Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) is a therapeutic modality that uses low-level electrical currents to promote healing in a variety of health problems and conditions, such as pain, inflammation, and tissue repair.
Our office is proud to offer Frequency Specific Microcurrent as a therapeutic support for challenging and chronic pain related conditions, as well as general wellness support.
We use FSM in the office, and also have FSM available for home rental in conditions that qualify.
With FSM, a small, portable programmable electrical device delivers a sequence of frequencies that are meant to target certain types of tissues in a way that decreases pain and promotes healing.
More on how this healing may happen is found below.
Often, the first question people have when they first learn about FSM is how similar FSM to TENS is, as TENS is more well known. So before we go forward with FSM, let’s talk about how FSM and TENS are not the same thing.
Is Frequency Specific Microcurrent the same as TENS or TENS therapy?
FSM is like TENS in that both involve relatively low levels of electric current compared to other electrical stimulation therapies, and both are used with conditions that cause pain. Beyond that there are few similarities.
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation.
The electrical current used in TENS about 1,000x stronger than FSM. Which means,
- Where FSM often cannot be felt, TENS is meant to felt or perceived by the patient
- There are more contraindications with TENS than FSM due to the higher current
- The mechanism of action is different: TENS is believed to either stimulate endorphins to block pain, or blocking pain through distraction (pain sensory gating theory), whereas FSM may stimulate ATP production in cells and/or operate on resonance theory to stimulate healing
Are TENS and FSM used for the same conditions?
Overall, the list of common problems addressed by FSM is much longer than TENS.
According to authorities like Cleveland Clinic, TENS is commonly used for
- Chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia and regional pain like low back and pelvic pain
- Peripheral artery disease
- Neuropathies associated with diabetes, among other conditions
And according to Cleveland Clinic, Frequency Specific Microcurrent is commonly used for:
- Pain and tissue injury from burns, chronic fractures, shingles, and inflammatory arthritis
- Chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, and other chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes
- Spinal pains, including those associated with disc injury
- Joint and muscle pain due to osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis
- Sports injuries (sprains and strains)
- Kidney stone pain
- Headaches, concussions, and post-concussion symptoms
- Pain due to digestive problems, like irritable bowel syndrome
- Kidney stones
- Wound healing, among other issues
What does the patient feel and experience when using Frequency Specific Microcurrent?
The application of FSM from the patient’s perspective is relatively simple. In fact, patients can easily be trained to treat themselves under practitioner guidance.
Two electrodes are placed on the body near the body region or tissue to be targeted. The machine is turned on and the current is lowered or raised based on patient need. One or more frequency programs or progressions is chosen based on the patient’s condition.
The programs we use will generally run between 25 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the machine and the program chosen.
At no time during the program will the patient feel more than a very little tingle or possible itch near the electrodes. Most patients will feel nothing over the course of the treatment.
Most sit and relax during the FSM treatment, but it is possible to move and walk around, as the FSM is small and comes with a portable carrying case.
How much electricity is used in Frequency Specific Microcurrent?
FSM uses extremely low levels of electrical current, in the range of microamperes (millionths of an ampere). Think below the range of low voltage wiring meant for old telephone or alarm systems.
Applications to the face or head, with children, or with weakened individuals will be far less than 100 microamperes, whereas strong athletes may experience programs in the 200 to 300 microampere range.
In either case it should be emphasized that it would take 1000 micropamperes to reach a single ampere, which would create a strong electrical tingle associated with electricity.
What makes Frequency Specific Microcurrent “frequency specific?”
Most FSM programs typically use frequencies in the range of 1 Hz to 999 Hz, meaning the current cycles as slow as one time per second to almost 1,000 cycles per second.
The primary theory behind FSM is that the frequency of the current matters, and that even the progression of frequencies matter in terms of controlling pain and influencing healing.
Clinical experience and some journal evidence shows that certain conditions and body tissues respond to different tissue frequencies. That means that like many healing modalities, there is practitioner preference and choice for which frequencies will be used on which conditions.
Some FSM devices come with re-programmed frequency progressions, which are proprietary to the programmer.
