Electroacupuncture and TENS: Putting Theory into Practice

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					46     Electroacupuncture and TENS: Putting Theory into Practice                             Journal of Chinese Medicine • Number 92 • February 2010




                      Electroacupuncture and TEnS:
                      Putting Theory into Practice
By: Sean Walsh        Abstract
 and Katherine        Electrotherapies can be a safe and effective way to alleviate pain, improve therapeutic outcomes and help patients
         Berry        recover more quickly from injury. This paper explains the neurophysiological mechanisms of electroacupuncture
                      and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TEnS) and outlines their methods of application for a range of
     Keywords:        conditions. When used appropriately the integration of electrotherapies with acupuncture can broaden one’s
        Electro‑      scope of clinical practice.
  acupuncture,



                      I
transcutaneous             n recent times the acupuncture and Chinese            through patient feedback. The paper explains the
electrical nerve           medicine      (CM)      professions   have     seen   practical application of electroacupuncture (EA) and
    stimulation,           unprecedented growth. An ever‑growing number          transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
 TEnS, electro‑       of new practitioners are graduating from tertiary          and provides straightforward recommendations
    stimulation,      institutions, libraries are accommodating increasingly     regarding their safe use as part of an integrated
        electro‑      specialised texts, whilst the frontiers of research        treatment approach.
  therapy, pain       continue to evolve; clinical trials in acupuncture
  management,         and Chinese medicine are now undertaken across             What is the history of electrotherapy?
        adjunct       a vast range of medical disciplines. Accompanying          Despite appearances, the therapeutic use of electricity
      therapies.      these developments is the manufacture of new and           is not a new phenomenon. Ancient manuscripts
                      sophisticated devices, many of which are marketed          record classical Greek physicians using electric eels
                      directly to practitioners, claiming to enhance the         in footbaths to shock patients with heart conditions.
                      health outcomes of treatment. While regulatory,            In the 1700s Benjamin Franklin was reported to
                      accrediting and teaching agencies try to keep up and       have experimented with the therapeutic effects of
                      provide governance and structure to this changing          electricity when he successfully applied a form of
                      landscape, practitioners are often alone in their          electrotherapy to his neighbour’s frozen shoulder
                      attempts to find useful information regarding the          (Kahn, 1991). In contemporary times electricity is
                      clinical application of such new ideas, techniques and     utilised in a broad range of equipment that is used
                      products. At first glance it may seem easier to stick to   to treat or diagnose illness, pain or dysfunction;
                      what one already knows, herbs, tuina, cupping and          such appliances work either by applying a current to
                      moxibustion for example, rather than undertaking           the body, or else utilising the body’s own electrical
                      the time‑consuming task of expanding one’s practice        impulses. In comparison to Western medicine,
                      into new areas.                                            Chinese medicine has only a relative short history
                         If we endeavour to learn more about                     of using electrotherapy, although the Chinese were
                      electroacupuncture ‑ one of the ‘new techniques’ being     surprisingly quick to incorporate it into clinical
                      marketed to the profession ‑ we often find that our        practice. In China there is a significant body of
                      hesitation and confusion is valid. Modern devices can      literature that records the extensive experimentation
                      appear tricky to operate, their instructions are often     and clinical application of electrotherapies since
                      ambiguous or highly technical (or even non‑existent)       the 1950’s. The Chinese medicine profession in the
                      and the published literature is confusing and often        Occident has been surprisingly slow to embrace
                      needlessly complex. Because of this, the authors           electrotherapies, however; it is only in the last few
                      thought it appropriate to prepare a paper to help          years that electrotherapies have become more widely
                      clarify the information available on this topic. The       accepted as a standard part of the profession’s scope
                      following article outlines how to safely and effectively   of practice.
                      incorporate electrotherapies into acupuncture
                      practice, thus enhancing our practice without long         What     is   the            therapeutic            aim        of
                      hours of unnecessary study. This information is based      electrotherapy?
                      on teaching materials developed by Sean Walsh that         The aim of electrotherapy from a Chinese medi
				
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