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Electroacupuncture is an acupuncture technique that applies small electrical currents to needles that have been inserted at specific points on the body.


Acupuncture originated thousands of years ago in China as a healing technique. Electroacupuncture was developed in 1958 in China, when acupuncturists there began experimenting with it as surgical anesthesia, or pain control. After several years of testing during surgery, acupuncturists began applying electroacupuncture in clinical practice for many conditions.


Electroacupuncture can be used to treat the same variety of health conditions that regular acupuncture treats, and for conditions that do not respond to conventional acupuncture. It is effectively used as surgical anesthesia, as a means of reducing chronic pain and muscle spasms, and as a treatment for neurological (nerve) disorders.


Acupuncturists begin treatment by diagnosing a patient. Diagnosis is performed with interviews, close examinations (such as of the tongue and pulse diagnosis ), and other methods. Acupuncture strives to balance and improve the flow of chi, or life energy, which travels throughout the body in channels called meridians. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), illness is caused when chi does not move properly in the body. Acupuncturists are trained to determine where chi is stagnated, weak, or out of balance, which indicates where and how acupuncture points on the body should be stimulated. Electroacupuncture is often recommended for cases of accumulation of chi, such as in chronic pain, and in cases where the chi is difficult to prompt or stimulate.

Patients usually lie down for acupuncture treatment. Thin, sterilized needles are used, and the surface of the skin where they will be inserted is sterilized, as well. One advantage of electroacupuncture is that the margin of error for needle placement is greater than for regular acupuncture, because the electrical current stimulates a larger area around the needle. Electroacupuncture works with two needles at a time in order for electrical current to pass through the body from one needle to another. Small devices are used to create and regulate a pulsing electric charge, which is sent to the needles by attaching small clips to their ends. The electric charge is very small, and can be adjusted by the acupuncturist or patient. Both the voltage (intensity) and the frequency of the electric charge can be adjusted for healing effects. Voltage levels should be raised slowly. Several pairs of needles may be stimulated at one time, for up to 30 or more minutes of electrical stimulation along the meridians. Another similar, though conventional, medical technique is called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which uses electrodes that are taped to the surface of the skin instead of attached to inserted needles, which may be advantageous for patients for whom needles pose risks or problems. This technique stimulates along nerve and muscle groups.


German physician Reinhold Voll initially studied architecture in school and had no intention to become a physician. He decided to study medicine when various treatments to restore the health of his father failed. He spent much of his early career specializing in tropical diseases, sports medicine, and public health, and set up a practice in Plochingen in southern Germany. He was introduced to methods of Chinese acupuncture by a doctor who worked in the tropics and was a firm believer in the practice. By the 1950s, Voll was engaging in the ancient Chinese practice. He had an idea that modern technology might enhance acupuncture in the treatment of various chronic diseases such as allergies, chronic fatigue, migraines, and chronic liver, kidney or pancreatic diseases. His research led him to electroacupuncture (EAV), using electric currents to enhance manipulation of the traditional acupuncture points. In addition to that, he realized that there were even more points, or meridians, that corresponded directly with particular organs. Voll then developed a system to measure the degree of inflammation these organs suffered.

Voll focused on certain criteria by which to treat these points. He determined that conditions were either inflammable, chronic, or subchronic. By the use of nosodes, remedies composed of bacteria or viruses, and based on the causes of those diseases and using other homeopathic agents, he was able to test for drugs before the patient ingested them. It was Voll who also discovered the relationship between teeth and the inner organs, an important key to understanding health and disease.

The Institute for ElectroAcupuncture & ElectroDiagnostics is based on Voll's original methods is located in Munich, Germany. The website for additional information can be located at: http://www.eavnet.com.

Jane Spear


Electroacupuncture should not be used on people who have seizures, epilepsy , histories of heart disease or strokes, or those with heart pacemakers. Electroacupuncture should not be performed on the head, throat, or directly over the heart, and should be perfrmed with care on spastic muscles. Another recommended precaution is that electrical current should not be sent across the midline of the body, which is the line running from the nose to the navel.

Side effects

During electroacupuncture, patients report sensations of tingling, warmth, and mild aches. Bruising and bleeding may occur, as the needles may hit small blood vessels.



Kakptchuk, Ted. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. New York: Congdon and Weed, 1983.

Requena, Yves, M.D. Terrains and Pathology in Acupuncture. Massachusetts: Paradigm, 1986.


American Association of Oriental Medicine. http://www.aaom.org.

North American Society of Acupuncture and Alternative Medicine. http://www.nasa-altmed.com.

Douglas Dupler