What is the difference between milliampere and microampere?
Check our Resources section on electro-acupuncture.
While there are no full books on this topic, there are some very good partial chapters as well as many published journal articles and web sites. Most of the published information describes the use of EA for pain and the biochemical nature of the response of the central nervous system to EA stimulus, which has been exhaustively researched, though EA has many more uses then just pain control.
Read related materials, such as books on clinical electrotherapy (which uses electricity to treat with surface skin contacting TENS, and extrapolate to EA
Try different protocols, evaluate the results, and use what works
What is the difference between milliampere and microampere?
Milliampere or "milli", sometimes called "macro", signifies that the amount of electrical current being supplied by the device is of the milliampere level. Milli is a prefix for 1/1000, or .001. So one milliampere is .001 ampere, a small amount of electricity. (An ordinary light bulb uses about 1.0 ampere of electricity.) In normal usage, the machine supplies 1 milliampere or less to the acupuncture needles.
Microampere or "micro", refers to electrical current supplied at the microampere level, or 1/1,000,000 of an ampere. So one microampere is .000001 ampere, a very small amount of electricity, only 1/1000 the amount of normal milliampere stimulation.
How does the current work in the body?
The machine can supply milli or micro amounts of current to the body, but will the body accept it? The amount of current flowing in the tissue between two needles is determined by the resistance of the tissue between the two needles. The formula for this is V=I x R, or Voltage = Current x Resistance. If the pain threshold is reached at 20 volts, and the resistance of the tissue is 100,000 ohms, then the current flowing will be .2 milliamperes, or 200 microamperes.
It is interesting that although the milliampere electro-stimulator can give much more current than this, only .2 milliamps (and no more) will flow in the tissue at the pain threshold level of 20 volts. A resistance of the tissue of 100,000 ohms is not exceptionally high. Tissue resistance varies between about 20,000 and 1 or 2 million ohms, depending on tissue type and distance between needles.
To reach the true milliampere level of stimulation would require a high voltage level of about 20 volts at 20,000 ohms of resistance, a fairly high voltage with a very low resistance. This shows that most stimulation is probably below the milliampere range, even with the milliampere stimulation being applied.
Which should I use, milliampere current or microampere current?
There is little research reported on the comparison between the two modalities when used in electro-acupuncture stimulation with needles. The microcurrent uses a square wave stimulation, which could bring about unique physiological effects by itself. The milliampere stimulation is more like a modified square wave in the positive, and a spike wave in the negative.
We don’t know whether the same effects can be achieved with the low voltage use of milliampere current as with microcurrent stimulation. This would be a great research topic.
Acupuncturists report, on an anecdotal basis that microcurrent is very useful for many conditions, and prefer it for specific applications, such as pain, both acute and chronic. Many prefer to use it to tonify points, using a TCM treatment approach.
The research literature does report that microcurrent is capable of causing cells to synthesize ATP at a rate 1000 times more rapidly than milliampere current. This research was done with TENS pads but is probably applicable to needle stimulation as well.
Since anecdotal reporting on the advantages and efficacy of microcurrent are so common, it is probably useful to use microcurrent where beneficial until research provides more specific recommendations.
What are the contraindications for electro-acupuncture?
- Use with pacemakers (potential heart stoppage)
- Transcranial stimulation (epileptic possibility with 10 — 13 Hz.)
- No current across the spine, horizontally
- No stimulation across the chest region
- No stimulation over the neck region to prevent laryngospasm
- Profound analgesia induced by EAC puts patients at risk of self injury, must be advised or restricted from strenuous physical activity after treatment
- Use with imbedded neural stimulators
- Not to be used on lower body points in case of pregnancy, esp. during third trimester
- High frequency or high amplitude application may induce stress, which is contradicted in cases of hypertension
- EAC can over sedate older patients causing risk of falling asleep after treatment. · Patient should be driven to and from clinic.
- Excess EAC can produce tolerance by depleting central serotonin
What are the different uses for each frequency?
