The Stimulator is essentially an electric gas barbecue grill igniter outfitted with finger grips. When pressed against the skin, the devices sparks and causes a small electric shock. Makers of the device claim it can relieve headaches, back pain, arthritis, stress, menstrual cramps, earaches, sinus, nosebleeds, flu and other ailments.
Excerpted from the "U.S. FDA Consumer Alert on the Stimulator"
CLUE TO QUACKERY #1: Successful quack medical devices inspire copycats (after all, there is a lot of money to be gained!). The Oxydonor (1895) led to the Oxypathor (1910). Gaylord Wilshire's successful I-ON-A-CO Magnetic Belt (1925) spurred on the Magnecoil, the Restoro, and the Theronoid Belt (all late 1920's). The commercial success of the Stimulator has helped to promote the Acupoint Pulse Stimulator, the Piezo-DX Quartz Crystal, and the Crystaldyne Pain Reliever.
CLUE TO QUACKERY #2: Quack devices tend to cure a long list of diseases. The Stimulator and its kindred gas grill igniter devices claim to cure arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, low back pain, muscle and joint pain, headaches, stress, earaches, sinus, nosebleeds, flu and menstrual cramps. In the field of medical device quackery, this is a short list!
CLUE TO QUACKERY #3: Quack devices rely on testimonials from individuals to back them up because they lack bona fide studies showing their effectiveness. Of course, the quacks never show testimonials like this one from an activist with the Colombia Better Business Bureau:
My wife suffers from occasional back pain. We tried it [the Stimulator] on her lower back. Her only response was a quick gasp from the electrical poke, but nothing more. The pain remained.
From Colombia State Newspaper Columns, "The Stimulator," Jan. 20, 1997
Estimated manufacturing cost for the devices is about $2. Add costs of marketing, sales, and distribution and its easy to see why hardware stores sell gas grill igniters for under $5. Quacks are selling these devices as medical cures for $30-$139! What a profit margin!
Gas Grill Igniter Links
Consumer Protection Today: Medical Fraud
Questions about medical devices? Check with these free sources:
The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices
Quick Links to Electrical Quackery
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices