Can you tell me the difference between regular acupuncture and electronic acupuncture? I see our local healing center offers both. I’m just wondering if either of these might help me with my chronic low back pain. After all these months of pain, pain, and more pain, I’m desperate enough to try just about anything.

Acupuncture has been used in various forms for thousands of years. Records show that sharp stones were once pressed against the skin in areas of pain to help give relief. Since that time, silver sticks and fine stainless steel needles have been used as well.

Fine needles of various materials (e.g., gold, titanium, stainless steel) are still in use by modern acupuncturists. But the use of electrical stimulation has been added to the technique in the last 10 to 20 years. The electrical impulse provided through the needle enhances the stimulation.

For those who do not want to have needles placed through the skin, flat rubber electrodes can be used as well. This technique is called transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation or TEAS.

The exact effects of stimulation with and without electrical impulses (and by employing needles versus electrodes) is under scientific investigation. At this point, there are more unknowns than knowns. Who does it work for? Can anyone and everyone benefit? What settings are best? When should electrical stimulation be used? At what intensity and for how long?

It’s likely that each medical condition treated has specific points that are most effective. Some of those points are already known for problems like chronic low back pain. And it’s possible that individual variability exists.

In other words, each patient when matched by age, gender, body type, and condition or problem will respond slightly differently when the same acupuncture technique is applied.

Your expectations and sensitivity to the treatment may be directly related to the results as well. If you seek the services of an acupuncturist, he or she will be able to assess your situation and make recommendations.