Based on the name, you may be envisioning a Frankenstein-esque experiment that leaves you wondering…

Frankenstein's monster

WATT is electro-acupuncture?



When compared to traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture (3000+ years old), electroacupuncture is relatively fresh and new on the scene with the reported use going back to the 1940’s.

As acupuncture and other traditional medicines continue to grow in popularity, so does the blending of modern technology with ancient techniques.

Electro-acupuncture, ‘EA’ or ‘E-stim’ is similar to the more widely known TENS machine.


TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) units are often used by physical therapists, chiropractors and other pain management specialists. Some people even have them for at-home use. Both the TENS and E-stim units use a mild electrical current to induce nerve stimulation that reduces pain by stimulating the body’s cells and tissues to heal.

The TENS uses sticky pads that are placed upon the skin while the E-Stim uses mini jumper cables that attach to two acupuncture needles strategically placed in acupuncture or trigger points (below). The electrical current produces more stimulation in the acupoints than hand-twirling or other manual manipulation techniques that an acupuncturist may normally do.

Electro acupuncture

This boost of electricity amplifies the healing properties of the acupuncture points, stimulates local muscles and nerves, and increases endorphin production to help alleviate pain and anxiety.

And although it may look a little scary, it is actually incredibly relaxing.


How Does It Work?

We can look at this in two different ways:


Eastern viewpoint:

[First, a quick recap on acupuncture and Qi 101 in case you’re a little rusty]

Acupuncture helps restore balance in the body by activating our “Qi” or life force. There isn’t a perfect or direct translation of Qi in the English language but you can think of it as the energy or force that courses through the body and allows every cell, muscle, organ, and bone to move, grow, and function. Qi is all about action and movement.

Qi moves along ‘channels’ or ‘meridians’ much like blood moves through arteries/veins and nerve impulses run along nerves. Qi is the energy source that moves the blood down these vessels and causes the nerves to conduct. Acupuncture channels are often found very close to major blood vessels and nerves in the body.

Chakra diagram

And although we cannot physically SEE Qi or it’s channels, however, we can see it’s effects.

Just like we cannot “see” electricity, we still know that electricity is running along the wires in the wall and that we can plug in and manipulate it at the electrical sockets.

If Qi is the electricity, the wires are the acupuncture channels and the sockets are the acupuncture points where this “energy” collects and is able to be dispersed and utilized.

Qi is the active component of every cell, muscle and tissue. When the Qi becomes disrupted or stagnated along the channels (stress, posture, lack of exercise, injury, etc) it can lead to pain, illness or other conditions.

Think of it as a traffic jam along the ‘Qi 405 Freeway’ — people start to honk and get angry (inflammation accrues in the area of pain/tightness), the police, AAA and an ambulance may come to check it out and clear the scene (white blood cells/your immune and lymphatic systems).

Acupuncture helps facilitate this process and clears the traffic jam more quickly than if your body were to do it alone.

When we add E-Stim to the process, we are creating an even GREATER, ULTRA EFFICIENT police, ambulance and roadside assistance team to make sure the entire body is running ultra smooth.


Western Viewpoint:

Electroacupuncture blocks pain by activating a variety of bioactive chemicals through peripheral, spinal, and supraspinal mechanisms.

Electro acupuncture diagram

It enhances endorphin production (the body’s natural opiate-like chemicals) that reduce pain, relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

EA shares all of the same benefits of ‘non-electro’ acupuncture but with amplified effects due to the continual and controlled stimulation provided by the machine.


Common Conditions Treated W/ E-Stim

​In clinical studies, E-Stim has shown to be effective in treating a variety of conditions, particularly for those that are stubborn and chronic.

The most obvious are pain, muscle spasms and neurological issues.

But because the electrical stimulation of acupuncture points can be used to activate a variety of systems within the body, EA can be used to treat an even wider range of conditions like heart disease, hypertension, nausea, weight gain and even skin problems.

Electro acupuncture examples

Here are some conditions commonly treated with E-stim:

(click on the blue links to studies for more info)



-Bell’s Palsy

carpal tunnel

-plantar fasciitis

PMS and cramps

-gut motility (bloating, indigestion)

-neuropathy (numbness or tingling)

back pain, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain

-______PAIN… you get the picture



E-Stim is very safe for most people; however it is NOT recommended for patients with:

-a pacemaker

-a history of seizures or epilepsy

It is to be used with CAUTION for:

-pregnant women

-those with a history of heart issues

As with any type of therapy, your practitioner should provide you with an individualized treatment plan.



Acupuncture without the added electricity can be very powerful by itself and may provide all of the relief you need. I decide whether to use E-stim or not based on the patient and their symptoms.


Ask you practitioner if E-Stim is right for you!