Electroacupuncture regards the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating the acupoints. This technique was developed in China as an extension of hand manipulation of acupuncture needles around 1930.
The procedure for electroacupuncture is to insert the acupuncture needle as would normally be done, attain the qi reaction by hand manipulation, and then attach an electrode to the needle to provide continued stimulation. One of most important benefit of using an electrical device is to 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 example to treat difficult cases of neuralgia or paralysis.
Although electroacupuncture 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 electroacupuncture treatment of neurological diseases, including chronic pain, spasm, and paralysis. Very good results are obtained from treating sciatica, paraplegia, hemiplegia, facial paralysis, injury of the knee joint ligaments, arthritis of the shoulder and many other conditions.
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.
The electroacupuncture device is not intended to provide a significant current between the acupuncture needles. Rather, it delivers about 10-80 milliamps depending upon the selected setting. But, it will provide a significant voltage: 40-80 volts, which is the basis for the patient response. There is virtually no current transmitted through the body, but there is enough voltage stimulus for the patient to feel it; often this will be a pulsating sensation because of the intention of using a waveform that is perceptible.
Duration of standard treatment with electroacupuncture is usually 15-20 minutes and rarely exceeds 30 minutes.