Microcurrent Therapy – An Overview

Francine St George, 2014

All cellular and intercellular communication is regulated chemically and electrically. This biological communication process is essential to the maintenance of most physiological processes and activity in the body. It is well known that injury, trauma or excessive exercise can alter this electro chemical balance. Damage to the cell wall can release pain producing substances such as histamine, bradykinine and lactic acid. We also know that with disease, poor nutrition and age we have more free radicals in our body causing an oxidative effect at a cellular level.

It has been shown that applying a specific biocurrent stimulates the production of ATP, which can restore intra/extracellular sodium, potassium and calcium balance and can result in improved oxygen levels in the body. The visible production and proliferation of new cells using Microcurrent Therapy (MCT) in wound healing also indicates repair of the cell membrane. It is thought that this membrane repair inhibits the release of pain producing substances and hence provides an explanation for the reduction in pain that is often also experienced using MCT.

‘In vitro, animal and human studies suggest there is unexplored potential for the application of microcurrents to a variety of musculoskeletal disorders’ (L.Poltawski, T.Watson 2009)


Microcurrent Devices

An ampere is the common measurement unit of electron movement past a fixed point over time. To date most of the electrotherapy available to Practitioners has provided current in the Milliamp (mA) range. These currents exceed nerve firing thresholds, producing a sensation ranging from gentle tingling to intense muscle pulsing or contractions. TENS, Interferential, Frequency Specific devices and high volt galvanic stimulators all work in this manner.

The output of microcurrent devices is in millionths of ampere, or microamp (uA) range, and is below nerve firing thresholds.  It has only been in the past 30 – 35 years that developments in electronics have permitted devices to produce currents in this range. The difference in the 2 currents is how they are administered. Devices in the mAmp range are administered in short bursts whereas uAmps can be delivered more continuously and are more akin to the levels that exist within the cell and the cell membrane.  It has been proposed that micro amp range is also much more similar to how acupuncture works in the body, particularly electrical stimulation on acupuncture points.


Further Reading

If you are interested in understanding how microcurrent treatment (MCT) works, I highly recommend you read a narrative article by Poltawski and Watson (2009) cited below. This provides a comprehensive summary of the research on this therapy to date and explains the mechanism of how MCT works on a cellular level.  The authors cover how MCT can accelerate wound and injury healing, improve the union of non- united fractures, potentially assist in the healing of tendinopathies and on a more fundamental level, explains how it can work as an antioxidant in the body.

Reference cited: Leon Poltawski and Tim Watson, “Bioelectricity and microcurrent therapy in tissue healing – a narrative review”, Physical therapy 2009