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Electrostimulation Therapies

Back Pain 244x206Electrostimulation (e-stim) therapy is a common treatment alternative to pharmacological pain management. It is helpful with both acute injuries and chronic pain. E-stim has also been shown to be supportive in the treatment of stress, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. In practice, I use e-stim therapy in a few different ways: milliampere electrostimulation with acupuncture needles or TENS pads; microcurrent electrostimulation with acupuncture needles; and cranial microcurrent electrostimulation with conductive ear clips. Please read on to learn more about each application of e-stim therapy, and what you can expect to feel. Many people find it to be a pleasant and relaxing experience, and overall a highly effective treatment for stress and pain management.
Milliampere Electrostimulation:
TENSThe use of e-stim with a milliampere current with acupuncture needles or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) pads can enhance both the duration and level of your pain relief. Depending on the frequency used, you may feel a “pulse” or experience muscle twitching in the area being treated, or you may feel a “buzzing sensation.” The current is adjusted through your feedback to be comfortable and tolerable. This method of e-stim therapy has been found to:

  • Provoke the release of opiod neurotranmitters, endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s own endogenous painkillers (according to scientific research, effects of treatment can be as strong as morphine after 30 minutes).
  • High frequency stimulation can be used to create a pain block, or “gate,” between your nerves and brain – this treatment is useful in cases of chronic pain where the brain needs to be retrained to appropriately perceive pain.
  • Interrupt cycles of painful muscles spasms, and can facilitate gains in joint range-of-motion, which are crucial to physical rehabilitation.
  • Normalize local blood flow and reduces swelling.
  • Increase cell metabolism, and stimulate tissue repair and regeneration.

Microcurrent Electrostimulation:
PantheonMicrocurrent e-stim is primarily used for tissue healing rather than pain control, but it can be another option for more sensitive people who find e-stim with a milliampere (stronger) current too stimulating or uncomfortable. Microcurrent is typically used with acupuncture needles; there is often a slight sensation, or no sensation at all, and it can be deeply relaxing.

e-stimThe use of e-stim with a microampere current has been shown to generate a strong tissue healing response, with a remarkable increase of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. ATP is the “energy currency” of our bodies – it fuels our cell’s metabolism. Virtually every cytological, histological and physiological process is ATP-mediated, which makes ATP clinically important. While the body, in theory, can produce all the ATP we need, the fact is that it doesn’t. Any healing process takes a great deal of ATP, and we can accelerate the healing process by supercharging our tissues with ATP through microcurrent stimulation. It can also help with injuries that have “hit a plateau” in healing, which is often due to insufficient ATP production.

Cranial Microcurrent Electrostimulation:
BrainwavesIn general, this is a great way to de-stress, and enhance the relaxing qualities of your acupuncture treatment. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation uses a microampere current, which is applied through the use of clips, typically attached to the earlobes. You may feel a slight “buzzing sensation,” or no sensation at all. This therapy is non-invasive, and depending upon the frequency used (see list below for associations), it encourages your mind to settle into therapeutic states. Through the production of mood and pain-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and endorphins, this treatment can be helpful in cases of headache, stress, insomnia, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and addiction. (Serious addiction and mood disorders are more appropriately treated by a licensed mental health professional, and this treatment should only be considered as an adjunctive therapy.)

  • Delta waves (0.1 – 4 Hz) – deep sleep, healing, and regeneration.
  • Theta waves (4 – 8 Hz) – meditative, “twilight,” and dream states (REM sleep).
  • Alpha waves (8 – 12 Hz) – relaxation, creativity, and stress reduction.
  • Low – Mid Beta waves (12 -20 Hz) – alertness, focus, and peak concentration.
  • Mid – High Beta waves (20 -40 Hz) – anxiety, nervousness, and overstimulation; this is of course avoided in treatment – in our day-to-day, simple deep breathing can help calm us down from this state.
  • Gamma waves (40 – 100 Hz) – deep states of consciousness, awareness, and positive emotions (as observed in popular studies of Tibetan monks and experienced meditators).

To always be considered…
E-stim CautionE-stim therapies are contraindicated for those with pacemakers, implanted neural stimulators, and cancer; with high blood pressure, e-stim is contraindicated for use with high frequencies or amplitudes; older individuals should be cautious as sedative effects may be heightened (e.g., no driving post-treatment); while e-stim therapy can be effective for inducing labor and reducing labor pains, it’s use is contraindicated in pregnancy; to avoid self-injury, all individuals should be cautious not to perform strenuous activities post-treatment as analgesic effects can be profound.