The main disadvantage of electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles is the lack of direct practitioner participation in this aspect of acupuncture therapy and the associated limited opportunity for the practitioner to respond to changes that are taking place during treatment. However, for practitioners who, after inserting and initially stimulating the needles, normally leave the patient to rest undisturbed without performing prolonged needle manipulation, electro-acupuncture can provide a significant benefit: replacing the missing stimulus that is recommended by most experienced acupuncturists in China.
The use of electro acupuncture is especially effective for treatment of neurological diseases, including spasm, chronic pain and paralysis. Caution should be used in patients with serious cardiac diseases. It is highly recommended to avoid placing any electrodes near the heart because the heart may respond adversely to electrical impulses. But, the advantages overwhelming outweigh the disadvantages in electro acupuncture. At least when using the electrode approach, the acupuncture will be complete as in the ways of the old Chinese master acupuncturists.
Duration of normal treatment with electro-acupuncture is usually 10-20 minutes and rarely exceeds 30 minutes. During the stimulation period you will become adapted to the stimulus (this will typically happen after the first minute or two), with a gradual decline in response. The electrical pulsing stimulus is used in a few cases for an hour or more, especially for difficult to treat neurological disorders. The electrical output should then be adjusted in frequency and/or intensity to resume the sensation. Variable frequency output of the electro-acupuncture device is sometimes utilized in an attempt to circumvent this adaptation.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of pain and illness and disease in Asia. It was first used over 3,000 years ago in China and is currently the major component of traditional Chinese medicine. It is a safe medical technique that is used in order to help the body heal itself. Acupuncture is a way to prevent surgery and an alternative to putting chemicals into the body.
Acupuncture is also an excellent alternative to using drugs that have major side effects on the body. Electro acupuncture was also developed in China around 1934. It is used as an extension for the hand manipulation of acupuncture needles. A needle is inserted under into the skin as would normally be done with the regular hand manipulation and then an electrode would be attached to the needle to provide continuous stimulation. Electro acupuncture basically substitutes for prolonged hand maneuvering.
It is easier to control the frequency of the stimulus and the amount of stimulus than with hand manipulation of the needles.
It can produce a stronger stimulation, if desired, without causing tissue damage associated with twirling and lifting and thrusting the needle. Strong stimulation may be needed for difficult cases of neuralgia or paralysis.
It substitutes for prolonged hand maneuvering. This helps assure that the patient gets the amount of stimulation needed, because the practitioner may otherwise pause due to fatigue. Electro-acupuncture may also help reduce total treatment time by providing the continued stimulus. During electro-acupuncture, the practitioner can attend to other patients.
The biggest disadvantage of electro acupuncture is the lack of direct contact the practitioner has in the actual acupuncture therapy that is taking place. The practitioner may not be able to respond to changes that are taking place during electro acupuncture, if electrodes are used in place of hand manipulation.
The acupuncture patient needs a specific amount of stimulation and sometimes the practitioner may pause due to fatigue. Electro acupuncture will assure that the patient will get the correct amount of stimulation for his treatment. Electro acupuncture also helps to reduce the total treatment time by providing continued stimulation.
This is good time management for the practitioner, as he can attend to other acupuncture patients. Electro acupuncture can produce a stronger stimulation, if necessary, without causing any tissue damage resulting from the lifting, twirling and thrusting of the needle. Strong stimulation is used for the treatment of neuralgia and paralysis. It is also much easier to control the frequency and the amount of the stimulus with electro acupuncture than it is with hand manipulation of the needles.
Although electro-acupuncture may be used as a component of nearly all acupuncture treatments that require manipulation of the needles, according to the Chinese literature, especially good results are expected from electro-acupuncture treatment of neurological diseases, including chronic pain, spasm, and paralysis. In patients with serious cardiac diseases, however, the method should be used with caution. It is generally recommended to avoid placing electrodes near the heart, as the heart can respond adversely to electrical impulses, and the path between any two electrodes should not cross the heart area, despite the low current that is used. Some have suggested avoiding placing electrodes to needles on both sides of the spinal cord (e.g., for Hua Tuo or bladder meridian points), because of the possible effect of the electrical stimulus on the nervous system. Points are generally selected in pairs for electrical pulse stimulation, with 1-3 pairs at one time, and the pairs are usually on the same side of the body.
In clinical trials where electro-acupuncture is used, there are few details, if any, reported about the technique, other than the duration of stimulus and the frequency of the electrical output. An extensive review of the Chinese acupuncture literature shows that most clinical work with acupuncture is carried out with manual stimulus despite the ready availability of electro-acupuncture devices. In one study of treatment of depression in which some explanation was given, the authors stated that The intensity of stimulation was optimal when slight muscle twitching was visible, yet the patient was comfortable and the stimulus tolerable. The frequency of stimulus chosen was about 80-90 beats per minute. The duration of treatment was 1 hour each time, six days a week for 5 weeks, altogether 30 needlings..