Do you spend nights tossing and turning, unable to sleep soundly? Do you struggle with pain, anxiety, or depression? Are you looking for natural, drug-free approaches to help you find relief and get back to feeling more like yourself?
Then you might be interested in cranial electrotherapy stimulation, or CES. A CES device is a small, portable device that sends mild electrical currents into your body with the intention to treat conditions like insomnia, pain, anxiety, and depression.
Keep reading to find out what this device is, how it works, what its possible benefits are, and if it might be right for you.
What is CES?
CES is designed to help you find relief from conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia through altering electrical activity in your cells.
The first device that used CES technology was developed in the early 1900s. Nowadays, there are several different brands on the market, including Alpha-Stim (which has been around since 1981). Cranial electrotherapy stimulation devices like Alpha-Stim are regulated by the FDA and can only be purchased if you have a prescription from a physician.1
CES devices are connected via wires to two small electrodes. When you use a CES device, you connect the electrodes to your earlobes, and then you turn on the device for treatment sessions ranging from 20 to 60 minutes per day. The electrodes send precise electrical currents into your body in a way that is intended to help you feel better.
What is CES used for?
There are over 100 studies in the US on CES and the potential therapeutic applications of this kind of treatment.2 So far, CES is most commonly used for conditions like:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Acute stress1 3 4
There is also interest in using CES devices to improve attention and concentration.5
How do CES devices work?
Your brain and nervous system rely on electrical currents to function. Electrical signals are constantly being sent between cells in your brain to carry messages and perform important tasks.
Altering this electrical activity can be useful when things are out of balance or aren’t working properly—as with conditions involving the nervous system like insomnia, depression, anxiety, or pain.
A CES device is one way to do that. When you connect the electrodes to your earlobes, it sends mild electrical impulses into the brain to modify electrical activity there. Proponents of CES believe that the device can alter brain and nervous system function in many positive ways, benefitting health conditions like those listed above.1 3
Some people report that they feel much better after just a single treatment, although most say that continued use over a longer time period leads to better outcomes.
The benefits of CES: What the research says
There are over 100 studies on the effectiveness of CES devices such as Alpha-Stim for a variety of health concerns.2
Here’s what some of the research says on the benefits of CES for the following conditions:
Studies suggest that CES can help people with insomnia to sleep better. It has been shown to reduce the time it takes to fall sleep, improve sleep quality, decrease sleep disturbances, and increase time spent sleeping, for example.1 4 6
Many people report a calming effect immediately after using the device, which can help you to settle down, relax, and prepare for restful sleep.
For people who haven’t found luck with other treatments for anxiety, CES may be worth a try. 36% of people in one survey reported that CES was more effective for their anxiety than anything else they had tried before.7
One study released by the National Institute for Health Research in the UK found CES to be incredibly effective for people with generalized anxiety disorder; about half of the people who used CES went into remission, and over 60% experienced reliable improvement in their anxiety symptoms. On top of that, CES proved to be as effective, and more cost-effective in the long run, compared to other first-line treatments.8
One survey of users found that 93% of people with pain who used CES for at least 3 weeks reported significant improvement.7 CES devices have been used effectively for conditions like fibromyalgia, spinal cord injury pain, and other types of pain.9 10
For many people, drug-free treatments for pain are an appealing alternative, especially those that present few side effects, are not addictive, and that can be applied in the comfort of home on a regular basis.
CES’s benefits for depression have been studied in teachers, children, police officers, cancer patients, military personnel, and veterans.2 And overall, it seems to have a significant positive effect on symptoms of depression.11
Findings from one survey found that people with depression who use CES are more likely to report improvement than those using common anti-depressant drug options like Zoloft. In fact, over 87% of CES users reported significant improvement in their symptoms.8
Note: Keep in mind that these research findings may need to be taken with a grain of salt; expert analyses of the research on cranial electrotherapy stimulation devices like Alpha-Stim raise some concerns over the quality and strength of the existing studies. Therefore, they caution that firm conclusions shouldn’t be drawn about how well it may work until more high-quality studies are conducted.1
Is CES safe?
