Electro-acupuncture is the term used to refer to the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles, or even without needles, to acupuncture points on the body. This Oriental medicine technique was developed in China in the 1930's, and though it is a fairly recent development in the ancient method of acupuncture, the idea behind it corresponds directly with long-held beliefs. Acupuncture operates on the idea that a person's qi, or life force, runs through body along certain meridians, and that specific points on the body correspond with these meridians. When these points are ‘activated' or stimulated by touch, specific complaints of chronic pain or illnesses can be alleviated. Using a gentle electrical current in conjunction with, or instead of, acupuncture needles, is an alternative way to stimulate the point and enhance the qi.
The procedure for electro-acupuncture usually involves the needles inserted as in a traditional treatment, but a small electrode is attached to them. This electrode provides a gentle vibration that stimulates the qi running through these points. It is often very soothing to the patient, providing a soft humming and, essentially, a more fluid treatment. The electrode substitutes the practitioners' hand maneuvering of the needle to activate the acupuncture point. This avoids any tiring of the practitioner, and ensures that the patient receives the proper amount of stimulation needed. Also, electro-acupuncture treatments are often shorter than regular acupuncture treatments due to the continued, and often stronger, stimulus.