Electroacupuncture for Pain Relief
Electroacupuncture for pain relief is the addition of electric current to the needles used to perform acupuncture, the widely practiced form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture treatment is the insertion of very thin, sterile needles into specific places in the body.
Electroacupuncture introduces a mild electric current that passes between the needles during treatment. This current applies more stimulation to acupoints than needle twirling or other hand manipulation techniques an acupuncturist might use.
In TCM, your health depends on your body’s flow of qi (energy). Qi travels along invisible pathways, known as meridians, throughout your body.
Qi travels throughout the body, aiding the body in staying balanced and promoting its natural ability to heal itself. A blocked or disrupted flow of qi can negatively impact physical and emotional well-being.
Electroacupuncture stimulates the acupuncture points related to your specific symptoms, aiding the flow of qi, and increases the potential healing effects of standard acupuncture.
Here’s what a session might look like:
- Your acupuncturist will evaluate your symptoms and select points for treatment.
- They’ll insert a needle at the treatment point and another needle nearby.
- Acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points throughout the body along acupuncture meridians. Electrodes are attached to the needles and connected to a specialized electroacupuncture device.
- After the electrodes are attached, a mild current is applied. The current is adjusted to a strong but comfortable level.
- The electric current pulsates, alternating between the two needles.
A typical electroacupuncture session typically lasts between 10 and 20 minutes.
Does Electroacupuncture Hurt?
The electrical current used in Electroacupuncture doesn’t actually act on the body directly. There will be some “tingling” or “vibration” during treatment, but there shouldn’t be any pain. Some patients may experience a mild “pinch” when the acupuncture needle is placed.
Electroacupuncture and Arthritis
A 2005 review looked at two studies exploring the benefits of acupuncture for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One study used electroacupuncture treatments. In this study, those who received electroacupuncture treatment reported a significant reduction in knee pain just 24 hours after treatment. This effect lasts as long as four months after treatment.
A more recent literature review from 2017 reviewed 11 separate, randomized controlled trials (RCT) on Electroacupuncture for knee osteoarthritis. These studies’ results suggest Electroacupuncture helps reduce pain and improve movement. The authors noted that the studies found treatment plans of at least four weeks provided the best results.
Electroacupuncture for Acute Pain
A 2014 literature review looked at multiple preclinical animal studies on Electroacupuncture’s use as a form of pain relief. The results suggest that Electroacupuncture can help to reduce different types of pain.
The authors also found evidence suggesting a combination of electroacupuncture and pain medication may be more effective than alone. This is promising, as it could mean that using Electroacupuncture for pain relief may reduce the need for high doses of medicine.
Side Effects of Electroacupuncture
The side effects of Electroacupuncture include:
- Mild nausea
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or fainting
- Pain or light bleeding when the needle is inserted
- Redness or bruising at the needle site
- Infection at the needle site, though this is rare when single-use sterile needles are used
If the tingling or vibration of the electric current causes discomfort, tell your acupuncturist immediately. If the voltage is too strong, the sensation could become unpleasant. Electric shock is possible, but it’s rare if your acupuncturist is trained and the machine works properly.
Electroacupuncture is very safe when done by a skilled provider. However, Electroacupuncture can cause internal injuries or even electric shock if performed incorrectly.
In addition, you shouldn’t try Electroacupuncture if you:
- Are pregnant
- Have heart disease
- Have had a stroke
- Have a pacemaker
- Have epilepsy
- Experience seizures
Choosing a Provider for Electroacupuncture
If you’d like to try Electroacupuncture, you’ll first need to find a state-licensed acupuncturist. Make sure to ask if they offer electrical stimulation when you call to get more information. Not all acupuncture clinics offer this treatment.
Before making an appointment, consider asking the practitioner a few questions, such as:
- Do they have training or certification in Electroacupuncture
- How long does a typical treatment last
- How long they’ve been treating clients
- If they have experience using Electroacupuncture to treat your symptoms
- Does the office accept medical insurance
If you’re worried about pain or discomfort, let the Doctor know. They should address your concerns and help you feel comfortable before your first session.
Acupuncture usually takes numerous treatments over several weeks to make a difference, so expect to be asked to return for more treatments. Even if the acupuncturist you choose accepts health insurance, not all insurance providers cover acupuncture.
Electroacupuncture is closely related to acupuncture but involves stimulating two needles with an electrical current. Some believe that this enhances the healing properties of traditional acupuncture.
There’s limited evidence to support the many claims made about Electroacupuncture. But research does suggest it may help with several health issues, including arthritis, acute pain, and chemotherapy side effects.
Acupuncture is a well-studied and evidenced-based practice that has been used successfully for thousands of years. Integrative Health and Rehabilitation provides acupuncture, dry needling, and electroacupuncture to Arvada, Denver, and Wheatridge, Colorado, patients. If you are interested in experiencing Electroacupuncture, schedule a free consultation today.