Microcurrent is a low-level electrical current that is in the microampere (μA) range or one-millionth of an Ampere. Microcurrent therapy is a form of electrostimulation or neurostimulation.
Microcurrent therapy produces minute pulsating currents which mimic the currents generated in the body at the cellular level. It is known to stimulate cellular physiology and growth.1-2 Currents delivered by microcurrent devices are 1,000 times less intense than other electrical stimulation devices. Microcurrent stimulation is sub-sensory, meaning the current flow is so faint that the recipient of the treatment should feel no “sensation”. Although there is not enough current to stimulate the sensory receptors, it penetrates cells, restoring the natural bioelectricity after an injury.
Microcurrent reduces the chance of burns and tissue damage. Published studies by Cheng states microcurrent less than 5000µA (5mA) may be effective for increasing the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the energy that fuels all biochemical functions in the body whereas a current greater than 5000µA (5mA) may cause decreased ATP.3
How Microcurrent Therapy Works
It has been theorized that healthy tissue is the result of the direct flow of electrical current throughout the body. Electrical balance is disrupted when the body is injured at a particular site, causing the electrical current to change course and lose the ability to communicate with the rest of the body. Microcurrent therapy will realign the flow and aid in tissue repair.4
Each cell in the body has its own specific frequency, which may be disrupted by injury or disease. Microcurrent therapy simply restores normal frequencies within the cells, resulting in remarkable improvements in inflammation and function.
Microcurrent treatment works on the “Arndt-Shultz Law” (Figure on the right)5 which states that a weak stimuli accelerates physiological activity, and medium to strong stimuli inhibits or even halts physiological activity. As such, a very low intensity is applied during a treatment. Current applied at high intensity has been known to cause tissue atrophy and skin burns.
The intensity of the current determines the strength of a muscle contraction or sensory effect. High intensities of current will transpose further into the tissue and retard nerve response.
Graphical Representation of the Arndt-Shultz Law
Contraindications of Microcurrent
Microcurrent is NOT a treatment option in the following situations:
- Pregnancy, where the therapeutic current would need to pass through a pregnant uterus because electrical stimulation can affect the endocrine control systems and can theoretically cause miscarriage, although this has never been reported.
- Patients with electronic implants, such as with demand-type cardiac pacemakers.
- Cancer patients, as microcurrent will boost ATP in cancer cells hence boost growth of tumour. Treatment risks are very rare with this therapy.
- Becker, RO., Selden, G. The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life. Morrow, 1985.
- Poltawski, L., Watson, T. Bioelectricity and microcurrent therapy for tissue healing: A narrative review. Rehab Med. 2010; 14:3, 42–52.
- Cheng, Ngok, M.d., et al., The effects of electric currents on ATP generation, protein synthesis, and membrane transport in rat skin, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, Number 171, November-December 1982.
- Chan, HK. Fung, DT., Ng, GY. Effects of Low-Voltage Microamperage Stimulation on Tendon Healing in Rats. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2007; 37:7, 399-403.
- Watson T. Electrotherapeutic Windows. http://www.electrotherapy.org/modality/key-concepts-in-electrotherapy. Published August 21, 2000.