Non-PharmacologicTreatment of Shingles


Shingles pain and lesions resolved in 48 hours after treatment with frequency-specific microcurrent.

By Carolyn McMakin, MA, DC

In unpublished anecdotal reports of
Frequency Specific Microcurrent
(FSM) treatments during the last
twelve years, one frequency combination
has been observed consistently to eliminate the pain and shorten the course of
shingles. That frequency combination—
230 Hz on one channel and 430 Hz on
the second channel—applied simultaneously using 150 microamps alternating
DC current having a ramped square wave
pulse was ultimately successful on this
patient’s pain and lesions.
Case Report
The patient was an 85-year-old male who
presented for treatment with Frequency
Specific Microcurrent (FSM) of low back
pain caused by myofascial trigger points
and degenerative disc disease. The
patient noted incidentally that he had a
rash on the frontal portion of his bald
scalp which was diagnosed one week
previously by his dermatologist as actinic
keratosis. He was applying a topical gel
appropriate to that diagnosis and did not
request treatment for the rash during this
appointment. He returned two days later
complaining of increased pain on his
scalp in the area of the rash, rated as a
7/10 on a 0-10 VAS scale, and requested
that the rash be treated with FSM appropriate for actinic keratosis since treatment
had been effective for his low back pain.1
The treatment protocol for actinic
keratosis required that microamperage
current from a two channel microcurrent
device be applied to the skin on his scalp.
The current is delivered using graphite
conducting gloves with double pin
connectors cemented to the back so that
one lead from each of two channels can
be connected to each glove. One graphite
glove, connected to the positive leads
from both channels of the microcurrent
device, was wrapped in warm moist fabric
and placed on the patient’s upper back.
The second graphite glove, connected to
the negative leads from both channels of
the microcurrent device, was wrapped in
a warm moist face cloth and placed on the
top of the patient’s head so that it covered
the area of the rash on the scalp (see
Figure 2).
The patient was treated with the designated protocol for actinic keratosis—
40Hz on one channel and 355 Hz on the
second channel using alternating DC
subsensory microamperage current at
150 µamps—for twenty minutes. This
treatment protocol was expected to be
helpful for actinic keratosis since 40 Hz
has been shown to be effective for reducing inflammation.2,3 During this portion
of the treatment, the patient became
restless and complained of increasing
pain in the area of the rash. The rash was
reassessed and tentatively diagnosed as
shingles since the distribution was consistent with the ophthalmic branch of cranial
V and was not responding to treatment
appropriate for actinic keratosis.
Shingles pain and lesions resolved
in 48 hours after treatment with
frequency-specific microcurrent.
By Carolyn McMakin, MA, DC
FIGURE 1. Patient’s rash was first diagnosed as
“actinic keratosis” but, as the pain increased, it
became clear that it was shingles in the
ophthalmic branch of Cranial V.
The patient adamantly refused referral
for anti-viral medication and requested
immediate treatment for shingles with
FSM. He was subsequently treated with
the frequency protocol indicated for
shingles—namely, 230 Hz on one channel
and 430 on the second channel, using 150
microamps and a ramped square wave
pattern. The pain gradually decreased
during the next fifteen minutes and the
patient was pain-free in twenty minutes.
Treatment continued for sixty minutes
and the patient was told to return the next
day for additional treatment.
At the beginning of the second treatment, he rated his pain as a 2/10 on a 0-
10 VAS scale and noted that the vision in
his right eye was a little blurry. The
shingles lesions on the scalp were notably
less red and some had developed scabs.
The patient was once again referred for
prescription anti-viral medication and he
adamantly refused. Instead, he was
treated for two hours with the same
frequency protocol as before. During this
treatment, the contact on the scalp was
moved forward to cover the patient’s
closed eyelid.
The pain was reduced from a 2/10 to a
0/10 within 15 minutes. The patient slept
for the remainder of the two-hour treatment. At the end of the two-hour treatment, he reported that his vision was clear
and he was pain-free. He returned the
next day for follow up but refused treatment because he had no pain and all the
shingles lesions were scabbed and
At a two-week follow up the patient
remained pain free and the lesions had
resolved. There was no residual pain and
no recurrence of shingles in any
dermatome at a two-year follow up.