It is always important to consult reputable guides or teachers for clinical protocols. Generally, there are low (about 2 hz.) and high (about 100 hz.) clinical applications. Biochemical studies have demonstrated that different endorphins are released with low and high frequencies.
When do I use the Continuous, Discontinuous or Mixed modes?
It is important to consult many sources to understand the best possible clinical protocols. Mixed has the advantage of applying two separate frequencies to the body. The body and central nervous system have a tendency to habituate to a continual signal. By using mixed, at 2 and 5 hz., for example, the habituation can be lessened.
Do I use Pantheon MicroClips with the milliampere or microampere outlets?
Pantheon MicroClips may be used effectively with either type of current. The benefit of the MicroClips is their small size, _ that of normal alligator clips. They grab needles effectively, as they do not have the "teeth" found on alligator clips and won’t pull needles out of soft tissue (such as ear or face tissue) as a result of their weight.
Can I have just one needle connected to the electro-stimulator?
Needles must be connected to both the red and black alligator clip leads at the same time for any current to pass between the needles. Connect one needle to the black lead and the other to the red lead.
Sometimes my patients say they can't feel the needle. Why is that?
Often only one of the needles elicits a sensation. Since each needle is placed in different tissue, one needle may be in proximity to a nerve or sensitive tissue, while another may be near insensitive tissue or less electrically conductive tissue. The tissue sensitivity can be very different for each needle placement, but normally there will be some sensitivity at both needles.
What should I do if my patient can't feel either needle during electro-stimulation?
If the machine is working properly with the electrical leads correctly conducting the electricity and the patient does not feel anything, the electro-stimulator should only be turned up until you see slight movement of the needles or very slight muscular contractions. The sensation may not be present due to some pathology, such as lack of blood flow to the extremities, pain, trauma or paralysis, and the patient could sustain local injury if the electricity is turned to a high level of amplitude. Patients should be monitored every few minutes to assure their comfort and safety. In any case, this indicates caution must be used and electro-acupuncture may be contraindicated.
Can TENS pads be used with the 4-c, 6-c, or 8-c models?
TENS pads can be used with all three models. The TENS pads are best used with the milliampere outputs and the side selector switch set to TENS. The microcurrent outlets are optimized for use with needles and may not be effective with TENS pads applications. For more on this topic see Why Buy Pantheon Research Equipment?
Does the positioning of the red and black leads on the body make a difference?
It is generally thought to make a difference. Most practitioners place the red leads proximal (closer to the torso) and the black leads distal (away from the torso) on the extremities.
One acupuncturist said that he "places the black lead on the lower part of the body because the earth is ground, and the black lead is similar to ground, and the foot is on the ground." A more scientific view of this still needs study. Is more electrical current carried from the red lead to the black lead, or from black to red? Each brand of electro-acupuncture stimulator has a different waveform, and the optimal waveform is not yet known. It has been observed that during the positive half of the waveform, the current flows from the black to the red lead, and during the negative half of the waveform, the current flows from the red to the black lead. If the waveform is truly symmetrical biphasic with positive and negative portions of the waveform equal in size, there should be no net DC (direct current) flow in either direction. In other words, the current is equal in either direction, as it should be. (See discussions on waveform and electrolysis).
Does the positioning of the red and black leads then, in a biophysics sense, make a difference?
Probably not, but the body seems to exhibit a diode like effect where the flow from the proximal to the distal seems easier (with greater current flow) for a given waveform. This could be important for therapy but more study is needed. It may be best to maintain the conventional approach, putting the red lead proximally and the black lead distally until more research is available.
The machine creates an AC (alternating current) waveform from the DC (direct current) battery and this is applied to the body. This AC waveform has an amplitude between positive and negative 60 volts.
The battery will last longer at lower frequencies as in the following chart.
How do I use the facial probe?
