What is Electro-Acupuncture?

Electro-acupunctureElectricity has been used for healing  for a very long time. In fact it was first recorded in Egypt in 2750BC when a species of electric fish, known as Nile catfish, were placed in a bath tub and then patients would lie in the electrified water.  German physicians in the 1700’s used static electricity to treat paralyzed patients. Benjamin Franklin used electricity to treat convulsive fitting.

In the 1800’s British physicians used electric shocks to treat leg fractures.

Amazingly in 1853, Dr Holl of Pennsylvania, USA, used direct current (DC) through acupuncture needles to treat leg bone fractures.

In 1934, a book was published in China in the use of electro-acupuncture using direct current onto acupuncture needles.

By the late 1950’s, electro-acupuncture was being used in Chinese hospitals as surgical anaesthesia.

There has been much research involving electro-acupuncture in the last 20 years in China but also in the west.

The modern electro-acupuncture machines are quite small and use batteries as their power source. Small clips attached to wires interlink from the machine to the inserted acupuncture needles. Then a current is activated and the patient feels what has been described as a mild thumping pulse or a feeling of a wave, almost like the skin is being stroked with a feather.

There are many different wave forms and frequencies and depending on the patient’s condition, the duration of the current also varies.

Research has shown that electro-acupuncture works in terms of neuroscience involving the gate control theory and endorphins, the body’s natural morphine. Brain wave resonances change when being subjected to electro-acupuncture and there are even chemical changes in the body such as acetylcholine levels altering.

Though electro-acupuncture is being used commonly for pain disorders, it can also be used to treat emotional problems such as depression. One condition that it is being used for more and more is for stroke rehabilitation.

Other uses include

Electro-Acupuncture doesn’t replace traditional acupuncture needling methods, but is a useful adjunct to enhancing treatment outcomes.

The Acupuncture Clinic uses the Pantheon Research Electrostimulator 6c.Pro which is advanced in its design as it allows alternation of the frequencies every few seconds.

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About Heiko Lade

Hi, I'm Heiko Lade - qualified acupuncturist at The Acupuncture Clinic in Hastings, New Zealand. If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation and treatment, please contact me.


  1. Please can you tell me have you ever heard of electro stimulators causing tissue damage , damage to the underlying tissues of the skin , fascia etc

    should they all be battery powered

    • Hi Sue, I personally have not heard of damage being done but it is not to say that there could not be aggravations. Mishaps with any treatment procedure is possible, including the use of electro-acupuncture in the hands of in experienced untrained practitioners such as those pretending to do acupuncture and calling it dry needling . I recommend that you see a licensed or registered qualified and experienced acupuncturist who has done a minimum of 3-4 years full time training in acupuncture. Generally most electro-acupuncture machines are battery powered though there are some running of mains but convert to DC.

  2. Dr Thaddeus Pilgrim says:

    Hi Dr Heiko ,
    we met on one of your lecture tours . I am still based here in Greece on Kalivari . I am particularly interested in electricity and pain as you know . I would like to compare using these eeels as you say to electro acupuncture …. how many eels should I put in bath tub?


    • Thaddeus… I didn’t know there were any eels on Kalivari. I didn’t even think you had water on the island. Just Ouzo. But you could try 2 eels, one male and one female. Try for yourself first though before asking patients to lie in water.

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