The Science

It’s not only important to be fully informed, Quality Assurance processes demand that we are. Apart from conducting our own clinical research, we regularly peer review the latest published papers and use noted, highly reputable experts within the industry to do so.

The Arc4Health has regulatory approval as a Class IIa medical device in the areas of pain management and tissue repair. The views expressed in the following documents reflect an entirely independent stance based on available evidence, rather than from a commercially oriented perspective from ARC Microtech.

The following information has been reviewed by published author Professor Tim Watson. He is currently employed on a fractional basis as Professor of Physiotherapy at the University of Hertfordshire. In addition to his academic research position, Tim works as a consultant in electrotherapy/electrophysical agents, working for various professional bodies, legal and insurance companies, manufacturers and retail groups undertaking work on a contract basis.

The views expressed in these documents are his own and reflect an entirely independent stance based on the available evidence, rather than from a commercially oriented perspective or under any influence by ARC Microtech Limited.

What Microcurrents In The Body Actually Are, What They Do And Why We Need Them

The normal physiological events in all tissues in the body incorporate a component of bioelectric control [1-5]. This is an endogenous electric control and the voltages and resulting currents that flow in the tissues are in the ‘micro’ and ‘sub-micro’ range [1, 6-8]. It is proposed that in many clinical presentations, the failure or underperformance of this control system makes a significant contribution to the aberrant physiological state of the tissue, or indeed, the resulting pathological process [3, 9, 10]. This is entirely in keeping with the result that would be expected following an equivalent disturbance in the biochemical control system.

The basic concept underpinning the use of Microcurrent Therapy as an externally applied (exogenous) energy is that it facilitates the restoration (normalisation) of the deficient or aberrant endogenous bioelectric signals [3, 9]. Put simply, if the internal currents are deficient or missing, their supplementation from outside the body helps the body/tissues to regain a normal (homeostatic) status [11, 12].

It is not suggested that the use of Microcurrent Therapy is the panacea for all illness, pathology or tissue response to injury, nor is it the only way in which these responses can be evoked. It is however an evidenced intervention and one which takes a ‘gentle’ approach – enabling the body to respond appropriately. It has sometimes been described as a means to enable ‘normalisation’ of the endogenous currents.

References

1. Charman RA. Bioelectricity and electrotherapy – towards a new paradigm? Part 1: the electric cell. Physiotherapy. 1990;76(9):503-8.
2. Oschman JL. Energy and the healing response. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2005;9(1):3-15.
3. Watson T. Electrical Properties of Tissues. In: Watson T, editor. Electrotherapy : Evidence Based Practice. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier; 2008. p. 37-52.
4. Betz WJ, Caldwell JH. Mapping electric currents around skeletal muscle with a vibrating probe.Journal of General Physiology. 1984;83:143-56.
5. Nuccitelli R. A role for endogenous electric fields in wound healing. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2003;58:1-26.
6. Barker AT. Measurement of direct currents in biological fluids. Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing. 1981;19:508-11.
7. Borgens RB. What is the role of naturally produced electric current in vertebrate regeneration and healing? International Review of Cytology. 1982;76:245-98.
8. Nuccitelli R. Endogenous ionic currents and DC electric fields in multicellular animal tissues. Bioelectromagnetics. 1992;Suppl 1:147-57.
9. Poltawski L, Watson T. Bioelectricity and microcurrent therapy for tissue healing – a narrative review.Physical Therapy Reviews. 2009;14(2):104-14.
10. Grodzinsky AJ, Hey LA. Skeletal tissue electromechanics and electrical stimulation of growth and remodeling. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology. 1983;2:18-22.
11. Becker RO. Cross Currents. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1990.
12. Watson T. Electrical Stimulation for Enhanced Wound Healing. In: Watson T, editor. Electrotherapy : Evidence Based Practice. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier; 2008. p. 329-46.

