An acupuncture related technique that uses pulsed electrical current via skin surface electrodes to stimulate acupuncture points in place of needles: no needles are used in Acu-TENS.

It was in the late 1980's that The Society of Biophysical Medicine (SBM) developed new acupuncture related techniques including protocols for electrical diagnostic measurement of acupuncture points. Diagnostic measurement techniques such as electrographic imaging (Kirlian photography) of acupuncture points, voltage measurement of acupuncture points and skin resistance measurement via the quadrants of the the body were developed.

There is no morphological evidence for the existence of acupuncture points. They cannot be seen or detected by any conventionally recognized test. However, observations over the last thirty or so years have shown that acupuncture points can be located by electrical measurement because they exhibit different electrical characteristics when compared to the surrounding skin; in particular they have a higher electrical activity (lower resistance) than surrounding skin.

Practitioners at the Society of Biophysical Medicine took the view that as electrical pulses 'found their own way' through the body via the route of least electrical resistance, which by virtue of the principles stated above, are the acupuncture points and meridians, then no needles are required and the skin does not need to be pierced.

Experimental results show that acupuncture points only become electrically active when a dysfunction is present in the body. The sizes and shapes of acupuncture points vary considerably. Voltage skin measurement of acupuncture points reveal them as zones, within which a number of loci may exist. Different loci in the zone appear to become active in different situations and states of health: this is particularly true for acupuncture points of the ear (see picture left) when points become more sensitive where there is an associated problem. Here an acupuncture point for the lower back is being treated with a pen type electrode.

It was in the field of addiction and stress treatment, headed by practitioner and nurse specialist Rodney Robinson that the greatest success was achieved, by developing simple needle-free protocols and accredited practitioner training programs, allowing support workers, therapists and health care professionals to deliver EST using acupuncture principles. For the first time access to this treatment became widely available to withdrawing and recovering addicts. His approach termed Acu-TENS (formerly called Electrostimulation Therapy or EST) also became affectionately known by its users as 'black box treatment'.

It was using these principles that enabled practitioners to observe the relationship between symptoms of stress and changes in the electrical conductance measurements taken via the hands and feet with brass electrodes: highly stressed and withdrawing addicts demonstrated reduced electrical skin resistance when measured via hands and feet. This is the same principle used in the galvanic skin response of lie detector machines. 

Acu-TENS uses 3 principles:

1) Biophysical - relating to the electrical properties of the body
2) Biochemical - relating to the biochemical changes that occur
3) Acupunctural - relating to the specific function of individual acupuncture points

1 & 3 require the specific placement of electrodes over an acupuncture point while 2 only requires a pulse to be fed into the body as the effect is not point specific.

1 & 3 balance the acupuncture meridians to achieve equilibrium and well being

2 balances the neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin (feel good chemicals) in the brain and nervous system. Specific pulse frequencies are used for EST.

Acu-TENS can be used for:

1) All stress related conditions including addictions and eating disorders
2) Relaxation therapy
3) All conditions responsive to needle acupuncture

Acu-TENS feels like a gentle tingle similar to a mild 'pins & needles' sensation or it can be given in a way that no sensation is felt at all although many people find the sensation very pleasurable.

A typical Acu-TENS session is 30-60 minutes in duration.

If you would like to know more or find out how Acu-TENS may help you please contact me by e-mail or on:

If you are already a therapist you may also be interested in Acu-TENS practitioner training
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