Renowned veterinarian Dr. Ava Frick was recently asked by another veterinarian about the difference between Alpha-Stim and other technologies in the treatment of animals. Her response below explains the functioning and the indications of several different modalities.

Therapeutic devices work via a combination of: Waveform (e.g., biphasic, sinusoidal or other), Amplitude (microamperes or milliamperes), Frequency (Hz). This works because cells also work within those parameters pending species, sex, age, diseases, scar tissue, whether sympathetic- or parasympathetic-dominant, hormones, etc.  You can better imagine how those 3 factors (wave, amplitude and frequency) affect you if you look at things in your daily life that attract or repulse you, like different music, colors, even thoughts or emotions. Cells do the same.

A TENS unit usually delivers a simple square wave in milliamperes, which is thousands of times stronger than the Alpha-Stim current and outside normal physiological levels. The frequency needs to be programmed by the user and changed.

The effects from TENS is explained by the Gate Control Theory of Drs. Melzack and Wall. The electrodes are placed across the pain site to activate fast A beta fibers to override slow C fibers. Often called “counter irritation analgesia,” TENS uses a painful stimulus to override endogenous pain. There is no residual pain relief.  It only offers temporary pain relief while being used.

TENS does not stimulate healing or kill microbes and there is no cumulative effect. It should never be used transcranially because the current is too strong and EEG studies have shown negative effects on the brain. That’s why FDA restricts TENS use to below the level of the head and neck. TENS users develop a tolerance to the treatment, just like with drugs, and over time the high intensity current levels will reduce ATP in the body to well below normal. ATP is critical for nerve and muscle function.

Dr. Frick with arms around a dog

Dr. Ava Frick, EPI Veterinary Medical Director

Alpha-Stim® is a microcurrent device that runs on 50 to 600 microamperes.   It uses a patented biphasic waveform built from dual frequency generators resulting in asymmetrical long rectangular waves superimposed with millions of frequencies, allowing the body to use what is needed for optimal change (healing, pain, anxiety, etc.) at that point in time. It is this waveform that also kills bacteria. It is not based on the Gate Theory.

Alpha-Stim treatments with either electrodes or the Smart-probes are done diagonally across the body and through all the affected tissues. This type of microcurrent therapy will initiate blastema and cellular regeneration, increase ATP, reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and is approved for use across the brain for stress related disorders, anxiety, depression, aggression, etc.

A cat received Alpha-Stim treatmentFrequency options are 0.5 Hz, 1.5 Hz (2% of humans do not respond at 0.5.  I have not seen that as an issue with animals), or 100 Hz (only for very chronic conditions for first couple minutes of the first 2 to 3 treatments then reduce to 0.5. Hz) Alpha-Stim is safe to use across tumors. It does not create any heat.

PEMF (Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field) devices are not microcurrents. They are like a therapeutic MRI, altering electromagnetic fields to create a change in the electrical properties of the body.  The body is electrical, not magnetic, but magnetic fields affect electrical currents.

Lasers are lights.  Lasers can create some warmth or heat in tissue.

Alpha-Stim gives you options; several ways to treat the brain and body. You as the practitioner decide what modality is optimal in each situation to achieve the best patient response. All modalities have their own learning curve – some shorter than others. Prices vary, too. I have used all of them. I started with Laser in 1997 before it was even “cool” and was severely chastised by the veterinary community. That of course did not deter me from using it. And I still do.

I found Alpha-Stim in 2000 while attending physical therapy and pain management conferences, and I have had a PEMF chamber since 2003. I am not as thrilled with electromagnetic field changes but I do use it at times. If I was told I could only have one device for saving most lives, there would be no contest. It would absolutely be the Alpha-Stim.


About Dr. Frick

Ava Frick, DVM, CVC, FAIS is chief of staff at the Pet Rehab & Pain Clinic in Eureka, Missouri. When Dr. Frick first began her quest for a better way to treat pain in animals, rather than the medications that were commonly prescribed at the time, she began to attend conferences on pain in humans, hoping to apply what she learned in the veterinary world.

It wasn’t until 2000 that Dr. Frick was introduced to microcurrent therapy, and for the past 18 years she has researched the technology extensively and has developed protocols for the treatment of pain in animals. Alpha-Stim has been used successfully in many species of animals, from dogs to horses, cats to cows, and everything in between. It is recommended by Dr. Frick herself, the leading authority in animal microcurrent therapy and the pioneer of Alpha-Stim protocols for animals.


About Alpha-Stim

Alpha-Stim is a fast, safe, and effective treatment for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain in both humans and animals. It uses cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), delivered through earclip electrodes, to restore balance to the brain. Two Smart Probes, using microcurrent electrical therapy, (MET) can be applied directly around the site of pain.

Alpha-Stim is not a drug, so there is no risk of harmful side effects in your pet. Relief is long lasting and often immediate – and results are cumulative, so the benefits only increase over time. Learn more at