The electromedicine component of our Signature Elements Protocol. Direct current is delivered to neuromuscular hotspots via pads placed on the body, allowing the brain to rewire dysfunctional patterns.


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Brief History of Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation has a long history of use in medicine dating back to 46 A.D. when the Roman physician Largus found the electrical discharge of torpedo fishes useful in the treatment of pain produced by headache and gout. A rival Greek physician, Dioscorides, discounted the value of the torpedo fish for headache relief but did recommend its use in the treatment of hemorrhoids. In 1745, the Leyden jar and various sized electrostatic generators were used to treat angina pectoris, epilepsy, hemiplegia, kidney stones, and sciatica. Benjamin Franklin used an electrical device to treat successfully a young woman suffering from convulsive fits. In the late 1800's battery powered hydroelectric baths were used to treat chronic inflammation of the uterus while electrified athletic supporters were advertised for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in men. Fortunately, such an amusing early history of the simple beginnings of electrical stimulation did not prevent eventual development of a variety of useful therapeutic and rehabilitative applications of electrical stimulation. Over the centuries electrical stimulation has survived as a morality in the treatment of various medical disorders with its primary application being in the rehabilitation area. In recent history, a surge of new interest in electrical stimulation was been kindled by the work of a Russian sport scientist who reported remarkable muscle strength and endurance improvements in elite athletes. Yakov Kots presented his research on electric stimulation and strength improvements in 1977 at a Canadian-Soviet Exchange Symposium held at Concordia University in Montreal. Since then an explosion of new studies has been seen in both sport science and in medicine. Based upon the reported works of Kots and the present surge of new investigations, one could be misled as to the origin of electrical stimulation as a technique to increase muscle strength. Electric stimulation has been used as a technique to improve muscle strength for over a century. Bigelow reported in 1894, for example,the use of electrical stimulation on a young man for the purpose of increasing muscle strength. Employing a rapidly alternating sinusoidal induced current and a dynamometer for strength testing, Bigelow reported that the total lifting capacity of a patient increased from 4328 pounds to 4639 pounds after only 25 minutes of stimulation. In 1965, Massey et al. reported on the use of an Isotron electrical stimulator that emitted a high frequency current. Interestingly enough, the frequencies used by Massey et al. and the frequencies used by Bigelow in 1894 were in the same range of frequencies reported by Kots a being the most effective in strength development.

Kots claimed that electrical stimulation could produce a stronger muscular contraction than that possible via a maximal volitional effort. Such a claim attracted great attention in the exercise science community where optimal strength development is believed to be produced by overload training; that is, the muscle contraction must exceed some critical tension level for strength improvement to occur. If electrical stimulation could indeed produce a supernormal maximal contraction and activate more muscle fibers than a volitional contraction, it could constitute a super strength training technique. And, indeed, Kots presented data that 20 10-minute electrical stimulation sessions increased strength by 40 percent in athletes and also resulted in a decrease of subcutaneous fat under the stimulated area.

An earlier review by Kramer and Mendryk made note of the fact that different kinds of electrical stimulators were being employed with different wave forms, pulse frequencies, and maximum current capabilities. M. A. Cherepakhin noted back in 1977 that electrical stimulation might serve a function as a deconditioning preventive when used as tonic sensory protocol rather than as a strength training protocol. Boris B. Yegerov believed electrical stimulation might be used to combat some weightlessness effects not confined to muscle strength loss. Noting that low-voltage impulses could reduce vestibular vegetative reactions he stated that "...skeletal muscle under electrostimulation becomes the source of a strong stream of afferent impulses to the central nervous system. We are entitled to assume that the periodic repetition of such stimuli may counteract the vegetative reaction which takes place under conditions of weightlessness." Rehabilitation specialists know that the speed with which muscle atrophy occurs is so rapid that a neural factor must be operative.

