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What Is Electroacupuncture?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 17, 2021

Electroacupuncture is a modern variation of acupuncture. It uses electricity to enhance the benefits of this traditional therapeutic treatment. 

What Is Electroacupuncture?

Like traditional acupuncture, electroacupuncture uses needles placed in the same spots. Then, a small electrode is attached to the needles. A small amount of electricity runs through the electrode and gives a slight vibration or soft hum during treatment. 

The electrode gives off the effect of your acupuncturist activating the acupuncture point with their hands. This ensures you get the right amount of stimulation during your whole treatment. The treatments are also shorter because the electrodes can activate your acupuncture points more quickly. 

A benefit of using electroacupuncture is that it can cover larger areas of your body than traditional acupuncture. This ability makes this type of acupuncture more accurate than others. 

Background of Acupuncture

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is a fundamental concept in Chinese medicine. It’s believed to be a form of energy that’s universal. The belief is that your qi can be any manifestation of energy, and that acupuncture moves and activates your qi to help your body heal.

Electroacupuncture is meant to connect your physical and spiritual self. There are potential benefits for both parts of your body. Physically, this treatment is designed to help you feel better. Spiritually, this treatment is meant to help you understand your qi and the energy you have around you.  

How Does Electroacupuncture Work?

Electroacupuncture uses two needles in each meridian point, or acupuncture point, and then connects to a machine that passes a small electric current through the needle. 

Electroacupuncture helps to block your pain by activating bioactive chemicals in your body. This process may decrease your sensitivity to the pain you’re feeling. It’s also been shown to help reduce inflammation in your body. 

When you get electroacupuncture, it activates your sympathetic nerve fibers. By activating these fibers, your body releases endogenous opioids such as endorphins, which help to reduce inflammation. The activated nerve fibers may also help to reduce feelings of persistent pain. This makes it a good treatment for chronic pain and stress.

Studies have also found that electroacupuncture may help your body release mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into your bloodstream. MSCs are adult stem cells mostly found in your bone marrow. MSCs help your body create different types of tissues. They also have healing properties.

Pros of Electroacupuncture

Electroacupuncture can be used as a part of your acupuncture treatment. It may help with conditions like: 

Electroacupuncture is believed to help increase your blood flow. This may help to relieve any pain you’re feeling. In addition, this type of acupuncture warms your muscles. It may help with poor circulation and potential blockages. 

Another condition that electroacupuncture has been shown to reduce is chronic stress. Studies show that this type of therapy can help you reduce long-term chronic stress through stimulation. 

For many centuries, acupuncture has been used as a therapeutic treatment for pain, including chronic pain disorders. Electroacupuncture is a more modern form of acupuncture, and it has become a substitute for traditional acupuncture. 

You may like this treatment if you're ready to experience a new level of acupuncture. Because electricity and needles are involved, you should understand the potential drawbacks of electroacupuncture. 

Cons of Electroacupuncture

There are a few risks of electroacupuncture. With the electricity component used in this type of acupuncture, certain individuals aren't recommended to try this therapy. People who have a history of any of the following conditions should avoid electroacupuncture: 

Electroacupuncture is also not recommended if you use a pacemaker.

Talk with your doctor if you’re pregnant and thinking about electroacupuncture. They’ll help you decide if it’s safe for you and your baby.

In rare cases, you could experience adverse effects from electroacupuncture. The electrically charged needles have the risk of causing infections or organ, tissue, and nerve damage. Other risks include low blood pressure, called hypotension, fainting, and vomiting during or after treatment. The risk of negative effects is low. But you may experience bruising, needle site pain, or bleeding where the needles are inserted.‌‌

Electroacupuncture is a good alternative to traditional acupuncture. With the benefits of pain management and the potential to provide relief from muscle spasms, this therapeutic treatment is meant to help you feel relaxed and pain-free. 

Before trying electroacupuncture, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if this is the right therapeutic treatment for you. If you’re looking for treatment, make sure that the person performing your acupuncture is certified and specializes in electroacupuncture.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Acupuncture Massage College: “Exploring Acupuncture.”

Anesthesiology: “Mechanisms of Acupuncture-Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain.”

Arthritis Research & Therapy: “Effects of intensity of electroacupuncture on chronic pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial."

Journal of Alternative, Complementary & Integrative Medicine: “Patient Safety and Satisfaction with Electroacupuncture in a Teaching Clinic: A Survey of Interns and Patients.”

Pacific College of Health and Science: “Discover the Benefits of Electro-Acupuncture!”

University of Minnesota: “What Is Qi? (and Other Concepts).”

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs: “Study: Electroacupuncture eases pain through stem-cell release.”

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