Treatment Method
FSM can be provided using any twochannel microamperage current device
that can provide frequency pulses
accurate to three digits on two channels
simultaneously, using alternating DC
current with a ramped square wave pulse.
Two different devices were used to deliver
the desired frequency combination for
this patient’s two treatment sessions. The
Precision Micro (Precision Microcurrent,
Newberg, Ore.), an analogue batteryoperated two-channel three microcurrent
device, was used during the first treatment session. This device requires that
the frequencies on both channels be set
and changed manually. The AutoCarePlus (Microcurrent Technologies, Seattle,
Wa.), a digital two-channel three digit
specific microcurrent device preprogrammed to run certain specific
frequency combinations for various time
periods, was used during the second treatment. It provided the desired three digit
combination, 230 Hz on one channel and
430 Hz on the second channel, for 60
minutes and was restarted after the first
60-minute cycle.
Treatment Method History
The frequencies used in this case treatment were obtained in 1995 from a retired
British osteopath who had bought a
practice in Vancouver, BC (Canada) in
1946 that came with a machine (manufacturer unknown) and a list of frequencies
that was developed in 1922 and thought
to address specific tissues and neutralize
specific conditions. The list acquired from
the osteopath included approximately
100 frequencies alleged to neutralize
certain pathologies or conditions and
over 200 frequencies thought to address
certain tissues. The list also contained a
small number of two-channel pairs in
which neither frequency matched a listed
condition or tissue. The combination
used in this case report was noted on the
list as being useful for “virus.”
The osteopath’s method of treatment
included using a frequency on one
channel to “remove a pathology”
combined with a frequency on the second
channel to “address a specific tissue.” The
device used by the osteopath has long
since disappeared and has never been
available for inspection. While it is
thought to have plugged into the wall
current which may have been DC in 1922,
it is not known what current level it delivered and there is no reason to suspect that
it delivered microamperage current
which was not introduced until the 1970s.
The listed frequencies were used, starting
in 1995, as if their descriptions were
correct for the treatment of myofascial
trigger points, nerve pain and injury
repair. The treatment protocols were
developed clinically using the osteopath’s
two-channel condition and tissue treatment paradigm and has been taught as
Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM)
since 1997.1,2,4,5 There are approximately
1,000 medical, chiropractic and naturopathic physicians using FSM in clinical
practice in the US, Australia, Ireland,
England, Germany, the Netherlands,
Spain and Dubai.
Microcurrent electrical neuromuscular
stimulation (MENS) was developed in the
1970s as a battery-operated physical
therapy modality delivering subsensory
current in the microampere range. An
ampere (amp) is a measure of the strength
of electric current and measures the rate
of flow of charge in a conducting medium.
One micro amp (µA) equals 1/1000th of a
milliamp (mA). By comparison, other
systems such as interferential, TENS, and
high-volt pulsed galvanic stimulators,
deliver currents in the milliamp range
causing muscle contraction, pulsing and
tingling sensations. TENS applies an
electrical force that stimulates pain
suppressing A-beta afferent fibers which
compete against A-delta and C fibers that
transmit pain signals. Most TENS units
deliver current around the 60 milliamp
range.6 Although microcurrent devices
are approved in the category of TENS for
regulatory convenience, in practical use
they are in no way similar and cannot be
compared to TENS in their effect.
The therapeutic use of frequencies and
electrotherapy began in the early 1900s
in the United States and England with
thousands of medical physicians using a
number of devices to treat a wide range
of conditions.6 The Electromedical
Society and the journal Electromedical
Digest served as a forum for physicians to
share their research and clinical findings.
In 1934, as part of its effort to standardize medicine and medical education, the
Non-Pharmacologic Treatment of Shingles
FIGURE 2. Illustration of treatment setup: the
two positive contacts for both channels are
applied to the upper back and the two negative
contacts for both channels are applied to the top
of the head along the distribution of the affected
Practical PAIN MANAGEMENT, May 2010
©2010 PPM Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
American Medical Association (AMA)
declared that pharmaceutical medications and surgery were the legitimate tools
of medicine and that electromagnetic
therapies, among other treatments, were
“unscientific.”7,8 The biophysics and
medical research explaining the mechanisms and science behind electromedicine would not be done until the 1980s.9,10
The use of electromagnetic therapies and
frequencies declined, the research being
reported in Electromedical Digest ceased,
and the last edition of the journal available was published in 1951.11 The FDA
made the original devices illegal in the
early 1950s.
