The use of microcurrent electrical therapy and cranial electrotherapy stimulation in pain control

Kulkarni, Arun D. and Smith, Ray B. The use of microcurrent electrical therapy and cranial electrotherapy stimulation in pain control. Clinical Practice of Alternative Medicine. 2001; 2(2):99-102. Download Article

This open clinical study, conducted by Dr. Kulkarni, an anesthesiologist working with orthopedic surgeons at a pain clinic at Nav-Durga hospital near Bombay, India, was designed to assess the effectiveness of Alpha-Stim microcurrent electrical therapy (MET), cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) or a combination of both therapies. 20 patients who had been refractory to previous treatments completed informed consent and joined the study in the order that they presented at the first author’s hospital pain clinic. Ages ranged from 30 to 75 years (mean=44). 15 were females. Treatments were provided for one hour daily, Monday through Friday, for 3 weeks. No pain medications were taken during the study period. MET was given via probes or self-adhesive electrodes at 600 microamperes, while the current for CES was regulated by each patient, ranging from 100 to 300 microamperes. Pain was scored on an 11 point self rating VAS scale, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the most intense pain they had experienced to date.

Nine patients (45%) left the study early following reduction of their pain to a level between 0 and 1.5 on the 11 point scale. One had complete remission of her pain after only 2 treatments. Of 3 patients who received no relief, none returned for the final week of treatment. 7 patients (35%) who were treated with CES plus self-adhesive electrodes began at an average pain level of 7.7 (range 5-10) and ended with an average of 3.7 (range 0-10), or a 52% reduction in pain from an average of 12 days of treatment. 7 patients who were treated with CES plus probes fared even better beginning with a pain level of 7.1 (range 4-8) and ending at an average of 1.1 (range 1-6), or an 85% reduction of pain from an average of 8.1 days of treatment. 5 patients (25%) were treated with CES only. They experienced an average of 50% drop in their pain level from 4.4 (range 3-7) to 2.2 (range 0.5-5) with an average of 10.6 days of treatment. No negative side effects were reported. The authors concluded that MET and CES are effective treatments for chronic pain patients.

Table 1. Subject Characteristics, Treatment Parameters and Treatment Outcome
PtSexAgeType of Pain and DurationNr.
Rx Given*Pre-
1F30Bilateral scapular, 5 yrs15C,A70100%
2F30Radiating, neck to hand, 10 yrs15C,A8188%
3F62Rheum. arth., bilateral, knees, 4 months5C,P80100%
4F40Low back pain, 7 yrs15C3235%
5F35Radiating pain, C7 to right arm, 6 yrs12C,P80100%
6M41Back pain, T8, 1 year10C,A5180%
7F30L3 & L4 pain, 6 yrs12C,A80100%
8F46Low back, 2 yrs, both knees, 1 yr10C6350%
9M52Ankilosing spondilosis, 10 yrs, rheum. arth.10C,A8713%
10M40Back pain, 4 yrs15C,P70100%
11F48Fibromyalgia, 1 yr10C50.590%
12F41Fibromyalgia, 3 yrs8C50.590%
13F31Rheumatoid arth., rt leg to toe, 5 months10C,P41.563%
14M75Low back, knee, 7 yrs10C550%
15F40Pain, left heel, 1 yr10P660%
16F65Sciatica, 3 yrs8C,P7614%
17F42Rt knee pain, stiffness, 7 months2C,P80100%
18F42Cervical spondilosis, 2 yrs15C,A8713%
19M44Cervical spondilosis, 2 months5C,P80.594%
20F44Bilateral knee, osteo-arthritis, 4 yrs7C,A10100%
*P = Probes; C = CES; A = Self Adhesive Pads
** 10 Point VAS Scale