Traditional Chinese acupuncture relies on the use of fine needles being inserted into specific points and then varying amounts of manual stimulation being exerted to give a desired effect, ie rotating needle slowly or more quickly, applying heat to the needle by way of burning a herb called moxa or applying leverage to the needle. Other methods of stimulation may include pressure (acupressure) or applying cold or friction from rubbing the area - both much less precise methods.
The success of acupuncture therefore depends on the skill of the practitioner in locating the points accurately and then being able to stimulate them effectively.
Enter electro-acupuncture and laser. With these two western enhancements, the precise amount of energy can be applied, whereas to twist a needle manually to achieve a frequency of say 5 cycles/second (5Hz) is going to rely on the skill of the practitioner. Dialling up the frequency and amplitude on an electrical stimulator or laser unit eliminates this error.
Electrical stimulation can be applied by attaching electrodes to traditional needles after they have been inserted into the skin. Alternatively, it can be delivered transcutaneously (across the skin) such as with an electronic point stimulator. Some units also have a point finding function which works by measuring the electrical resistance of the skin. Acupuncture points coincide with areas of lowest resistance and have in fact been shown by microscopic examination to be areas of concentrated nerve endings with a thinner layer of overlying skin than surrounding non-point areas. The point finder takes the guess work out of locating the 365 known acupuncture points.