Clinical Experience With FSM Protocols
The frequency-specific protocols were
developed clinically through trial and
error by the author after it was determined—through use on volunteers—that
the use of a frequency combination that
did not produce improvement also did no
apparent harm. The descriptions of the
frequencies from the osteopath’s list were
taken at face value and speculatively used
in clinical practice for various chronic and
acute conditions–including shingles—to
determine if they would produce a change
in symptoms and clinical improvement.
The subsensory current levels made it
possible to blind patients to active versus
sham treatment and the clinical outcomes
appeared to be valid. Treatment results
for most conditions appear to be reproducible by practitioners trained in the
treatment method.
In 1998, the 230 Hz / 430 Hz frequency
pair—described on the list as being useful
for “virus”—was first applied to a patient
with acute shingles blisters using alternating pulsed DC current along the length
of the dermatome to see if it would
produce any clinical improvement in this
viral condition. The pain was reduced
within 20 minutes and it was found that
60-minute treatments on three consecutive days produced permanent pain relief
and resolved the blisters within two days
after the final treatment. Clinical trial and
error demonstrated that thirty-minute
treatment periods produced temporary
pain relief and shortened the course of
shingles to a minor degree but did not
have the same effect as the 60-minute
treatment period. In 2004, when a patient
fell asleep and treatment was extended
until he awakened after two hours, it was
discovered that a single two-hour treatment produced the same clinical outcome
as three sequential one-hour treatments.
Further clinical experience determined
that shingles diagnosed in the prodrome
could be aborted by a single two-hour
application of the frequency protocol. In
order to be effective, the contacts must be
placed so the current flows from the
proximal to the distal end of the affected
Clinical experience demonstrated that
this treatment protocol is useful for the
same class of virus in oral or genital
herpes but is not useful for any other
condition, including any other viral
condition such as the common cold. So
far, there have been no patients with a
diagnosis of shingles in whom this
frequency combination was not effective.
This frequency combination is not effective in post-herpetic neuralgia.
One practitioner reported that a
shingles patient did not respond to the
treatment protocol and it was presumed
that there was finally a patient for whom
the protocol was not effective. The physician sent her device in for a standard
recalibration and repair the following
week and it was discovered that the device
was providing frequencies at one-eighth
of the 230 Hz and 430 Hz specified. The
device was repaired so that it delivered
the correct frequencies and the next
shingles patient treated with that device
responded with the expected reduction
in pain and elimination of lesions. Note
that the practitioner’s expectation that
the protocol would be effective did not
overcome the inaccurate frequencies
delivered by the defective device.
Clinical response to the frequencies
over the last 14 years suggests that the
conditions being treated and the tissues
being addressed may be accurately represented by the frequency descriptions
although decades of research will be
required to confirm and clarify these
effects. Until such research is done no
claims can, or will, be made by the author
for the specific effects of frequencies on
biological tissues or conditions. Clinicians
may report the observed effects of treatment using certain frequency combinations without making specific claims for
the frequencies used. Fortunately,
medicine is pragmatic and it is not
uncommon for apparently effective
medications, such as aspirin or penicillin,
to be used for many years before the
Non-Pharmacologic Treatment of Shingles
Practical PAIN MANAGEMENT, May 2010
©2010 PPM Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
herpes family of DNA viruses has a double
stranded DNA molecule located within an
icosapentahedral capsid surrounded by
an amorphous protein material which is
in turn encapsulated by an envelope that
consists of polyamines, lipids and glycoproteins. The glycoproteins give the virus
its distinctive properties and provide the
antigens to which the host immune
system can respond.12
The frequency complex found in any
interferential field includes both frequencies, the sum of the two frequencies and
the difference between the two frequencies. The interferential field created by
230Hz and 430 Hz would include coherent frequencies of 230Hz, 430 Hz, 660Hz,
and 200Hz plus the high frequency
harmonics created by the ramped square
waves delivering the frequency pulses.