How The Body Uses Microcurrents In Relation To Injury, Repair And Pain

There is a normal level of bioelectric activity in all tissues [1, 2, 5, 7]. Following injury/disease, there is a disturbance of this normal level [1, 3, 8-12]. The departure from the norm acts as one of the stimuli for the body to respond to the injury/disease and mounts an appropriate response [12]. If the body fails to generate this stimulus (sometimes referred to as having a ‘flat battery’), then the tissue response to injury will be insufficient for optional repair/recovery [12].

The delivery of a microcurrent from outside the body acts as an energy source to enhance or to activate the normal repair response [6, 13-16]. The microcurrents themselves are not doing the healing – they are however stimulating the normal tissue response which is, for whatever reason, stalled or underperforming [4, 17]. It is proposed that this will not only enhance the repair sequence, but will indirectly diminish the pain experienced by the individual [6]. It is further proposed that the use of Microcurrent Therapy has a direct (overt) effect on pain perception. This is active without nerve stimulation (as would be the mechanism with other interventions such as TENS for example) [18-22].

In addition to the ability of Microcurrent Therapy to enhance the natural endogenous bioelectric activity, there is evidence that it increases the amount of ATP available in the stimulated tissue, further enhancing the energy available to the cells involved in repair [4, 23-25]. The bioelectric and ATP pathways are almost certainly not mutually exclusive, and most likely work in tandem and are co-supportive [4]. In order for Microcurrent Therapy to be effective, the logic and the evidence would support relatively long applications at low levels of stimulation. The clinical evidence appears to demonstrate stronger results with increasing hours of application – making this an application that suits the home (non-clinic) environment [26].

References

1. Watson T. Electrical Properties of Tissues. In: Watson T, editor. Electrotherapy : Evidence Based Practice. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier; 2008. p. 37-52.
2. Nuccitelli R. A role for endogenous electric fields in wound healing. Curr Top Dev Biol. 2003;58:1-26.
3. Borgens RB. What is the role of naturally produced electric current in vertebrate regeneration and healing? International Review of Cytology. 1982;76:245-98.
4. Poltawski L, Watson T. Bioelectricity and microcurrent therapy for tissue healing – a narrative review. Physical Therapy Reviews. 2009;14(2):104-14.
5. Becker RO. Cross Currents. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1990.
6. Watson T. Electrical Stimulation for Enhanced Wound Healing. In: Watson T, editor. Electrotherapy : Evidence Based Practice. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier; 2008. p. 329-46.
7. Rubinacci A, Brigatti L, Tessari L. A reference curve for axial bioelectric potentials in rabbit tibia. Bioelectromagnetics. 1984;5(2):193-202.