CES is considered a very safe treatment. The safety of this device and the low likelihood of side effects make it an attractive option for anyone who is tired of drug side effects or adverse effects of other types of treatments.
Alpha-Stim CES users, for example, have only reported very mild side effects like headaches and skin irritation—and that comes from data from studies involving 8,800 people over the course of 30 years.4
Only a very small percentage of people choose to discontinue treatment with CES due to its minor side effects.8
People who have pacemakers or other devices in their body like implanted defibrillators should not use a CES device without consulting with a doctor, as it may interfere with the proper function of these devices.
Is CES right for you?
If you’ve tried other options like medications, counseling, or other therapies and haven’t yet found relief, CES may be worth your while. Both anecdotal reports and research studies point to the promise of these types of devices for benefiting people with a variety of challenging conditions.
Here are some reasons to consider CES:
- It can provide fast relief for many people, sometimes after just a single treatment.
- It can give long-lasting relief that helps you feel better for the long run.
- It is a drug-free option. This is helpful if you are looking to avoid medications for any reason or are worried about medication interactions or side effects.
- It is considered quite safe and doesn’t often cause troublesome side effects.
- It may be more cost-effective in the long run compared to other treatment options (although it does come with a financial commitment up front).
- It can be used anywhere on the go. It is portable and easy to use on your own.
Whether you are tired of sleepless nights, being in pain, or feeling overwhelmed by symptoms of anxiety or depression, CES just might be the alternative you are looking for.
CES (Alpha-Stim) Balancer Virtual Item
You can discover the body’s biological preference for CES by scanning the Alpha-Stim Virtual Item in the Balance, Select, and Elite software. If Alpha-Stim is one of the top 5 biologically coherent services, it will show up in the Wellness Report as well as other reports in the Balance, Select, and Elite software. You can also see how the body responded to this item in the Services report.
About Dr. Vaughn Cook
Dr. Vaughn R Cook is the Founder & CEO of ZYTO. An Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD) and licensed acupuncturist, he has worked in the complementary and alternative medical field for more than 30 years, specializing in applications that integrate Western and Eastern medicine.
1. Brunyé, T.T., J.E. Patterson, T. Wooten, & E.K. Hussey. “A Critical Review of Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation for Neuromodulation in Clinical and Non-clinical Samples.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 15 (2021): 625321.
2. “Research and Reports.” Alpha-Stim. Alpha-Stim.com.
3. “Drug-Free Treatment That Works.” Alpha-Stim. Alpha-stim.com.
4. “Research at a glance.” Alpha Stim. Alpha-stim.com.
5. Southworth S. “A study of the effects of cranial electrical stimulation on attention and concentration.” Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science: The Official Journal of the Pavlovian Society 34, no. 1 (1999): 43–53.
6. Lande, R.G., & C. Gragnani “Efficacy of cranial electric stimulation for the treatment of insomnia: a randomized pilot study.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 21, no. 1 (2013): 8–13.
7. Price, L.R. “Alpha‐Stim Patient Survey: 2006‐2011.” Alpha-Stim. Alpha-Stim.com.
8. Morriss, R., G. Xydopoulos, et al. “Clinical effectiveness and cost minimisation model of Alpha-Stim cranial electrotherapy stimulation in treatment seeking patients with moderate to severe generalised anxiety disorder.” Journal of Affective Disorders 253 (2019): 426–437.
9. Taylor, A.G., J.G. Anderson, et al. (2013). “Cranial electrical stimulation improves symptoms and functional status in individuals with fibromyalgia.” Pain Management Nursing: Official Journal of the American Society of Pain Management Nurses 14, no. 4 (2013): 327–335.
10. Tan, G., D.H. Rintala, et al. “Efficacy of cranial electrotherapy stimulation for neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury: a multi-site randomized controlled trial with a secondary 6-month open-label phase.” The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine 34, no. 3 (2011): 285–296.
11. Price, L., J. Briley, S. Haltiwanger, & R. Hitching. “A meta-analysis of cranial electrotherapy stimulation in the treatment of depression.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 135 (2021): 119–134.