Acupuncture/ pressurePain

Comparing electroacupuncture and manual acupuncture

David Mayor is the editor of the book, Electroacupuncture: A Practical Manual and Resource. In The Journal of Chinese Medicine he reviews electroacupuncture and its use to treat peripheral facial paralysis.

I found his comparison between acupuncture and electroacupuncture instructive.

Here are the differences.

Manual acupuncture

  • Needle manipulation is brief and intermittent
  • Only “low frequency” is possible (twirling or lifting-thrusting)
  • Strong manipulation risks tissue damage


  • Stimulation continues for the duration of treatment
  • No limitation on frequency of stimulus (frequency-specific effects occur)
  • Strength of stimulation only limited by patient tolerance

Advantages of electroacupuncture vs manual acupuncture

  • More effective in some situations, and often potentiates the effects of traditional methods, particularly when strong, continued stimulation is required, as when treating paralysis or some forms of pain
  • Can be less time consuming and demanding of the practitioner in training and practice
  • Results may in some cases be more rapid and longer lasting
  • May have specific effects on pain, relaxation, circulation, and muscle that differ from manual acupuncture
  • More readily controlled, standardized, and objectively measurable
  • Non-invasive stimulation methods can be cost effective for home treatments, perhaps between sessions with a practitioner, although some forms of treatment require supervision
  • Permits stronger, more continuous stimulation with less tissue damage

6/19/07 18:54 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.