Insert the cotton ends of the Q-Tips and screw into place. Saturate the cotton tips with water. If the facial probe is being used for wrinkles, massage the wrinkle with the moist Q-Tip from the middle of the wrinkle to its outer ends. This stimulates the skin around and within the wrinkle, stimulating collagen formation and increasing the health of the local tissue. The facial probe is also used for patients who are needle phobic, in patients with sensitivity, and with children. In these cases, the moist cotton probes are held in place on the same points needles would be. Both cotton ends must touch the body at the same time. The skin usually absorbs water, changing the conductivity of the skin so that after a few seconds, the electrical current flows more efficiently and the patient feels the electricity more. At this time it may be necessary for comfort to reduce the amplitude.
Which is the positive and which is the negative wire on the facial probes?
The positive wire has a white line on it. The negative wire has no line.
The most common problem we encounter is a low battery. Make sure the battery is good. You can change the battery or use the battery check function on the mode switch. Turn the mode switch to BATT, if the red light is on and bright, the battery should be good.
The second most common problem is with the alligator clip leads. When these are bad or broken (in other words, not conducting electricity) the machine won’t seem to work. We provide a clip lead tester on all equipment for you to diagnose and check your clip leads. Turn the mode switch to BATT (the red light should be on). Insert the lead wire into the Clip Lead Tester. The light should go off. Connect the two alligator clips to each other. The light should go back on. To further test the integrity of the leads, manipulate the leads while the clips are still connected to each other. The light should stay on. Otherwise there may be a short in the lead wires and they should be replaced.
We provide technical assistance during business hours to answer your questions about machine problems or performance. We can also repair any malfunctions.
How long is the equipment covered under warranty?
Pantheon Research products (except accessories) are covered under a one year warranty. We will fix any problem at no cost for parts or labor, within the warranty period.
Can I use the microcurrent on the 6c.Pro, 8c.Pro, and 12c.Pro with facial probes and TENS pads?
No, this is not effective.
There are two types of microcurrent waveforms. One is designed for maximum effectiveness and safety during acupuncture needle stimulation. This waveform is found in the 6c.Pro, 8c.Pro, and 12c.Pro. In order to make it safe for needle stimulation, the waveform is a positive/negative 10 volt square wave that has a pulse duration of only milliseconds. This feature allows safe needle stimulation without the problems of electrolysis. However, this feature also prevents effective applications when using facial probes as is often used for cosmetic purposes.
The second microcurrent waveform is used in classical physical therapy style microcurrent machines. Such machines include the Accutron Mentor, Monad Mensomatic, and the Pantheon Clinical Microcurrent Machine. Traditionally this waveform has been effectively used for over 20 years in professional applications which include: cosmetic facial treatment and physical therapy applications such as acute and chronic pain. Technically, this waveform consists of a positive/negative 70 volt square wave. The square wave is not a fast .4 millisecond duration pulse, but what is known as a 50% duty cycle square wave. What this means is that the electrical impulse is positive for 1/2 the electrical cycle and negative for the other half.
In practical terms, much more microcurrent electrical energy is in the second microcurrent waveform than is in the first. It is thus able to be used on the epidermis with Q-Tips style probes or TENS pads. Use of this waveform on acupuncture needles is not advised because of safety issues (electrolysis effect).
The first microcurrent waveform is safe and effective with needle stimulation, but not effective nor recommended for facial probes and TENS pads. Essentially, this waveform is not strong enough to stimulate tissues through the epidermis (skin).
Simplicity and Ease of Use: Analog machines are often simpler to use. Their design typically involves straightforward knobs and switches, making them user-friendly, especially for practitioners who prefer traditional methods or are not comfortable with digital interfaces.
Durability and Reliability: Analog devices are generally known for their durability. They often have fewer components that can malfunction compared to digital machines. This reliability can be crucial in a clinical setting where consistent performance is necessary.
Direct Control: Analog machines provide direct control over the output. The practitioner can adjust the intensity and frequency of the electrical pulses precisely and instantly, often through tactile knobs, which can be advantageous during treatment.
Feedback Sensation: Some practitioners prefer analog devices because they offer a more "hands-on" feel. The tactile feedback while adjusting the knobs can be important for fine-tuning the treatment according to patient response.