Electro-Acupuncture is perhaps the most modern technique used in acupuncture today, and is now widely used by acupuncturists throughout the world. This technique is very similar to regular acupuncture. It is used for mostly the same diseases and uses the same acupuncture points. The main difference is that it uses a very mild electric current instead of hand manipulation to obtain a stronger needle sensation.
Historically in China the needles were often hand manipulated at a frequency of 200 turns per minute, giving a similar effect to the low frequency of 2 to 4 Hertz obtained today with an electro-acupuncture device. Needless to say it would take a lot of practice to hand stimulate a needle at a rate of 200 turns per minute, but it would also limit the acupuncturist to doing one, or at the most, two needles at the same time. With electro-acupuncture the acupuncturist can increase/decrease the frequency, do many points at the same time, stimulate the point for a longer amount of time, and free the acupuncturist to prepare the herbal formula for that patient or simply see another patient.
After the needles have been inserted, small wire clips are attached to the needles. To make the electricity flow you must have two leads connected to two different needles. The device is then turned on and electricity is passed through. At the beginning, the electric potential should be zero and the current only gradually increased to as to monitor the patient's reaction. Once the desired stimulation has been reached the needles are left alone for awhile. After about 10 minutes the patient becomes accustomed to the electric stimulation (the feeling of stimulation declines) so the current once again is gradually increased. The entire electro-acupuncture treatment takes between 20 to 25 minutes.
Electro-acupuncture provides the option of performing this technique without the use of needles. Flexible pads, consisting of electroconductive carbon, are adhered to the skin over the site of pain. Since the pads spread over a wider surface area than the needles, and the resistance is greater through the pads to the skin than the needles to the skin, a higher current/voltage is used with this application of electro-acupuncture.