Electroacupuncture (EA) is a means of stimulating acupuncture points by applying pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles.
- It is a combination of acupuncture and electrophysiology
- Comparing to hand stimulation, EA provides persistent and prolonged stimulation with the controlled strength and frequency. The stimulation is adjustable.
- EA reduces workload and produces powerful and persistent treatment effect.
The mechanism of electroacupuncture therapy
- Immediate effect: injury stimulus is inhibited during treatment because the injury signal is inhibited by electrical stimulus at the level of the spine via pre-synaptic inhibition; the dermatome plays an important role.
- Continued effect: injury stimulus is fully inhibited when retaining the needles with electrical stimulus – the most important phase in treatment because the injury signal and the electrical signal are integrated at every level between afferent fibers and the cortex, which activates all injury related structures and neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS) leading to the inhibition of the injury signal. This takes ~ 15-30minutes. The opioid peptides such as endorphin, enkephalins and dynorphin play a critical role in this mechanism. This effect may maintain for hours to days.
- Post-treatment effect: continued improvement is possible for days or weeks until healing occurs. The mechanism is mediated through humoral regulation including endocrine-exocrine, immune systems and homeostasis. The mediating substances include hormones, cytokines, inflammatory factors and analgesic factors. The cortex-hypothalamus-pituitary-endocrine gland system plays an important role in acupuncture treatment.
In summary, the mechanism of acupuncture treatment is the involvement of neural and humoral regulation and the neuro-endocrino-immune network plays a critical role.
Zhu, H., et al., 2013. Electroacupuncture Therapy. Harmony Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Laurel, MD.