Any or all of these frequencies may participate in the observed clinical effect. There
is no clinical effect when only 230Hz or
430 Hz is used alone. The clinical effect
requires that both be used together.
When the frequency pattern encounters
the viral structure it is possible that it
resonates with either the crystalline structure of viral polymerases in the capsid or
the glycoprotein envelope so as to dismantle a crucial bond or change its structure
in such a way that it cannot maintain its
relationship with the nerve. It is also possible that the frequency resonates with the
nerve in such a way that it makes viral
attachment impossible, releases the virus
into the circulation and makes it available
to be dismantled by the immune system.
This mechanism, wile possible, seems less
likely because of the speed of pain relief
and lesion resolution.
Microcurrent Effects
Single channel, single frequency micro
amperage current alone did not demonstrate any palliative or curative effect on
shingles pain. However, the current must
have some contribution to the observed
effects since optimal outcome requires
that the contacts be placed so the current
flows along the nerve distribution.
Gnok Cheng14 and his associates
demonstrated that applying additional
current to a biological system could
increase both protein synthesis and
energy production dramatically as long as
the current was small enough. Direct
current levels of 50 to 1,000 µamps
applied across rat skin increased glycine
(amino acid) transport by 75% compared
with untreated controls and current levels
of 500 µamps increased aminoisobutyric
acid (amino acid) uptake by 90% indicating a dramatic increase in protein synthesis. However, current levels above 1,000
µamps decreased protein synthesis by as
much as 50%.
ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the
chemical energy molecule that fuels most
mammalian biological process. Direct
current levels between 100 and 500
µamps applied to rat skin increased ATP
levels by three to five times (300% to
500%). Current exceeding 1,000 µamps
caused ATP production to level off and
currents above 5,000 µamps reduced ATP
levels as compared to untreated controls.
Once the external current was discontinued the ATP production and amino acid
transport levels returned to baseline;
there was no residual effect in rat skin.
This study has not been replicated in vivo
or in humans.
Voltage-gated ion channels (VGICs)
transport ions such as sodium, potassium
and calcium across the cell membrane
and influence virtually all cellular
processes. The microcurrent devices used
are constant current generators and
increase the voltage, up to 20 volts, as
needed to maintain the current levels set
on the device. It has been proposed that
VGICs in cell and neural membranes may
be affected by the current and voltage
flowing along or across the membrane but
no one has measured changes in these
transport proteins in response to externally-applied microamperage current.
VGICs require ATP activation to change
configuration thus allowing them to
transport their ion across the cell
membrane. If the current affects VGIC
function, it may do so simply by increasing ATP production.
Effects of Frequencies
Frequencies refer to the number of pulses
of sounds or electrons moving through a
conducting medium in one second.
Frequencies are measured in hertz. One
hertz is a single waveform or cycle passing
a fixed point in one second. In engineering terms, the word “frequency” should
only be used when referring to the pulse
produced by a sine wave which has no
harmonics. Microcurrent devices usually
output square wave pulses containing a
large number of high frequency harmonics instead of using sine waves because the
clinical effects were found to be better
with square waves.6 A square wave
frequency of 40 Hz is technically a pulse
train of 40 Hz—i.e., 40 square waves that
pass a point in space every second.
FSM therapy delivers current and two
frequencies simultaneously. The frequency
thought to neutralize a condition is delivered on one channel. The frequency
thought to address a specific tissue is delivered simultaneously on a second channel.
In an unpublished blinded placebo
controlled trial in mice, one frequency
combination, 40 Hz on channel A and 116
Hz on channel B reduced arachidonic acid
induced lipoxygenase (LOX) mediated
swelling in the mouse’s ear by 62% in four
minutes. The ear swelling was measured
with mechanical calipers and recorded in
millimeters. Three other frequency
combinations—294 on channel A and 62
on channel B, and 91 on channel A and 59
on channel B, and .3 Hz on both
channels—were tested in the same model
and had no effect on inflammation or
The response in mice was time dependent. One half of the response was present
at 2 minutes and the full response was
present at 4 minutes. Further time spent
on the frequency had no additional
positive effect.
40Hz was described on the osteopath’s
list and in the Electromedical Digest as
being useful to “reduce inflammation.”
