What is Electro Acupuncture?
Electro Acupuncture (EA) is where an electric current is passed through the acupuncture needles. In the clinic there are two types of devices used – the Cefar Acus4 and ETO ES130 EA devices.
What are the Electro Acupuncture devices?
The EA devices are small and portable devices with leads that attach to the needles in order to transfer the current from the machine to the needles. The wires are comparable to jump leads which are used to restart a car engine just on a much smaller scale and with a much more gentle current! In comparison to the point stimulator it provides constant input into the muscle for 10-20 minutes again depending on the treatment dose required and the nature of the condition being treated.
What does Electro Acupuncture do?
EA enhances the effects of the needles by further stimulating the muscle where the needle is inserted. EA helps to elicit physiological effects that promote local healing, pain relief and the reduction of muscle tension to allow for improved mobility and function. It may also assist in deactivating chronic myofascial trigger points or ‘knots’ and the associated taut bands within muscle.
There are generally two different types of frequencies which may be applied using the EA devices - 2Hz and the higher 100Hz. The low 2 Hz low frequency stimulation and feels like a heartbeat or gentle pulsing. The 100Hz is a high frequency and feels more like tingling.
The 2 Hz targets the Type 2/3 receptors in the muscle which evoke strong pain relieving effects. Experimental research has shown (Thomas et al 1994) that this type of stimulation causes longer lasting pain relief by increasing levels of metenkephalin and beta endorphin.
In comparison the high frequency 100Hz has a more rapid but short term pain relief effect. It may be useful in more acute pain for rapid pain relief but will be shorter lasting.
What does Electro Acupuncture feel like?
EA feels like a continuous sensation through the needles, either pulsing similar to the beat of a heart or tingling depending on the frequency used. The sensation felt should be strong but comfortable. You may feel the muscle twitching or pulsing gently depending on the body area being treated the body. The sensation should never be unpleasant and the intensity may need to be adjusted if needed.
Does Electro Acupuncture have any side effects?
EA is a very safe technique with minimal risk involved. As with all needling techniques, the most serious complication is a pneumothorax or punctured lung with is extremely rare with one per 200,000 treatments reported. This can be completely avoided with safe needling techniques as used by our trained physiotherapists here at the clinic. More minor side effects include drowsiness which may occur after treatment in a small number of patients and if it does it is advisable not to drive until symptoms have subsided. In approximately 3% of treatments there may be minor bleeding or bruising, again this can normally be avoided by needling gently and effectively. Pain during treatments occurs in 1% of treatments and is usually short lasting. Symptoms may also temporarily become worse after treatment (3% of clients) but once settled usually settled leave the patient feeling better. You should inform your Physiotherapist of any side effects after treatment. With uncontrolled epileptic patients there is a small risk of EA causing a convulsion and therefore should not be used.
What conditions is Electro Acupuncture used for?
EA is a very useful adjunct to manual therapy and exercise which we use to very good effect at the clinic. It is very useful when treating conditions such as mechanical neck and low back pain, muscle pain, trigger points as well as various types of sports injuries particularly if there is muscle or joint dysfunction. EA can also be used for more chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis, tension headache and fibromyalgia. We find that combining EA with other forms of physiotherapy treatment as part of an integrated approach yields the quickest results in most cases.