Why Electroacupuncture?

,
Alligator clips attaching electrical leads to acupuncture needles on a leg

Two main reasons I add electricity to my acupuncture needles:

Accelerated Pain Relief & Increased Muscle Functionality.

Electroacupuncture can provide dramatic pain relief of different types of pain

  • inflammatory pain (due to injury, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, etc.)
  • nerve pain (injuries to nerves, nerve impingement, neuropathies, spinal nerve issues)
  • organ pain (colitis, gastritis, etc.)
  • cancer pain

It triggers the release of your body’s natural opioids (beta-endorphins, dynorphin) and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA that downregulate pain; glutamate to repair damaged cells, CGRP to increase blood flow to the injured area; red and white blood cells and nerve growth factor to speed healing; anti-inflammatory prostaglandin, and substance P which tells the brain to send resources to the injured area, while blocking the release of inflammatory cytokines.

Electroacupuncture not only desensitizes the pain receptors in the area that hurts; it also acts at the level of the spine and at the brain. Quick anatomy recap: the spine is a like a relay station for the peripheral nervous system, so if you hurt your hand, the nerve impulse travels to your spine and then to the brain to communicate. Electroacupuncture can help turn a signal from your spine from what would be a scream down to a whisper by the time the message gets to the brain through the release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and enkephalin.

But wait, there’s more: the brain then responds by triggering the release of serotonin and norepinephrine to further downregulate pain (and improve mood!).

Diagram of mechanisms of electroacupuncture acting at peripheral site, spine, and brain

Image credit: Ruixin Zhang, Lixing Lao, Ke Ren, Brian M. Berman; Mechanisms of Acupuncture–Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain. Anesthesiology 2014; 120:482–503 doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/ALN.0000000000000101

Alligator clips attaching electrical leads to acupuncture needles on a leg

Electroacupuncture in my clinic, Life in Balance Acupuncture Photo credit: Cassidy Donaldson

 

 

In addition to pain relief, electroacupuncture has the ability to restore muscle functionality incredibly fast — often in less than 20 seconds. While acupuncture and manual therapies can do this too, electro-acupuncture does it faster.

Say you’re dealing with hip pain. I would put you through a series of resistance tests to determine whether the muscles affecting that joint are firing correctly. If they’re not, it often means that muscle has been powered down due to pain or injury, thus not able to do its job very well. I would then select a motor point, a spot where the motor neuron communicates with the muscle, and stimulate it with Electroacupuncture to turn it back on.

This often works in less than 30 seconds, restoring optimal function to the affected joint, which not only interrupts an inflammatory pain cycle, but enables the muscle to build strength once again. (Click here for a full tour of how this works, or listen to this episode of my podcast.)

 

Ruixin Zhang, Lixing Lao, Ke Ren, Brian M. Berman; Mechanisms of Acupuncture–Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain. Anesthesiology 2014; 120:482–503 doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/ALN.0000000000000101