normal routine, to what, in the case of a human body, we call homeostasis.
And your painful little toe? The inflammatory response is an equally coordinated and even more complex process.
This is why it is now time to stop and take a close look at this topic from a technical point of view, in the second part of this article.
Like all the content we produce with the support of our technical committee, this article is not intended to give medical recommendations or be used as an alternative to a doctor’s opinion. It simply aims to provide initial information about issues linked to health and the technologies and programmes we develop. For an in-depth medical opinion, please see a doctor specialising in your problem.