Electroacupuncture (EA) is evolving every day with new research and studies on how best to harness its power and effectiveness for various health issues including pain management, chronic or acute conditions, inflammation reduction and tissue repair, and healing.

As an enhancement to traditional acupuncture, EA adds a very slight electrical current via tiny clips attached to inserted needles further encouraging healing. EA has been used in China since the ’30s and was effectively implemented in the ’40s in post-war Japan to expedite wound healing from radiation burns.  

The human body produces endogenous electrical charges which wire and fire our nerves, fascia, connective tissue, muscles, heart and brain cells. Our bodies respond to vibrations of all types – from light energy, lasers, sound, tuning forks, Tibetan brass quartz tuning and meditation bowls. Electrical currents vibrating at different hertz frequencies and intensities can spark healing effects as they tune into the automatic microcurrents flowing within us.

Science is leading the way in what these microcurrents can do for us. New Veterans Association (VA) research from several institutions in the U.S. and South Korea discovered that EA triggers adult stem cells in bone marrow, as noted by Fletcher A. White, PhD, one of more than 40 authors who contributed to this research in the Journal Stem Cells. Through stimulation, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are released into the bloodstream helping reduce post traumatic pain and trigger tissue regeneration. 

It doesn’t take much. According to Kaiser Hospital’s Rick Bernard, LAc, who has specialized in pain management for over 20 years, the lower the frequency/hertz used, the better the results. Using just one to four hertz and a low intensity level (as soon as a patient notices an electric sensation), pulsating for 20-30 minutes is found to alleviate many pain issues.

In addition to electroacupuncture, there are other types of electrical stimulation used by physical therapists, chiropractors, medical and naturopathic doctors today including: 

TENS: transdermal electrical nerve impulse which influences the way our nervous system responds to pain, increasing the production of endorphins to provide pain relief.

IFC: interferential current therapy which utilizes a more powerful electrical signal that penetrates into the muscles and fascia.

NEMS or EMS: higher frequency neuromuscular electrical stimulation which targets nerve endings with placement directly on muscles causing contractions referred to as “neuromuscular re-education.”

Russian stimulation:  uses an even higher frequency electrical current than NEMS treatments. Known to help increase muscle size and improve recovery post work outs.

The two types of electro stimulation used in acupuncture are “milli,” which signifies the minimal amount of electrical current being supplied, used for treating and managing chronic or acute pain, muscles spasms, neurological conditions, post stroke rehabilitation, TMJ, Bell’s Palsy, migraines, GI issues, stress and anxiety, constipation and sinusitis; and “micro” or microcurrent which activate cells to synthesize ATP at a rate 1,000 times more rapidly than milliampere current. This is used in facial rejuvenation, expediting wound and tissue healing, and strengthening tendons and muscles. 

Contraindications are pacemakers, electrical pain or signal devices implanted in the body, and extreme numbness where you cannot sense the current.  

In San Jose, California’s Kaiser Hospital, electroacupuncture is a first protocol of treatment, whereas years ago it was the last resort (“if nothing else works, try acupuncture”). The growth, scientific support and availability make it an exceptional option for patient care today.

Diane Sheppard is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine with AcQpoint Wellness Center and can be reached at (760) 345.2200 or visit www.AcQPoint.com.

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Comments (1)

  • Thank you so much Dr. Sheppard for giving us a detailed explanation on how electro acupuncture is used and for which types of ailments can feel relief from using it!


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