At Spine Plus we provide specialist (Medical and Electro) Acupuncture therapy from our team of osteopaths and physiotherapists in London, focusing on chronic pain and myofascial pain syndromes including trigger points (trigger point dry needling).
Our Osteopaths Physios can also provide other (advanced) modalities alongside electroacupuncture to help maximise recovery from a range of conditions such as back pain, whiplash, knee pain, RSI, sports injuries and rehabilitation from orthopaedic surgery.
HISTORY OF ELECTRO-ACUPUNCTURE
The use of electricity to help ease pain problems can be dated back to the time of the Romans (and even before) who documented to use of electric fish / eels applied to head to ease headaches! The first use of electro-acupuncture in the modern medical era was in 1921 when a British Medical Journal (BMJ) article advocated it’s use in the treatment of certain types of sciatica. However, it was not until the 1970’s that electro-acupuncture became more widespread.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
How Does Electroacupuncture Work?
Electro-acupuncture works down regulating (desensitising) overreactive pain (nerve) pathways in the peripheral and central nervous system at both a local (nerve endings local the problem), regional (within the spinal cord) and general (brain) level.
Electro-Acupuncture vs Trigger Point (Dry Needling), vs Traditional Acupuncture, and vs TENS.
When the intension is to provide immediate, release of tension and improvement in blood flow in tense muscle knots (Trigger Points) there is little difference between dry needling and electro-acupuncture. However, by passing a low level electrical current through the target muscle tissue to the point where there is a low level pulsation of that muscle, electroacupuncture is able to stimulate and “reset” the “type II and type III ergo receptors” within the muscle tissue which feedback to the spinal cord and connect with the brain. In so doing, even in the presence of painful degenerative conditions such as arthritis, the chronic pain pathways can be calmed down for several weeks and months at a time, thereby providing effective, drug free pain management.
The aforementioned muscle pulse is different to the more vigorous “twitch response” achieved when stimulating the local muscle spindle nerve receptors within trigger points achieved with manual dry needling. Whilst dry needling (non-electrical acupuncture) does have some effect at desensitising local and region nerve pathways, this effect is less profound and more short lived, only lasting around 24 hours after each session, whereas the down regulation in nerve ending sensitivity achieved by a course of electro-acupuncture will last weeks or even months making electro-acupuncture a much more POWERFUL version of acupuncture pain relief for chronic pain conditions such as knee pain due to arthritis, certain types of back pain and other conditions involving dysfunction of the nervous system such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture mostly (TCA) involves more numerous and (mostly) more superficial needling. The philosophy behind TCA is different to medical electrical acupuncture in that the intention is to balance energy / “chi” within the body which according to TCA flows under the surface of the skin. Whilst many of the points that are used are the same (due to overlap and correlation of muscle trigger points with Traditional Acupuncture points) modern, medical, electro-acupuncture is differs in both it’s application and understanding which is based on a modern medical understanding of human anatomy and physiology.
Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulation (TENS) is a common modality that has been used in physiotherapy for many years to provide short term pain relief. This involves passing placing electrical pads on the skin. If the intensity of TENS is increased high enough, muscle contraction can be achieved, however this is from stimulating the “motor” fibres within the muscle below the skin, not the all essential type II and type III ergo receptors necessary long term pain relief. Skin presents a significant barrier to the conduction of electricity, if one wanted to use TENS to stimulate the type II and type III ergo receptors the intensity would have to be so high the stimulus (and muscle contractions) would be intolerable, and potentially damaging. By placing needles directly through the skin, into the muscle, so they in contact with the type II and type III ergo receptors, these receptors can be directly stimulated with the low voltages used with electro-acupuncture.
How Long Are Sessions and How Often?
Electroacupuncture should ideally be performed once or twice a week initially before the intervals are extended, a typical course takes between 3 and 6 sessions of electroacupuncture, followed by top up (maintenance) sessions once one to three months. Sessions including setup typically take 30 mins and involve needles being left in situ for around 20 mins.
What Does Electroacupuncture Feel Like?
You may feel slight, momentary, sharp sensation as each each needle is inserted. Then after connecting the electrical wires and after turning the current up gradually, you will likely feel a slight ache or buzzing sensation, this is often described as feeling “pleasant” in most cases. In addition to this you may feel and observe a slight rhythmical pulsing of your muscles. You will be invited to turn up the the electrical current as much as you feel comfortable to ensure that this is all well tolerated and in most cases “feels nice”.
Is Electroacupuncture Safe?
Electro acupuncture is a safe procedure, with very few risks of adverse reactions. The few contra-indications that exist include not being able to use electro-acupuncture on people fitted with a pace maker (or similar device) and patients suffering with poorly controlled epilepsy must be treated with caution and should not be left unattended during treatment. Electroacupuncture must be used with particular care, since, if a fit occurs during treatment, the electrical stimulus, no matter how weak, may be seen as the cause.
Don’t like the idea of needles? It’s OK Trigger Points can also be treated using the advanced acupressure style massage techniques performed by our osteopaths and massage therapists, click here for more info:
Why Spine Plus?
One of our hallmarks is that our osteopaths use medical acupuncture / acupressure, alongside traditional treatment. We have found medical acupuncture and electroacupuncture in particularly to be effective when combined with traditional osteopathic / physiotherapy manual treatment. This requires additional postgraduate training which many of our osteopaths have all undertaken. Also, our physiotherapists and osteopaths are trained in the use of advanced electrotherapy, such as ultrasound, laser, TECAR, intervertebral spinal decompression therapy and shock wave therapy which can be used in combination with electro-acupuncture in a multi-disciplinary manner to maximise recovery for musculoskeletal injuries and pain syndromes.