Electroacupuncture is the use of electrical current to stimulate acupuncture points. It may be performed with or without needles. When used with needles, the needles are inserted in the same way as they would be used for acupuncture, then tiny alligator clips are attached to the needles which are connected to the electrostimulation unit. The unit is turned on, and the current adjusted until the correct stimulation is obtained.
When used without needles, either a metal probe or an electrode pad is held against the skin at the point to be stimulated. The probe or electrode is attached to the electrostimulation unit which is turned on and adjusted as when needles are used.
There are several different wave forms, frequencies and current strengths which are used in electroacupuncture. Whether on the needle or not, the current from the electrostimulation unit is passed through the skin into the acupuncture point. The current stimulates the point, much the same way as continuous hand manipulation of the needle stimulates the point. Stimulation moves qi more strongly, and is especially useful for pain relief. Microcurrent (current strength in the range of micro-amps) is useful in improving circulation and facilitating tissue regeneration. It is believed that microcurrent helps cells to produce ATP (the substance needed as energy to fuel all of a cell’s activities), which in turn helps to improve tissue function. It is now being used by medical doctors to facilitate healing of complex fractures and other bone damage. Milliamps is the current strength used by TENS, iontophoresis, and most other electrical modalities used by chiropractors and physical therapists. This level of current is useful for reducing muscle spasms and for pain relief. It stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever, and is the current used for dental anesthesia with acupuncture.
Will I be Zapped?
If electroacupuncture is used in conjunction with needles, the needle would be inserted in the same way as for regular acupuncture. Tiny alligator clips are then attached to the needles, and the unit is turned on and the current slowly increased until the patient feels a tapping or tingling sensation at the point.
The current is then increased again until the sensation is as strong as the patient is willing to tolerate. With milliamp currents, the muscle tissue under the needles may twitch with the current. This is considered to be a desirable effect, and while strange in sensation, should not be painful. Most patients report a strong tingling or tapping sensation at the points, which may remain local or travel along the effected channel.
With microcurrent treatment, the stimulation should be sub-sensory. This means that all but the most sensitive of patients will have no sensation at the point as a result of the stimulation.
Electroacupuncture can be used without needles as well. In this case, the points are stimulated via a probe which touches the surface of the skin. Fewer points may be treated at the same time, but treatments are virtually painless, especially if microcurrent is used. This is an ideal way to treat very sensitive patients and children.
How well does it work for pain?
Electroacupuncture is one of the most effective ways to relieve pain with acupuncture. Similar effects may be derived from hand stimulation of the needles, but this requires constant attention from the practitioner, and most practitioners are able to hand stimulate only one point at a time.
It is difficult for most practitioners to stimulate a point consistently for a long period of time. Electroacupuncture allows for continuous stimulation of several points, allowing a stronger and longer lasting treatment. In patients who are receptive to this type of treatment, pain relief may last for several days to several weeks. Electroacupuncture is the style used most frequently for dental anesthesia through acupuncture.