Low-Frequency Pulsed Current Versus Kilohertz-Frequency Alternating Current: A Scoping Literature Review

Published:December 13, 2017DOI:



      To compare the effectiveness of low-frequency pulsed current versus kilohertz-frequency alternating current in terms of evoked force, discomfort level, current intensity, and muscle fatigability; to discuss the physiological mechanisms of each neuromuscular electrical stimulation type; and to determine if kilohertz-frequency alternating current is better than low-frequency pulsed current for clinical treatment.

      Data Sources

      Articles were obtained from PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, MEDLINE, and SPORTSDiscus databases using the terms Russian current or kilohertz current or alternating current or pulsed current or Aussie current and torque or discomfort or fatigue or current intensity, and through citation tracking up to July 2017.

      Study Selection

      Two independent reviewers selected studies comparing the use of the 2 neuromuscular electrical stimulation currents. Studies describing maximal current intensity tolerated and the main effects of the 2 different current types on discomfort, muscle force, and fatigability were independently reviewed.

      Data Extraction

      Data were systematized according to (1) methodology; (2) electrical current characteristics; and (3) outcomes on discomfort level, evoked force, current intensity, and muscle fatigability.

      Data Synthesis

      The search revealed 15 articles comparing the 2 current types. Kilohertz-frequency alternated current generated equal or less force, similar discomfort, similar current intensity for maximal tolerated neuromuscular electrical stimulation, and more fatigue compared with low-frequency pulsed current. Similar submaximal levels of evoked force revealed higher discomfort and current intensity for kilohertz-frequency alternated current compared with low-frequency pulsed current.


      Available evidence does not support the idea that kilohertz-frequency alternated current is better than low-frequency pulsed current for strength training and rehabilitation.


      List of abbreviations:

      BP (biphasic), MP (monophasic), MVIC (maximal voluntary isometric contraction), NMES (neuromuscular electrical stimulation), PEDro (Physiotherapy Evidence Database), VAS (visual analog scale)
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