What is Electro-Acupuncture & How Can It Benefit You?
Modern electro-acupuncture was invented in the 1950’s in China as an attempt by Chinese Medicine practitioners to be more efficient and treat more people in a shorter period of time. Instead of having to stimulate the needles by hand every few minutes, the electro machine could provide constant stimulation, allowing the practitioner to move on to the next patient. At the time they did not know that not only were they able to treat more patients, but accidentally created a modality that can have significant effects on biological systems including gene expressions, endogenous stem cell release and antioxidant properties.
What is Electro-Acupuncture?
Electro-acupuncture is an addition to acupuncture therapy whereby an electrical current is run from an electro machine through connecting cables and attached to the heads of acupuncture needles to assist in stimulating the muscle/fascia via differing electrotherapeutic methods.
Electro-acupuncture has a greater effect than a TENS machine for example for several reasons. Firstly a TENS machine is placed on the surface of the skin and electrified, but electro-acupuncture has the benefit of piercing through the skin and going deeper into the tissue. Skin has a natural electrical resistance as does bone and fat. However muscles and nerves have less resistance allowing the electrical current to have a greater effect when it travels through the needle and into the muscle tissue.
Secondly, there are different types of electrical current that can be run through the acupuncture needles. For example, micro-current is a millionth of an amp which is too low to cause a muscle twitch or nerve response but has specific profound effects on a cellular level. Different types of electrical currents can be used for specific purposes such as repairing connective tissue tears, muscle strains or ligament/tendon damage.
Milli-current is also used in electro-acupuncture and TENS machines. Instead of affecting the cells, it has broader effects on the muscles and fascia, but again only electro-acupuncture is able to get deeper into the tissue into the affected area. Milli-current is best used to strengthen muscle, improve local circulation and relieve pain.
Lastly electro-acupuncture combines the healing effects of acupuncture with electrotherapeutics, to strengthen clinical results of either on their own.
Electro-Acupuncture and Gene Expression
Epigenetics refers to the study of biological mechanisms which can turn genes on and off. This means even if someone is born with a specific gene, it does not necessarily mean they will have the trait the gene is associated with. The gene may or may not be expressed based on the environment and actions of the body. Both acupuncture and electro-acupuncture have been shown to be able to affect the expression of certain genes, meaning it is possible to positively change your gene expression with electro-acupuncture.
Stem cells refer to raw undifferentiated biological cells that can transform to daughter cells and then either turn into new stem cells (self-renewal) or differentiate and become specialised cells such as brain cells, heart cells, blood cells etc. No other cell has the ability to generate new cell types, making stem cells extremely unique and important in the repair of the body.
A study published in the journal ‘Stem Cells’ in 2017 showed that electro-acupuncture in rats, horses and humans stimulated and mobilised mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) into systemic circulation. This allowed for greater thresholds for injury induced pain and significant increase in a type of collagen that promotes tendon repair and anti-inflammatory cells known to be predictors of faster healing time.
The same study also demonstrated that acupuncture point specificity caused differing effects to outcomes. Acupuncture points on the forelimbs were said to preferentially mobilise stem cells (MSC) whereas acupuncture points on the hind limbs preferentially mobilised macrophages (Macrophages are cells that are formed in response to infection or accumulating damage or dead cells) into circulation.
Electro-Acupuncture - Antioxidant Effect
An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits oxidation of other molecules. When oxidation occurs a chemical reaction can produce free radicals leading to chain reactions that can damage cells. Antioxidant molecules stop these chain reactions from occurring.
In a study from 2011 ‘The Antioxidant Effect of Electro-Acupuncture in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s disease’ has shown electro-acupuncture has an antioxidant effect to help protect neurons in the brain. Researchers in the study stated that due to this effect, electro-acupuncture is a promising therapy for Parkinson’s disease.
Common Electro-Acupuncture Treatments at Village Remedies
As mentioned above due to the high electrical conductivity of muscular fascia, tendons and ligaments we often use electro-acupuncture in the treatment and recovery of muscular strain, tendinopathy or ligament damage. Especially for tendons and ligaments which receive little blood flow and recovery seems tedious and frustrating. We find the direct application of electro stimulation to the site via electro-acupuncture can improve circulation and speed up recovery and healing of the area.
Studies have also observed that electro-acupuncture can be particularly effective in labour induction. Electro stimulation strengthens the effect of the acupuncture and a 2015 study showed that Chinese Medical interventions could reduce the amount of interventions throughout the birth process as well as delivery interventions and that it was the combination of Chinese and conventional methods together that had the most significant effect on shortening labour.
If you are experiencing pain, not feeling your best or simply want to find out more about acupuncture treatment options, call our friendly team today. All practitioners in . have the same training and style of treatment with a focus on distal style needling.