While acupuncture has been in use for thousands of years, the use of electro-acupuncture is a fairly recent addition to the tools of an acupuncturist. Electro-acupuncture can produce wonderful results when it comes to certain conditions.
At the Cincinnati Acupuncture Clinic we use electrostimulation, also referred to as e-stim, to support many things: timely labor in late pregnancy, induce ovulation in anovulatory patients, treat back and neck pain and other various chronic pain issues, neurological diseases, spasm and paralysis. Strong stimulation is often used in cases of paralysis and neuralgia (although some advocate weak stimulation for neuralgias). To perform e-stim we simply attach little electrode clips to specific acupuncture needles during a regular acupuncture session. The electrodes are part of a machine that generates a low-grade electrical impulse at a specific frequency and intensity. The sensation elicited is similar to a tapping or buzzing, is mild, and still allows the patient to relax for the duration of the treatment, which is around 25-30 minutes. In fact, most people find it to be quite a pleasant experience!
Research on e-stim has demonstrated its effectiveness for many conditions. It simply intensifies the acupuncture treatment, when appropriate. E-stim is safe, but those with pacemakers, epilepsy, a history of seizures or strokes should not receive it. You can discuss whether e-stim would be a helpful addition to your treatment with your acupuncturist.