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What to expect, when expecting acupuncture: electro-acupuncture

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

I have previously written blog posts about other modalities used in an acupuncture treatment, which doesn't require a needle. This might be gua sha, cupping or moxa. However, electro-acupuncture is not one of them. Sorry!


Today's blog is going to look at the history and how and why I might use electro-acupuncture in your treatment.


As always if you have any questions or queries please feel free to get in touch. I always love to hear from you.


Love from Andrea


What is electro acupuncture

 

The history of electro-therapy.

Unlike any of the other modalities, I have written about (needles, cupping therapy, gua sha, moxa) electro-therapy is a toddler in years.


Electricity has been used to treat conditions as far back as 2500BC with the use of electric fish, however, it was not until the 18th century that electro-therapy was used, when we discovered how to generate and store electricity.


In 1752, Benjamin Franklin used electricity to treat a friend's frozen shoulder, but it was not until 1823 that electroacupuncture was first coined when Jean-Baptiste Sarlandiere used it to treat asthma, colic, gout, migraines, paralysis and rheumatism.


 

So, what is electroacupuncture?

Electroacupuncture is an external therapy where electricity is passed through acupuncture needles to create an analgesic effect on the central and peripheral nervous systems.


The Rock once again showing his love for acupuncture with an electro acupuncture treatment

Thank you once again to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for his support of acupuncture. You will see here a picture of him also using cupping therapy.


In an acupuncture treatment you would use electroacupuncture for:


  • treating musculoskeletal problems e.g. osteoarthritis of the hip or frozen shoulder but also neck pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel and lower back pain

  • healing scar tissue






 

How does electroacupuncture work?

If we use electroacupuncture for your treatment then needles will be inserted and I use a machine called ES-130 to provide the electricity to those acupuncture needles.


Once connected the electricity:

  • carried by the electrons, first moves down the wire from the machine to a needle.

  • the current utilises positively and negatively charged atoms or molecules (ions) suspended in body fluids (electrolytes)

  • due to the alternating nature of alternating currents, one of each pair of needles will be positively charged and the other negatively charged causing the electricity to move backwards and forwards through the electrolyte

  • because of habituation i.e. your body gets used to the frequency, the electrical signal can be adjusted to produce varying patterns of frequency

  • treatments can last for 15-30 minutes. the more chronic, the longer needed


 

Electroacupuncture in action

There are a number of mechanisms by which electroacupuncture is understood to help the body.


Gate therapy: this is the theory that pain is modulated at the level of the spinal cord. Melzack & Street, 1967, found that when needles were used to deliver a relatively high-frequency current that it "closed the gate" to pain transmission


Endorphin Theory: endorphins can reduce pain sensations and produce feelings of euphoria. Mayor (2007) found that low-frequency electro stimulates the release of beta-endorphins, enkephalins and endomorphins whilst high-frequency electro stimulates the release of dynorphins


Serotonin theory: serotonin (with neurotransmitters) moderates pain in the central nervous system (Lin & Chen, 2008)


Tissue healing: electric fields are generated by the body naturally and are intrinsic to tissue healing. Gordon et al (2009) found that electrical stimulation after carpal tunnel surgery accelerated muscle re-innervation


Blood flow: TENS may generate widespread and prolonged cutaneous vasodilation in the management of peripheral ischemia and symptoms of Raynaud's (Kaada, 1982)


Move qi & blood: invigorate the circulation in muscles that have been chronically contracted


 

Safety considerations of electroacupuncture

As with all the treatments your registered and qualified acupuncturist provides we are aware of all the safety considerations when using electroacupuncture.



  • DO NOT USE ON contraindicated points and or lumbar points in pregnancy

  • DO NOT USE ON: people with pacemakers or the cardiac region (ren-12-SP-21 on anyone)

  • AVOID: using EA around eyes

  • DO NOT place electrodes across the carotid sinus as this can cause a drop in blood pressure

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