What is electro-stimulation (Electroacupunture)?

Electroacupuncture (EA) is a modern variation of acupuncture that adds electricity to the needles. Using electro-stimulation, positive and negative lead wires are attached from a battery-operated stimulating device, usually called a "TENS unit" (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), to the needles that emit a low-grade pulsing current that changes frequencies and stimulates each acupuncture point. The sensation feels like a light thumping (not a shock), as the needles subtly bounce from the electricity.

How does it work?

Electroacupuncture is used to break up stagnation and draw qi (vital life energy) to a specific area to prevent illness. In the past, acupuncturists would manually manipulate the needles throughout an acupuncture treatment to improve circulation using certain meridian (non-physical channels that have anatomically-precise locations on the surface of the body) points. Nowadays, a desktop medical-grade device is substituted when stronger and more consistent stimulation is appropriate. A small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles to create a vibrating or tapping sensation.

Who would benefit?

Patients with chronic, stubborn pain that does not respond to acupuncture alone would benefit from this adjunctive therapy. Electroacupuncture is especially useful for conditions in which there is an accumulation of qi, such as chronic pain syndromes and old injuries. It has also been found that people with chronic stress benefit from electroacupuncture. In addition TENS units have been found to help with: 

  • Period pain
  • Labor pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Joint, neck and back pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Diabetic Neuropathy
  • Many others

TENS units have controls that allow for the administration according to the level of pain relief required. Relief can be achieved by taking into account:

  • Intensity: A dial allows the user to adjust the intensity of electrical stimulation desired.
  • Frequency: The frequency refers to the number of electrical pulses per second. High-frequency (HF) pulses range from 80 to 120 cycles per second and may help manage acute pain (lasts less than 3 to 6 months). Low-frequency (LF) pulses range from 1 to 20 cycles per second and are suitable for the treatment of chronic pain (ongoing and usually lasts longer than six months).
  • Duration: The duration is the number of microseconds the current enters the skin for during each pulse.