8. Becker RO. The electrical control of growth processes.Medical Times. 1967;95:657-69.
9. Becker RO. The basic biological data transmission and control system influenced by electrical forces. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1974;238:236-41.
10. Becker RO. The significance of bioelectric potentials. Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics. 1974;1:187-99.
11. Vanable J. Integumentary potentials and wound healing. In: Borgens R, editor. Electric Fields in Vertebrate Repair. New York: Alan Liss Inc; 1989. p. 171-224.
12. Black J. Electrical stimulation: Its role in growth, repair and remodelling of the musculoskeletal system. New York: Praeger; 1987.
13. Ciombor DM, Aaron RK. The role of electrical stimulation in bone repair. Foot Ankle Clin. 2005;10(4):579-93, vii.
14. Evans RD, Foltz D, Foltz K. Electrical stimulation with bone and wound healing. Clinics in Podiatric Medicine and Surgery. 2001;18(1):79-95, vi.
15. Wolcott LE, Wheeler PC, Hardwicke HM, Rowley BA. Accelerated healing of skin ulcer by electrotherapy: preliminary clinical results.South Med J. 1969;62(7):795-801.
16. Carley PJ, Wainapel SF. Electrotherapy for acceleration of wound healing: low intensity direct current. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1985;66(7):443-6.
17. Kloth LC. Electrical Stimulation Technologies for Wound Healing.Advances in Wound Care. 2014;3(2):81-90.
18. Akyuz G, Kenis O. Physical therapy modalities and rehabilitation techniques in the management of neuropathic pain. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2014;93(3):253-9.
19. Gabriel A, Sobota R, Gialich S, Maxwell GP. The use of Targeted MicroCurrent Therapy in postoperative pain management. Plast Surg Nurs. 2013;33(1):6-8; quiz 9-10.
20. Torres R, Gonzalez-Peña R, Arrizabalaga F, Casaña-Granell J, Alakhdar-Mohamara Y, Benítez-Martínez JC. Decrease in cervical pain using microcurrents. Disminución del dolor en cervicalgias mediante la aplicación de microcorrientes. 2011;14(2):48-52.
21. Lumiere RbK. Review of Frequency-Specific Microcurrent in Pain Management. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011;17(11):1091-2.
22. McMakin C. Nonpharmacologic treatment of neuropathic pain using frequency specific microcurrent. Pain Practitioner. 2010;20(3):68.
23. Cheng N, Van Hoof H, Bockx E, Hoogmartens MJ, Mulier JC, De Dijcker FJ, et al. The effects of electric currents on ATP generation, protein synthesis, and membrane transport of rat skin. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1982(171):264-72.
24. Funk RH, Monsees T, Ozkucur N. Electromagnetic effects – From cell biology to medicine. Prog Histochem Cytochem. 2009;43(4):177-264.
25. Funk RH, Monsees TK. Effects of electromagnetic fields on cells: physiological and therapeutical approaches and molecular mechanisms of interaction. A review. Cells Tissues Organs. 2006;182(2):59-78.
26. Poltawski L, Johnson M, Watson T. Microcurrent therapy in the management of chronic tennis elbow: pilot studies to optimize parameters. Physiother Res Int. 2012;17(3):157-66.