Here at our practice, we use FSM devices produced by Inspirstar (IS0SLCD Stimulator) and programmed by Vanessa Howe, MSPT of HoweRT® with approximately 99 different frequency progressions.
These devices are dual-channel devices that deliver single or paired frequencies based on the program. Our clinical work with FSM is supported by the clinical guidance of HoweRT®.
Frequencies used by HoweRT® are published and accepted by the general community of established practitioners. The bulk of recent contributions to these lists have come from Dr. Charles McWilliams, who published a comprehensive list in Radiotherapy in Electroaccupuncture in 1994. Other contributors to the field date back as far as the early 1900s with Dr. Albert Abrams, who published early frequencies in very early medical journals.Vanessa LK Howe
Dr. Albert Abrams was among the early 20th century pioneers in the relationship between health and therapies based on electrical frequencies.
Vanessa Howe believes that programming behind the microcurrent device is what distinguishes various modern devices from each other, and from the electrical devices of the early 1900s.
HoweRT® Micro devices use complex programming based on Resonance Theory. There are a number of technical parameters that are controlled for; including timing, waveform, polarization and “ramping”. These parameters have been clinically developed to allow for advanced programming and much better clinical outcomes.Vanessa LK Howe
How does Frequency Specific Microcurrent reduce pain and stimulate healing?
There are several theories on how FSM works on the body.
One theory on how FSM works is called Resonance Theory (or Bio-resonance Theory.)
Resonance theory and Frequency Specific Microcurrent
According to resonance theory, each tissue and organ in the body has its own specific resonant frequency or frequency range. When the body’s tissues and organs are exposed to electrical frequencies that match their resonant frequency or frequencies, they absorb the energy and become more active and healthier. In this way, FSM may help to restore cellular function and promote healing by delivering specific frequencies to the body.
The devices programmed by HoweRT® draw on the principle of resonance theory to influence body healing.
atp production theory and frequency specific microcurrent
Another theory is that FSM stimulates the production of cellular ATP, increasing the health potential of the body.
ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate, and it is the main energy chemical of the cell.
One study on the use of FSM on fibroblasts (fibroblasts are the wound healing/connective tissue growing cells of the body) showed that FSM increased ATP production in the fibroblast, which would increase the overall energy reserve or activity of this tissue.
If that is the case, then FSM may increase ATP production in more than just fibroblast cells.
What other ways might frequency specific microcurrent work on the body?
FSM may also increase blood flow, increase local tissue oxygenation, reduce inflammation, and may influence the nervous system.
More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action of FSM, but clinical studies and case reports suggest that it can be an effective treatment option for a variety of conditions.
Is Frequency Specific Microcurrent a new form of therapy?
Yes, and no. FSM can be seen as a refinement of an older kind of technology.
Electrical stimulation devices have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various therapeutic applications, including pain management, muscle rehabilitation, and wound healing.
Electrical current devices have been used in healthcare in the United States since the early 1900s, largely focused on treating pain, paralysis, and muscle weakness. The early devices were relatively crude compared to current applications, and produced high levels of current that could be uncomfortable or even dangerous.
Over time, electrical current devices became more sophisticated and safer to use. In the 1950s and 1960s, electrical stimulation devices were developed to help restore muscle function in patients with paralysis or other neuromuscular disorders. These devices used electrical current to stimulate the muscles and improve strength and mobility. In the 1970s and 1980s, electrical stimulation devices began to be used more widely for pain management and wound healing.
The refinement of electrical pain control has progressed to the point that micro-sized electrical nerve stimulation machines can now be implanted near the spinal cord, or near other nerves of the body for the purposes of blocking pain signals, or even stimulating the body’s vagus nerve system.
Frequency Specific Microcurrent as a form of electrical therapy has its roots at the start of the 20th century, during those early years when a variety of practitioners were experimenting and cataloging the effects of low levels (micro levels) of electrical stimulation on the human body.
FSM in its current refinement has been an ongoing project for the past 30 years, benefiting many patient with all kinds of clinical problems.