Dr. Björn Nordenström’s, in his seminal book “Biologically Closed Electric Circuits”, provides compelling evidence that the human body is a biologically closed electrical system and when disease or injury occurs, there is a charge formed in the affected tissue. For healing to occur, this charge has to be eliminated, either by the body or an outside source of electrical current. The charge, if not dissipated, may form scar tissue leading to a permanent restriction in that muscle’s range of motion. The “charge of injury” theory also has roots in the work of Robert Becker (The Body Electric) and Nobel Laureates Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann. Becker determined that collagen becomes charged and forms scar tissue when physically abused and Nehr and Sakmann demonstrated that cells communicate with each other electrically. At injured sites, cells embedded in charged collagen have their communication disrupted, preventing the reduction of inflammation and edema.

Electrical stimulation, whether in combination with isometric contractions or alone, has a significant effect upon disuse atrophy. Perhaps the most instructive study might be that conducted by Gould et al. who compared isometric contraction, control, and electrically stimulated groups of ten subjects each who wore long-leg casts from groin to toes for 2 weeks. The electrically stimulated group suffered significantly less thigh muscle volume loss than the other groups, retained its calf volume (loss of 0.98 percent, nonsignificant) and actually increased in ankle dorsiflexion strength. These results may be related to the beneficial effects electrical stimulation has been shown to have upon muscle protein synthesis and quadriceps atrophy due to immobilization. Thus, high intensity electrical stimulation may not be essential to prevent a significant portion of disuse atrophy. There is even some limited evidence that electrical stimulation used as a tonic sensory protocol can maintain performance quality of some kinesthetic sense tasks. Walter Kroll’s (UMASS)work using patterned electrical stimulation on stroke paralysis, showed that thrice weekly sessions produced a return of somesthetic sense in hemiplegic limbs as well as return of significant movement capability in paralysis lasting up to 23 years. The use of electricity to produce a change in body tissue is directly related to the properties of the cell membrane. Electricity can stimulate ionic flow, and therefore action potentials, which result in activation of nerve pathways, muscle tissue, and chemical changes.

Three Major Types of Current Used in Electrical Stimulation (estim)

There are three basic waveforms used in commercial therapeutic electrical stimulation units: direct current, alternating current, and pulsed current.

  1. Direct Current (DC) - Galvanic
    • Continuous unidirectional flow of charged particles with a duration of at least 1 second.
    • One electrode is always the anode (+) and one is always the cathode (-) for the entire event.
    • There is a build-up of charge since it is moving in one direction causing a strong chemical effect on the tissue under the electrode
    • "High Volt", "HVGS", "ESTR", and "Iontophoresis" are clinical examples of direct current forms of estim
    • Note : Monophasic also refers to direct current, but it is typically pulsed, so the chemical effect is minimal
  2. Alternating Current (AC) - Biphasic
    • Continuous changing voltage level and direction; direction changes at least once per second.
    • Electrodes continuously alternate their polarity each cycle, therefore no build-up of charge under the electrodes
    • Often used in interferential or Russian commercial stimulators
    • Alternative current "waves" can be symmetrical or asymmetrical
    • "Russian", "NMES", "FES", and "TENS" are clinical examples of alternating current forms of estim
  3. Pulsed Current-Pulsed
    • Can be unidirectional (DC) or bidirectional (AC)
    • Flow of charged particles stops periodically for less than 1 second before the next event
    • Pulses can occur individually or in a series

Electrical Stimulation & Target Effects

A quick Google search for electrical stimulation will lead you to discover a lot of names, abbreviations, and acronyms, including:

  1. Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS)
  2. Russian electrical stimulation
  3. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES)
  4. Functional electrical stimulation (FES)
  5. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  6. and many more…

All of these names refer to the same basic thing – applying electricity to the body to increase or decrease activity in the nervous system. The different names come from applying the current in different ways, to different parts of the body, or for different reasons. Part of the problem is the fact that people will say they use a particular kind of electrical stimulation, like Russian electrical stimulation, without ever explaining what it really means.

