Microcurrent and pain relief

February 27, 2012

Healing, Injury, Pain

The output of microcurrent devices is in the millionths of amp, or microamp range.

by Dr. Donald J. Bernard — 

There has been a trend in modern health care toward minimally invasive procedures. Nowhere is this trend better exemplified than in the growing popularity of microcurrent electrotherapy.

The ampere, or amp, is the common measurement unit of electron movement, or electricity as we know it best. In the past, all electrotherapy instruments delivered short pulses of current in thousandths of an amp, or milliamp range.

Such devices include TENS, interferential and high-volt pulsed galvanic stimulators. Because stimulation from these devices exceeds nerve firing thresholds, treatment produces a definite sensation, which can range from gentle tingling to intense muscle throbbing.

The output of microcurrent devices, on the other hand, is in the millionths of amp, or microamp range. The difference is in the way current is delivered to the body. But what is the significance of this difference?

Numerous studies have appeared in professional journals over the past several years documenting the clinical effects of direct or low frequency currents in the microamp range.

The first commercial device outputting microcurrent stimulation was used primarily for diagnostic purposes but was also used to apply therapeutic microcurrent stimulation to the body. Over the course of several years, the following effects of microcurrent were documented: reduction of inflammatory processes, pain reduction, stimulation to normal function of injured muscles and acceleration of wound healing.

A persistent problem in medicine and physical therapy has been pain reduction and the slow healing nature of injured muscles, nerves and discs. Presently, microcurrent is being utilized in the accelerated treatment of pain and enhancement of rehabilitative exercises.

Microcurrent therapy is applied through hands-on-point treatment, with probes or unattended pad placement over the area of pain or abnormal function. With the first method, brief bursts of low intensity, subsensational currents are applied to specific painful areas of the body, such as trigger points, muscle origins and insertions, and acupuncture points.

Total treatment time is vastly reduced, ranging from a few seconds up to several minutes per area, and typically, the result is immediate. For rehabilitative exercise, microcurrent pad stimulation is frequently applied in conjunction with joint motion to accelerate the rehabilitation of injured areas. It is also commonly used with stationary bicycles for knee rehabilitation, cervical traction units for neck rehabilitation or with range-of-motion techniques in low back injuries.

Microcurrent treatment is a refinement of traditional electrostimulation techniques that follow the trend of less invasive treatments. A vast amount of research supports the efficacy of microcurrent therapy, and the research is ongoing. Microcurrent is a step toward the future of pain management and rehabilitation.


Dr. Donald J. Bernard, B.S., D.C., F.I.A.C.A. is a board-certified chiropractor and acupuncturist at South Mountain Chiropractic in Chandler, Ariz. 480-759-8566.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

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