Use of this frequency in a clinical setting
suggested that it did only that and was not
useful for any other condition. Use of
40Hz on channel A and 10 Hz on channel
B was found to reduce pain in fibromyalgia patients whose onset of pain was
associated with spine trauma and to
reduce all of the inflammatory cytokines
and substance P and to increase β-endorphins, as measured by micro-immunochromatography.
“In an unpublished blinded placebo controlled trial in mice, one
frequency combination…reduced arachidonic acid induced lipoxygenase (LOX) mediated swelling in the mouse’s ear by 62% in four minutes.”
Non-Pharmacologic Treatment of Shingles
Practical PAIN MANAGEMENT, May 2010
©2010 PPM Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
Patient response to this frequency
combination was time dependent. Sixty to
ninety minutes of treatment was required
to reduce pain from an average of 7.4/10
to an average of 1.4/10 on a 0-10 VAS scale
and to produce maximal changes in
cytokines and neuropeptides. At the
thirty minute mark, approximately half of
the full effect was present.2
Biological Resonance
Resonance is the tendency of a system to
oscillate at larger amplitudes in response
to some frequencies and not others. Every
mechanical system and every chemical
bond has a resonant frequency. At the
resonant frequency, even small driving
forces can produce very large amplitude
vibrations. These large amplitude vibrations can cause the system to oscillate so
violently that it comes apart. Mechanical
resonance destroyed the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge when the resonant frequency of
the bridge was matched by the frequency
of oscillations in the bridge caused by the
wind during a rain storm. The resulting
violent pendulum effect tore the bridge
apart and created a most memorable
visual example of the power of resonance.
Likewise, acoustic resonance shatters a
lead crystal glass when the musical note
being played matches the resonant
frequency that binds the lead atoms
together in the crystal matrix. The
resonance causes the atomic bonds to
oscillate and the glass comes apart.
Resonant phenomena occur with every
type of vibration or wave and every type
of bond and structure.
If every chemical bond and every physical structure has a binding energy that
holds it together and has a resonant
frequency that will cause it to oscillate, then
it is possible to hypothesize that a resonant
frequency exists for every bond that will
cause oscillations sufficiently violent to
weaken or break the bonds that hold the
structure together. Think of the bonds
within the herpes virus capsid or its glycoprotein coating as the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge. The resonant vibration and oscillations created by the frequency pattern
may resonate with one or more crucial
bonds in the crystalline structure that
makes them act as a mediator of viral infection. This would account for the rate and
degree of reductions in pain and the speed
of lesion repair. Any other mechanism that
has been considered cannot explain the
rapid rate of change in symptoms.
The one- to two-hour treatment time
required to eliminate the symptoms in
shingles and herpes patients corresponds
to the time-dependent response seen in
mice anti-inflammatory research. In the
mice, half of the effect was produced in
two minutes and the full effect was seen
at four minutes. Additional treatment
time beyond four minutes did not
produce any additional effect. In shingles,
a thirty minute treatment time is insufficient to create a significant improvement.
A one-hour treatment must be repeated
every day for three days. A single two hour
treatment appears to be sufficient to abort
an outbreak. It is hypothesized that
biological bonds simply require time to
oscillate sufficiently to change configuration or break.
One particular frequency combination,
230Hz and 430Hz, produced dramatic
improvement in this patient. It appears
to have promise in the treatment of acute
shingles. It is low risk, appears to have no
side effects, and has been consistently
effective in other cases. A controlled trial
should be performed to further evaluate
its effectiveness. ■
No grants or financial recompense were
involved in this case report. Carolyn
McMakin is president of Frequency
Specific Seminars, Inc.
The author wishes to acknowledge the
advice and inspiration provided by Dr.
David G. Simons in the preparation of this
Carolyn McMakin, MA, DC, is the clinical
director of the Fibromyalgia and Myofascial
Pain Clinic of Portland, Oregon and developed Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM)
in 1996. She maintains a part-time clinical
practice, participates in research and teaches
seminars on the use of FSM. She has lectured
at the National Institutes of Health and at
medical conferences on the subjects of
fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia associated with
cervical trauma and on the differential
diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain
syndromes. Her text book on FSM in pain
management is in press with Elsevier to be
released in 2010. She may be contacted at or 3915 NE 38th St,
Vancouver, WA 98661.
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