While you might be familiar with what acupuncture is, have you ever heard of electroacupuncture? Just like traditional acupuncture, electroacupuncture uses needles on various acupuncture points. The difference comes in that with electroacupuncture, a small electrode is attached to the needles which allows a small amount of electricity to pass through, giving a slight vibration or low hum during treatment.
Electroacupuncture treatments can also be a bit shorter because the electrodes activate the acupuncture points more quickly than traditional methods. Another benefit is that it can cover larger areas of the body than a traditional treatment.
WebMD describes electroacupuncture as a means to “connect your physical and spiritual self. There are potential benefits to both parts of your body. Physically, this treatment is designed to help you feel better. Spiritually, this treatment is meant to help you understand your qi and the energy you have around you.”
How Does it Work?
Electroacupuncture works by using two needles in each meridian or acupuncture point, then connects to a machine that passes a small electric current through the needle. Electroacupuncture is an effective treatment option for those suffering from chronic pain or chronic stress. It stimulates your sympathetic nerve fibers and releases endorphins which can help to reduce inflammation which often causes pain.
At your first session, your acupuncturist will do a thorough health history to understand your symptoms and determine the protocol for treatment. Needles will be inserted at the appropriate points as well as other needles nearby. Small electrodes connect the needles to a machine where your acupuncturist will adjust the current and voltage settings. The electric current pulsates and alternates between the two needles. As mentioned previously, you may feel a slight vibration or hear a low hum. Sessions can last just as long as a traditional acupuncture session, depending on the severity of the condition being treated.
You shouldn’t feel any pain during the treatment and most people don’t even feel the needles being inserted.
What the Research Says
A 2005 review examined two studies looking at the benefits of acupuncture to treat rheumatoid arthritis. One of the studies used electroacupuncture treatments and those who received it reported a significant reduction in knee pain 24 hours after treatment, with the effect lasting as long as four months post treatment for some.
A 2017 review of the literature examined 11 randomized controlled trials on electroacupuncture and knee osteoarthritis. Results pointed to electroacupuncture reducing pain and improving movement, although it was noted that four weeks of treatment were needed. Additional research suggests electroacupuncture is effective for treating anxiety and depression and fibromyalgia as well.
If you are interested in electroacupuncture, talk to your practitioner about whether it is appropriate to incorporate it into your treatment plan. They can answer all of your questions about how the treatment works and what you can expect.