The term “electronic acupuncture” is used in several different ways. All of the uses of the word involve acupuncture, a treatment modality used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to restore balance to the body's flow of energy with the goal of resolving health problems. Practitioners of alternative medicine as well as traditional acupuncture clinics may have electronic acupuncture of some form or another among their treatment offerings, and it is an option which some patients may want to consider after discussing various TCM modalities with a practitioner.
According to practitioners of TCM, the body's flow of energy or qi runs along meridians which move throughout the body. Each meridian is marked with a number of critical points which practitioners can identify and manipulate to help patients. When energy moves sluggishly or too energetically, a practitioner can stimulate the flow of qi or create a calming effect to balance out the flow of energy so that it is even across the body.
In the original sense, electronic acupuncture or electro-acupuncture is a technique devised in China in the 1930s. In this technique, practitioners examine a patient, identify meridians and specific points which need attention, and then they insert needles into the appropriate points. Each needle is then attached to a device which delivers a very mild electrical charge to stimulate the body's energy. Electo-acupuncture is not used near the heart or spine due to concerns about causing electrical disruptions within the body's own electrical systems.
Electronic acupuncture can also be accomplished with a specially designed pen which delivers a targeted electrical charge to a point of concern. Technically this technique is not true acupuncture, because it does not involve the insertion of a needle. However, patients may prefer this form of electronic acupuncture to traditional acupuncture modalities because it is less invasive, and it eliminates fears of needles which make a patient tense or uncomfortable.
Finally, this term is also used to refer to ryodoraku, a Japanese discipline which involves tracking the electrical impulses of the body to identify the meridians and look for meridians with unusually low or high flows of energy. Although developed in Japan, this technique was quickly adopted by Chinese researchers. Some people feel that this form of electronic acupuncture diagnosis is not as precise and detailed as a clinical evaluation performed by an acupuncturist, although it can be used to quickly identify major imbalances with the goal of treating them.