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Electroacupuncture - benefits and safety

  1. About
  2. History
  3. How does it work?
  4. What are the health benefits?
  5. Does it hurt?
  6. Is it safe?
  7. Are there any side effects?
  8. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
  9. Is it research proven?

1. About

Electric (electro) acupuncture is an alternative medicine that uses a small electric current for the stimulation of acupuncture points on the body. It originates from traditional Chinese medicine and can increase the effect of acupuncture treatment.

2. History

Electroacupuncture originated in China during the 1950s. Originally it was used as a analgesia during surgical operations. Today it is still used as a analgesia during surgery and also for effective and fast pain relief.

3. How it works

Once the acupuncture 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.

4. Health benefits

The main benefits are in the treatment of health problems, such as high blood pressure, PCOS and particularly as a form of pain relief.

There is a lot of evidence based research using randomized controlled trials, which shows that electroacupuncture is better than a placebo control.

5. Is it painful?

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.

6. Is it safe?

Yes, it is safe to have electrical stimulation. The only adverse effect is the sensation of the nerves being stimulated afterwards.

7. Side effects

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.

8. Is it safe in pregnancy?

Yes, it's safe to use in pregnancy when administered by a licensed acupuncturist. 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 chronic pain.

For safety and best results, ask your acupuncturist where you should place the TENS pads upon the body for pain relief.

9. Research

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.