Electro-acupuncture, the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating the acupoints, was developed in China as an extension of hand manipulation of acupuncture needles around 1934. It is described, though only briefly, in most comprehensive texts of acupuncture (1-4). The procedure for electro-acupuncture 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. The benefits of using electrical stimulation are:
It substitutes for prolonged hand maneuvering. This helps assure that the patient gets the amount of stimulation needed, because the practitioner may otherwise pause due to fatigue. Electro-acupuncture may also help reduce total treatment time by providing the continued stimulus. During electro-acupuncture, the practitioner can attend to other patients.
It can 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 difficult cases of neuralgia or paralysis.
It is easier to control the frequency of the stimulus and the amount of stimulus than with hand manipulation of the needles.