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Electroacupuncture (AKA E-stim): What Is It, And Is It For Me?

Updated: Apr 10

What is Electroacupuncture? 

Electroacupuncture, sometimes called e-stim, is the procedure of running microcurrent through metal needles inserted into acupuncture points. Leads are connected via small metal clips directly to the handle of acupuncture needles at one end, and to a specialized e-stim machine at the other. When the machine is turned on, microcurrent runs through the needles and into the tissue to amplify and enhance the effects of acupuncture treatment by promoting the release of endogenous molecules for pain relief, improved circulation, reduced inflammation and immune system regulation.

Prior to the advent of electroacupuncture, acupuncturists often manipulated acupuncture needles by hand, using tiny movements to lift, thrust, wiggle, or subtly bounce needles to produce desired clinical effects. While these classical techniques are still used, electroacupuncture offers a comfortable and convenient alternative to some of these therapies while additionally producing an increase in the benefits of treatment. 

Benefits of Electroacupuncture: What Is It Good For? 

Electroacupuncture treatments are beneficial for a variety of reasons. E-stim is particularly effective for pain relief and accelerating tissue repair and recovery after injury, including post-surgical healing (PMID: 35463630, 21280458, 37351442, 24322588, 37957422, 32198725, 37307402, 25441949), making it useful for treatment of pain following surgery, traumatic injury, repetitive stress injury, sports injury, arthritis, tendinitis and more.  

Electroacupuncture is also effective in the treatment of pain from nerve damage (neurogenic pain) as well for weight loss, depression and anxiety, post-stroke paralysis and weakness, Bell’s palsy, foot/wrist drop, and age-related cognitive decline diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (PMID: 15953937, 35437025, 33293991, 29231404, 32472874, 36034955, 29705474, 34646113). Further, electroacupuncture can be used to improve range of motion, reverse muscle atrophy, reduce muscle spasticity, improve bladder and bowel function, and even to help maintain bone density (PMID: 15484667, 34989884, 30028092, 30108520, 33045874). 

The frequency of the microcurrent used is adjusted for different treatment benefits. For example, a frequency of 150 Hz increases norepinephrine and promotes circulation by causing blood vessels to open and relax, while a frequency of 40 Hz increases circulating levels of nerve growth factor, which enhances healing in cases of neuropathic pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of motor control. Frequency is selected and may be adjusted during treatment according to the specific needs and conditions of the patient.   

What does electroacupuncture/estim feel like? Does it hurt? 

No, electroacupuncture should not be painful. With e-stim, the goal is to approach the threshold of discomfort without actually producing discomfort. This allows the maximum level of beneficial nervous system activation without producing tissue damage. What this means is that you should experience a clear and distinct sensations that patients typically describe as tingling or buzzing at higher frequencies. At lower frequencies, patients report feeling no sensation or a mild to moderate pulsing sensation that may or may not be accompanied by fasciculation (read: painless twitching of a muscle fiber) that indicates desirable activation of sensory and motor nerves. Many patients report that electroacupuncture provides relief of pain that is resistant to other forms of treatment (PMID: 35380733, 38239361, 36550890). 

The body acclimates very quickly to the sensations of e-stim. Most patients benefit from small gradual increases in the intensity of the microcurrent throughout the treatment session as the nervous system adjusts to the feeling. At Mind + Body Acupuncture and Wellness, our practitioners are trained to check in with you frequently throughout your electroacupuncture treatment to ensure your comfort and maximize benefits. 

Is it safe? 

Special precautions are taken when administering electroacupuncture to patients. Patients with metal or electrical implants, such as metal plates or screws, pacemakers, or implanted TENS devices should not get e-stim in regions of the body close to these implants.Electroacupuncture is clasically contraindicated in pregnancy and in cases where a serious injury or underlying condition may be present (such as a suspected fracture or suspected blood clot). Your practitioner is trained to ask you detailed questions about your medical history and chief complaint to determine whether or not e-stim is safe and appropriate for you. 

Curious to learn how electroacupuncture could help you?

Contact us today!

(512) 541-9673


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