Evidence Of Microcurrent Therapy’s Effectiveness In Tissue Repair

A recent review of the published literature identified n=11 studies that were of sufficient quality to merit inclusion (7x RCTs; 2x experimental studies, not controlled; 1x case series and 1x comparative study) [1-11]. A total of 379 patients were involved in these trials with 66% being exposed to Microcurrent Therapy.

Microcurrent Therapy was deemed to be effective in 10 of the 11 publications (91%), employing 96% of all trial participants (n=363). The ineffective trial was reference 6, Ho et al,. (2007). The clinical conditions treated in these 10 studies included, 2x tennis elbow; 2x total knee arthroplasty (post-operative); achilles tendinopathy; groin strain; head/neck fibrosis; inflammation (lab-induced); plantar fasciitis and temporomandibular disorder.

Overall, in relation to clinical healing/repair issues, there is more supportive published evidence than evidence suggesting an ineffective treatment. Adverse events/effects reporting identifies no significant issues or risks. On balance, Microcurrent based therapy has supportive evidence of effectiveness across a wide range of clinical injury and repair presentations. The ‘stimulation’ parameters from the effective studies were identified in a dose/response analysis and fell into what is now considered to be an effective range.

References

1. Poltawski L, Johnson M, Watson T. Microcurrent therapy in the management of chronic tennis elbow: pilot studies to optimize parameters. Physiother Res Int. 2012;17(3):157-66.
2. Ammar TA. Microcurrent electrical nerve stimulation in tennis elbow. Bulletin of Faculty of Physical Therapy. 2011;16(2):9-15.
3. Chapman-Jones D, Hill D. Novel Microcurrent Treatment is More Effective than Conventional Therapy for Chronic Achilles Tendinopathy: Randomised comparative trial. Physiotherapy. 2002;88(8):471-80.
4. Cho M, Park R, Park S, Cho Y, Cheng G. The Effect of Microcurrent-Inducing Shoes on Fatigue and Pain in Middle-Aged People with Plantar Fascitis. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2007;19(2):165-70.
5. El-Husseini T, El-Kawy S, Shalaby H, El-Sebai M. Microcurrent skin patches for postoperative pain control in total knee arthroplasty: a pilot study. International Orthopaedics. 2007;31(2):229-33.
6. Ho LOL, Kwong WL, Cheing GLY. Effectiveness of microcurrent therapy in the management of lateral epicondylitis: a pilot study. Hong Kong Physiotherapy Journal. 2007;25:14-20.
7. Kogawa EM, Kato MT, Santos CN, Conti PC. Evaluation of the efficacy of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) and the microelectric neurostimulation (MENS) in the treatment of myogenic temporomandibular disorders: a randomized clinical trial. J Appl Oral Sci. 2005;13(3):280-5.
8. Lee JW, Yoon SW, Kim TH, Park SJ. The effects of microcurrents on inflammatory reaction induced by ultraviolet irradiation. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2011;23(4):693-6.
9. Lennox AJ, Shafer JP, Hatcher M, Beil J, Funder SJ. Pilot study of impedance-controlled microcurrent therapy for managing radiation-induced fibrosis in head-and-neck cancer patients. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002;54(1):23-34.
10. Rockstroh G, Schleicher W, Krummenauer F. Effectiveness of microcurrent therapy as a constituent of post-hospital rehabilitative treatment in patients after total knee alloarthroplasty – a randomized clinical trial. Rehabilitation (Stuttg). 2010;49(3):173-9.
11. Yuill EA, Pajaczkowski JA, Howitt SD. Conservative care of sports hernias within soccer players: a case series. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2012;16(4):540-8.

Evidence Of Microcurrent Therapy’s Effectiveness In Pain Management

A recent review of the published literature identified n=17 studies that were of sufficient quality to merit inclusion (8x RCTs; 3x case studies/case series; 2x cohort studies; 2x controlled studies; 1x cross over study and 1x retrospective analysis) [1-17]. Microcurrent Therapy was deemed effective in 13 of the 17 publications (76%), employing 95% of all trial participants (n=2335), who reported a significant effect in terms of pain relief and pain perception. The ineffective trials were references 1, 6, 7 and 17. The clinical conditions treated in these 17 studies included, 2x chronic lower back pain; 2x mixed chronic pain syndromes; 2x pain secondary to radiotherapy or cancer surgery; mixed chronic neuromuscular back and neck pain; carpal tunnel; diabetic neuropathy; chronic periodontitis; orthodontic pain and groin strain.

Since this review of the literature (2015), two additional pain relevant studies have been published, involving 118 patients with either chronic neck pain or lateral elbow tendinopathy. Both studies provided significant pain relief and are consistent with the other publications in this section. The majority of these publications reported no significant adverse or unwanted effects as a result of the application of Microcurrent Therapy. There were some reports of minor skin irritation in one publication, but it is important to note that participants in this study were wearing the device 24/7.

Overall, in relation to clinical pain issues, there is more supportive published evidence than evidence suggesting an ineffective treatment. On balance, Microcurrent based therapy has supportive evidence of effectiveness across a wide range of clinical pain presentations. The ‘stimulation’ parameters from the effective studies were identified in a dose/response analysis and fell into what is now considered to be an effective range.

