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.
While electro-acupuncture may be used as a component of almost all acupuncture treatments, it is has garnered especially good results regarding the treatment of neurological diseases, chronic pain, spasms, and paralysis. Also, holistic sports medicine commonly uses electro-acupuncture for injuries. When combined with acupressure (the stimulation of acupuncture points with the use of the practitioner's hands and gentle massage, instead of needles), electro-acupuncture has been proven to promote the flow of qi and blood, relieve pain, and warm the muscles, removing blood stasis (a blockage, or poor circulation).
Using the same points as traditional acupuncture, electro-acupuncture is a convenient stimulation technique that can be used for a variety of treatments. In cases of stubborn neurological disorders and chronic pain, electro-acupuncture may be the best option for point stimulation and effective treatments.