Managing Pain with Microcurrent Stimulation
Published March 1995, in PT Today
Those of you who are currently using microcurrent stimulators are already aware of the remarkable effectiveness of treating pain patients using current below 1 milliamp. Microcurrent provides rapid and long lasting pain relief in a wide variety of pain syndromes. As recently as ten years ago, the emphasis in pain management began to shift towards the use of smaller, more biologically compatible currents which may have effects far beyond the simple blocking of pain perception. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and electrogalvanic stimulation are modalities which are familiar to most professionals involved in the practice of physical medicine.
With standard TENS, currents in the range of 20mA to as high as 120 mA are applied to block neuronal transmission of pain signals and stimulate the release of endorphins in chronic and acute pain patients. Microcurrent stimulators use much less current than any of the earlier electrical stimulators. In the early days of electrical stimulation, the doses of electricity applied to the patient were significantly higher than what today seems to be therapeutically desirable. While current levels in the neighborhood of 20 to 100 mA were, and still are common, it is only during the past 10 to 12 years that the rationale for using microcurrents, often less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the current levels available in the millicurrent devices, has become evident. To facilitate comparison between milliamp and microcurrent devices, microamp is one millionth of an ampere or one thousandth of a milliamp.
While the name microcurrent implies that a current level of less than 1 milliamp is all that is needed to create this modality, current level is not the only significant parameter. Frequency of modulation is also very important. The frequencies of stimulation and the electrical waveforms of treatment are also becoming more sophisticated and well defined as the science of electrotherapy approaches maturity. Much of the work establishing the frequencies that effectively stimulate the body was done in France by Paul Nogier MD. The most common frequencies used in Europe are multiples and fractions of 73 Hz, which they claim to be a primary resonant frequency of the body.
Recent advances in commercially available microcurrent stimulators have given us the first of a new generation of totally portable units. In 1989, MicroStim Incorporated developed a new waveform and and method for delivering microcurrent. In 1991, Dr. Joel S. Rossen was granted a US Patent (4,989,605) for the waveform used in my instruments, the MicroStim 100, MicroStim 100-2C, and the MicroStim 400. All three devices feature three simultaneous frequencies. These frequencies are: 1) 15,000 Hz which is used as a carrier to take the modulated frequency deep into the body for consistent and rapid pain relief. 2) A choice of modulated frequencies ranging from .3 Hz to 292 Hz. 3.) A .5Hz biphasic pulse.
Dr. Joel Rossen DVM