Electric (electro) acupuncture is an alternative medicine that uses a small electric current passed to specific acupuncture points to be stimulated on the body. It originates from traditional Chinese medicine.
Once the needle has been inserted into the body, small crocodile clips are placed on the ends of specific points upon the body. Not all the needles will be stimulated. Generally, between 2-6 acupuncture points are stimulated with an electric current, whilst the rest are left alone.
Once the patient is ready, a small electric current is passed into the needles and adjust the frequency to a tolerable level. It sounds painful but isn't, it's just uncomfortable. After a few minutes the sensation can reduce in intensity, so the level of current being passed into the body is increased to a new tolerable point.
During treatment the acupuncturist sets the electric current intensity very low and then its increased until the person can feel it and then slowly raised until a tolerable level is reached. Treatment lasts around 30 minutes. It isn't painful but isn't relaxing as regular treatments as you feel an electric current being passed into specific areas of your body, like a gentle electric-shock.
Personally, I only use it when there is numbness and nerve pain, which it's particularly good at treating. Otherwise, I find relaxing on the couch with regular form of treatment can be of more benefit.
The main benefits of traditional acupuncture and electroacupuncture are in the treatment of chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, PCOS and particularly chronic pain and other pain syndromes.
When given by a qualified acupuncturist, generally there aren't any side effects. Minor side effects include a heightened nerve sensation in the area, but this should disappear after a few days. Otherwise, it doesn't have any other adverse effects, it's just not as relaxing as the regular type of treatment.
Is it safe?
Yes, it is safe to have electrical stimulation. The only adverse effect is the sensation of the nerves being stimulated afterwards.
Is it safe in pregnancy?
Yes, it's safe to use in pregnancy. TENS machines are the same thing just with pads instead of crocodile clips and are available to buy over the counter. They are commonly used in pregnancy and during labour to relieve pain.
A lot of research and controlled study use electro acupuncture treatments as it's a stronger form of therapy and may achieve better results. It's believed to work on the nervous system.