E-Stim Augments Acupuncture Therapy
E-Stim is short for Electric Stimulation. Wires or electrodes are attached from an E-Stim device to acupuncture needles inserted through the skin to induce continuous electric pulses most commonly for pain management. E-Stim with acupuncture is sometimes called Electro-Acupuncture or PENS (Percutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation). In the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine an acupuncturist inserts small, thin needles into specific acupuncture points on the body to regulate Qi (vital life force) or energy flow through 14 specific influencing pathways called meridians or channels. Pain and disease arise when one or more meridians are out of balance.
PENS vs TENS
Another familiar form of E-Stim is called TENS – Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation. TENS-based devices are wired to surface electrodes or pads adhered to the skin surface. PENS with acupuncture has an advantage over TENS because the insertion of an acupuncture needle bypasses local skin resistance and delivers electrical stimuli at a precise desired level in close proximity to the site of pain such as nerve endings located in soft tissue or muscle.
PENS and TENS units, which are usually battery operated, have been used to relieve, post-surgical pain, chronic intractable pain and pain associated with active or post-trauma injury not responding to other pain therapies.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a concept that when there is pain there is no free flow of qi (vital life force) and when there is free flow of qi there is no pain. E-Stim can be used for conditions of excess such as knotted, spastic tissue. Applying an e-stim of alternating speed and frequency can gently shake muscle tissue to promote relaxation and increase blood and qi circulation. A gentle consistent e-stim pulse can encourage circulation for conditions that are based on deficiency or weakness.
When undergoing an E-Stim session the patient is comfortably positioned on the treatment table. Acupuncture points are swabbed with alcohol and needles are gently inserted. Electrodes or probes will be connected between the E-Stim device and the needles. A common but not exclusive 3-step procedure would be to instruct the patient to single the acupuncturist when they first begin to feel the E-Stim (step 1) – we’ll call this the low-threshold point. Step 2 is to find the high-threshold point. As the E-Stim is slowly increased the patient will be instructed to signal when the stimulation begins to feel too strong (high-threshold point). Step 3 – the acupuncturist will slightly decrease the E-Stim to a tolerable level. Stimulation is modified to obtain a more therapeutic level with regards to patient comfort. After approximately 20 minutes the E-Stim will be turned off and all needles will be removed completing the session.