Generally speaking, the different names reflect either the intended use of the electrical stimulation or the characteristics of the stimulation itself. For example, EMS and Russian electrical stimulation are both generally intended for athletic training, but Russian stimulation uses high frequency sinusoidal waveforms, whereas EMS typically uses lower frequency rectangular waveforms. As another example, TENS units are typically used for pain relief, while NMES units are used to retrain muscles after an injury, even though both TENS and NMES use similar stimulation waveforms.

Instead of trying to solve the problem of the name game, this post provides a brief explanation of the most common types of electrical stimulation and how they are used in therapy. Hopefully, this information will help you to avoid the pitfalls of the name game and choose the right therapeutic modality for your purposes.

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
    • Intended for temporary pain relief in sore and aching muscles or for symptomatic relief of chronic pain
    • Most pervasive type of electrical stimulation (a search for “TENS units” on brings up over 60,000 results)
    • Typically limited in functionality, but cheap as a result
  • Interferential current (IFC) electrical stimulation
    • Intended for symptomatic relief of acute, chronic, and post-traumatic or post-surgical pain
    • Similar to TENS, but generally more effective and powerful
    • Much less common than TENS, but more functional and more expensive
  • Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS)
    • Intended for strengthening muscles, increasing muscle size, improving muscular endurance, and accelerating muscle recovery
    • Also similar to TENS, but designed to make the muscles contract strongly
    • Typically used by athletes, especially for muscle recovery
  • Russian stimulation
    • Intended for strengthening muscles, increasing muscle size, improving muscular endurance, and accelerating muscle recovery
    • Similar to EMS, but uses high frequency, sinusoidal stimulation waveforms
    • Popularized in the 1970s when Russian researchers used EMS to enhance the training of Olympic athletes
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES)
    • Intended for relaxing muscle spasms, preventing muscle atrophy, increasing blood circulation, maintaining or increasing range of motion, and especially for re-educating the neuromuscular system
    • Essentially the same as EMS, but typically focused on therapeutic use (rehab) instead of athletic use (training)
  • Functional electrical stimulation (FES)
    • Intended for relaxing muscle spasms, preventing muscle atrophy, increasing blood circulation, maintaining or increasing range of motion, and especially for re-educating the neuromuscular system
    • Essentially the same as NMES, but especially effective for neurological rehabilitation, as the stimulation is automatically controlled to turn muscle contractions into functional movements
    • Usually incorporated into an exercise or bracing device to maximize functionality


The NEUBIE (Neuro-Bio-Electric Stimulator) possesses specific characteristics that are not found in any conventional therapeutic neuromuscular electrical stimulator (interferential, microcurrent, galvanic, Russian stim, iontophoresis). It uses pulsed direct current (DC) compounded with a high frequency double exponential, patented background waveform. This unique waveform produces minimal inhibitory protective muscle contractions allowing active range of motion during therapy and training. This permits eccentric (lengthening) contractions to occur which are critical to treatment. The NEUBIE signal is engineered to match the dynamics of the body’s own, internal signals. When DC current is sent, it’s interpreted the same way as if actual movement is taking place. The use direct current (DC) is important, because it has numerous, positive biological effects. This allows us to identify exactly where there are any flaws in the neurological control of movement, and retrain them. DC fields accelerate the body’s own physiological processes of healing, repair, and regeneration. Recent research suggests that DC current also promotes eccentric contractions, which are a major factor in effective rehabilitation. The NEUBIE is authorized for the following uses:

  • Muscle Re-education: Eliminating compensation patterns
  • Relaxation of muscle spasms: Reducing pain in the affected muscles
  • Increased local blood circulation: Shown to speed up healing
  • Prevention and retardation of disuse atrophy: Quickly builds muscle strength
  • Maintaining and increasing range of motion: Designed to increase your muscles ability to absorb force and prevent muscle related injury