Electro Medical Acupuncture is an advanced version of Medical Acupuncture, where an electrical current is stimulated between pairs of needles at a specific frequency and intensity. An electro acupuncture device is used to provide the electrical current, and then leads with crocodile clips are connected to the needles. There can be anything from 1-4 channels connected to different needles, each with their own intensity.
There are two different waveforms created by the electro acupuncture device – called dense wave or disperse wave. Dense waves have a higher frequency and are involved in relieving muscle spasming and aiding pain relief. Disperse waves on the other hand have lower frequency and they help to contract the muscle and aid the relief during injuries of muscle, joint or ligament. A combination of both wave types is usually used during treatment.
How does it work?
There are a number of theories on how electro acupuncture works. A few of the more common theories are outlined below:
Endorphins Theory: This theory suggests that electro medical acupuncture stimulates the release of endogenous opiates, which are essentially our body’s own pain relief. Research has further shown that the frequency (not the intensity) of the waves used during electrical stimulation can affect the type of endogenous opiates that are released.
Serotonin Theory: This theory suggests that a serotoninergic descending inhibitory pathway exists, which means that serotonin is released during electro acupuncture, which can inhibit (block) pain signals. Multiple experimental studies have shown evidence for the release of serotonin during electro acupuncture.
Noradrenaline Theory: Like the other theories, research has shown noradrenaline is released due to electro acupuncture stimulation. Noradrenaline can inhibit pain sensations via the α2-adrenergic nerve receptors.
Overall, endorphins, serotonin and noradrenaline all aid the modulation of pain, and all 3 are released in the dorsal horn. The dorsal horn is a section of grey matter in the spinal cord, and it is a major area at which sensory nerve signals from the peripheral nerves are received. Therefore all 3 theories are likely all providing a degree of pain relief.
It is important to note that these effects occur due to the combination of a needle directly in contact with the soft tissue (rather than stimulation from outside the body) along with specific wave frequencies during electrical stimulation.
For more information on the use of needles and medical acupuncture, please click here.
Electro Acupuncture treatments are gentle – which is something no one expects when you consider the treatment involves the insertion of needles and electrical stimulation. This is because you are in complete control of the intensity, as the settings will be adjusted to your comfort level, and there will be plenty of communication to ensure that the settings are suitable for you.
The level of intensity does not affect the efficacy of the treatment, so you do not need to try to grin and bear it; if it is too much, a reduction of intensity will not reduce the benefits of the treatment.