References

1. Lee JW, Yoon SW, Kim TH, Park SJ. The effects of microcurrents on inflammatory reaction induced by ultraviolet irradiation. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2011;23(4):693-6.
2. Lennox AJ, Shafer JP, Hatcher M, Beil J, Funder SJ. Pilot study of impedance-controlled microcurrent therapy for managing radiation-induced fibrosis in head-and-neck cancer patients. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002;54(1):23-34.
3. Yuill EA, Pajaczkowski JA, Howitt SD. Conservative care of sports hernias within soccer players: a case series. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2012;16(4):540-8.
4. Atkinson M. Pain Ease microcurrent therapy treatment in subjects with period pain (dysmenorrhoea).
5. Bauer W. Electrical treatment of severe head and neck cancer pain. Arch Otolaryngol. 1983;109(6):382-3.
6. Gossrau G, Wahner M, Kuschke M, Konrad B, Reichmann H, Wiedemann B, et al. Microcurrent transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation in painful diabetic neuropathy: a randomized placebo-controlled study. Pain Med. 2011;12(6):953-60.
7. Johnson MI, Penny P, Sajawal MA. An examination of the analgesic effects of microcurrent electrical stimulation (MES) on cold-induced pain in healthy subjects. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 1997;13(4):293-301.
8. Koopman JS, Vrinten DH, van Wijck AJ. Efficacy of microcurrent therapy in the treatment of chronic nonspecific back pain: a pilot study. Clin J Pain. 2009;25(6):495-9.
9. Lerner FN, Kirsch DL. A double blind comparative study of micro-stimulation and placebo effect in short term treatment of the chronic back pain patient.ACA Journal of Chiropractic. 1981;15:101-6.
10. McMakin CR. Microcurrent therapy: a novel treatment method for chronic low back myofascial pain. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies. 2004;8(2):143-53.
11. Naeser MA, Hahn KA, Lieberman BE, Branco KF. Carpal tunnel syndrome pain treated with low-level laser and microamperes transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation: A controlled study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;83(7):978-88.
12. Noto K, Grant P. Comparative study of micro-amperage neural stimulation and conventional physical therapy modalities. online access. 2009.
13. Park RJ, Son H, Kim K, Kim S, Oh T. The effect of microcurrent electrical stimulation on the foot blood circulation and pain of diabetic neuropathy. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2011;23(3):515-8.
14. Puhar I, Kapudija A, Kasaj A, Willershausen B, Zafiropoulos GG, Bosnjak A, et al. Efficacy of electrical neuromuscular stimulation in the treatment of chronic periodontitis. Journal of Periodontal and Implant Science. 2011;41(3):117-22.
15. Roth PM, Thrash WJ. Effect of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for controlling pain associated with orthodontic tooth movement. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 1986;90(2):132-8.
16. Smith RB. Is microcurrent stimulation effective in pain management? An additional perspective. Am J Pain Manage. 2001;11(2):64-8.
17. Tan G, Monga T, Thornby J. Electromedicine. Efficacy of microcurrent electrical stimulation on pain severity, psychological distress, and disability. Am J Pain Manage. 2000;10(1):35-44.

Key Texts

The publications listed below might be considered some of the most pioneering and informative on the application and effectiveness of Microcurrent Therapy. This being said there are many hundreds of peer-reviewed publications relating to the use of Microcurrent Therapy, which can be accessed through relatively simple searches on Google ScholarPubMedResearchGate and other scientific search engines.

Electrical stimulation technologies for wound healing
Kloth, L.C., 2014.
Advances in wound care, 3(2), pp.81-90.

Harnessing the electric spark of life to cure skin wounds
Martin-Granados, C. and McCaig, C.D., 2014.
Advances in wound care, 3(2), pp.127-138.

The electrical response to injury: molecular mechanisms and wound healing
Reid, B. and Zhao, M., 2014.
Advances in wound care, 3(2), pp.184-201.

Bioelectricity and microcurrent therapy for tissue healing-a narrative review
Poltawski, L. and Watson, T., 2009.
Physical Therapy Reviews, 14(2), pp.104-114.

The use of microcurrent electrical therapy and cranial electrotherapy stimulation in pain control
Kulkarni, A.D. and Smith, R.B., 2001.
Clinical Practice of Alternative Medicine, 2, pp.99-103.

How Microcurrent Stimulation Produces ATP – One Mechanism
Bailey, S., 1999.
Dynamic Chiropractic, 17(18), p.6.

The basis for microcurrent electrical therapy in conventional medical practice
Mercola, J.M. and Kirsch, D.L., 1995.
Journal of Advancement in Medicine, 8(2), pp.107-120.

Please Contact Us if you believe we have missed out a particularly fundamental publication and we will do our best to get it added to the list.