Electroacupuncture is a technique which uses electric stimulation on the acupuncture needles.
It is used to enhance the healing functions of the treatment and can relieve pain, improve circulation, reduce inflammation, regulate hormones, and prevent chronic stress (1).
Electroacupuncture is effective for many types of conditions. I often include it for
- Chronic pain: it is effective for treating all types of arthritis, acute and chronic injury, inflammation, joint pain, painful periods and endometriosis
- Skin conditions: EA helps to reduce inflammation and allergic responses in conditions such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), hives, rosacea, and psoriasis
- Women’s Health: EA is effective for balancing hormones in irregular periods and PCOS
- Digestive issues: Electro acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation and regulate gut motility helping in IBS, Crohn’s, and Ulcerative Colitis
- Many other health concerns
During your initial consultation we will discuss how electroacupuncture fits into your comprehensive treatment.
What is Electroacupuncture?
Electroacupuncture uses small electrodes which are clipped onto the acupuncture needles. Then a gentle electrical current is applied. You may feel a small tapping, tingling, or twitching where at the location of the electric stimulation. Over a few minutes, you become used to the feeling. During the treatment, I may increase the stimulation to maximize the healing potential.
How does it work?
I like to say that electroacupuncture helps to reset the body, bringing it back to a state of health, and leading to long-term improvements.
Electro-acupuncture stimulates the release of the body’s natural painkillers including opioids, endocannbanoids, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These affects are both in the area of the injury as well as in the brain and spinal cord. It has also been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve which induces the release of dopamine and norepinephrine from the adrenal glands which inhibit inflammation as well as stimulate the growth of new muscle tissue. The pain relief with electro-acupuncture can be so dramatic it has been used for certain types of surgery in China.
Electroacupuncture is very safe and comfortable. There are some situations such as people with pacemakers, severe heart disease, or a history of seizures or epilepsy in which it cannot be used.
Three Factors for Treatment Success
The three main factors in the success of electroacupuncture treatment are the choice of acupuncture points which are stimulated, the frequency of the electric stimulation, and time of the treatment.
Acupuncture point selection
Each lead has 2 clips. I will often put them on two acupuncture points that are relatively close together if you want to focus reducing pain and stimulating healing in a specific region or muscle. I position the needles in such a way to stimulate the greatest level of healing in the body.
Other times I will can put them at a distance from one another in order to increase circulation in an acupuncture channel. All of the leads are placed ipsilaterally, that is only one side of the body, and do not cross the spine. Specific acupuncture points, such as ST 36, GB 30, and some auricular points are known to stimulate the vagas nerve pathway to relax the body and reduce inflammation.
Frequencies of Stimulation
The frequency of the electric stimuation is very important to the successful treatment. Specific frequencies, such as 2hz, 25 hz, 100hz have been shown to stimulate to release specific natural painkillers called endogenous opiates or endorphins. 2hz stimulates the release enkephalin, beta-endorphin and endomorphin while 100 hz has been shown to release dynorphin. (2) Lower frequencies of 2hz and 10hz have been shown to decrease both pain and inflammation.
Change the frequency is one of the techniques used to optimize the treatment for each patient and specific condition.
Electroacupuncture stimulation will last from 15-20 minutes. 20 minutes and below is the most optimal time for pain relief and reducing inflammation. For acute injuries and herniated discs, the treatment time may even be less.
Electroacupuncture is a therapy that enhances the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities of acupuncture treatment. It can be used for many type of conditions. The application of the therapy is customized to each person and each condition.
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- Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et al. The status and future of acupuncture mechanism research. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(7):861-869
- Zhang R, Lao L, Ren K, Berman BM. Mechanisms of acupuncture-electroacupuncture on persistent pain. Anesthesiology. 2014;120(2):482-503.
- Liu F, Fang J, Shao X, Liang Y, Wu Y, Jin Y. Electroacupuncture exerts an anti-inflammatory effect in a rat tissue chamber model of inflammation via suppression of NF-kappaB activation. Acupunct Med. 2014;32(4):340-345.
What can electroacupuncture treat?
Electroacupuncture can treat a wide range of pain conditions. If you are not sure if electro-acupuncture is right for you please call us. We can discuss your condition and what treatment is the best course.