Wireless patches could provide "acupuncture" on demand

Wireless patches could provide "acupuncture" on demand
Newly-developed skin patches could be used to wirelessly deliver acupuncture-like treatment to wearers (Photo: Shutterstock)
Newly-developed skin patches could be used to wirelessly deliver acupuncture-like treatment to wearers (Photo: Shutterstock)
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Newly-developed skin patches could be used to wirelessly deliver acupuncture-like treatment to wearers (Photo: Shutterstock)
Newly-developed skin patches could be used to wirelessly deliver acupuncture-like treatment to wearers (Photo: Shutterstock)

For a good 2,000 years or so, many people have sworn by acupuncture as a means of relieving aches and pains, and treating various other disorders. In order to receive treatment, however, they have had to go to clinics and get jabbed with needles. Now, New York College of Health Professions chairman Donald Spector has created a wirelessly-controlled wearable skin patch, that he claims is able to deliver acupuncture-like treatment on demand.

Acupuncture works (or is said to work, depending on who you ask) by stimulating key points in the body through the precise insertion of thin steel needles. The stimulation of these points reportedly corrects imbalances in the flow of energy – or qi – through the body.

Already, people can buy adhesive patches with pointy studs on the underside, that continuously exert pressure on acupuncture points when applied to the skin. Spector’s patch, however, uses an electrical current to provide stimulation – and it only does so when instructed. This could be through direct finger contact on the patch, by wireless remote control, or even via a schedule that is programmed into a chip within the patch.

The consumer version of the patch would be disposable, with the idea that users would wear it continuously between visits to an acupuncture therapist (who would presumably be the person who administered the patch in the first place).

While it could be used for the treatment of injuries and/or ailments, Spector and his team seem to be particularly interested in the patch’s use for use in sports, as they believe that it would be able to increase muscle performance and reduce fatigue. They envision it being used not only in training, but also in actual competition. Coaches could remotely trigger an athlete's patch to help them recuperate while resting up between periods, or even to help stimulate key muscles when certain actions were being performed – a tennis player’s arm and/or shoulder muscles, for instance, could be stimulated right as they were making a serve.

One has to wonder not only if that would be distracting to the athlete, but also if it would even be allowed by the various sports-governing organizations. “Even though these patches will provide a significant advantage in muscle strength and endurance, I do not believe they should be outlawed under doping regulations,” said Dr. Mohammad Hashemipour, Dean of Academic Affairs at the college. “There are no drugs involved, except by the release of the wearer's own natural chemicals and neurotransmitters.”

The basic principle sounds rather like that of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), in which a (sometimes) portable device is used to apply electrical current to the patient via hard-wired adhesive patches on the skin. As its name implies, though, TENS is aimed specifically at therapeutic nerve stimulation. Also, the units are not conducive to being worn continuously, and particularly not when participating in sports.

Spector recently filed a patent on his patch technology, which the college plans to license to third parties.

Source: New York College of Health Professions

Elmar Moelzer
It is going to work exactly as well as acupuncture does: NOT AT ALL! Ask a Chinese acupuncture performing doctor about the truth (after a few glasses of beer) and they will tell you this: In China, medication is expensive and limited. So they only give it to those that really need it. But often people come in with smaller ailments or just something that will clear itself within a couple of days, they give them acupuncture. That way the patient feels like they did something for him and leaves satisfied.
There is no objective data that shows acupuncture actually works better than placebo. In fact, a sham verion of acupuncture (toothpicks were twirlwed on the skin of patients in a blinded study) had better results than the insertion of needles!
It's Flim-Flam, just like spoon-bending and people that talk with the dead.
C'mon, Gizmag. You guys report on way cool stuff that's REAL, you don't need pseudo-science to keep me coming back!
Samuel Holden Bramah
I have seen accupuncture reduce swelling (from dental procedures, sprains and post-surgery edema) in minutes, I have felt it eliminate pain. I have seen it reduce parestesias from a herniated cervical disk... These are things which can not be "faked" and, quite honestly, even if the swelling is reduced due to a "placebo" effect, the swelling is still reduced, so everyone is happy... If it works, what is the problem?
bio-power jeff
I find it hard to believe that there was a comprehensive study of acupuncture in the west and east, since the study of acupuncture is based on the theory of 'chi'. It is true that most people in west and east treat oriental medicine as a scam or myth. It really is the oriental medicine community's fault for not objectively studying and pooling together knowledge to advance oriental medicine. But I think it is important to remember the poor state western medicine was in not too long ago. It was the collective effort of brilliant scientists and doctors who dedicated their whole lives to improve western medicine bit by bit. Oriental medicine has not really progressed since its conception. But there are cases where patients have been healed or helped through oriental medicine. So would you want to give up that sliver of hope of an alternative treatment that can heal people? I believe oriental medicine should be studied objectively further, until we can understand everything about it. All i know is that we don't know s**t about it.