“It does not matter whether medicine be old or new, so long as it brings about a cure. It matters not whether theories be eastern or western, so long as they prove to be true” Jen Hsou Lin, DVM, PhD
Acupuncture may be defined as the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to produce a healing response. Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated. This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for thousands of years to treat many ailments. The Chinese also use acupuncture as preventative medicine. Acupuncture is used all around the world, either alone or in conjunction with western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of animal. Clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, and the use of acupuncture is increasing. Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.
Acupuncture is indicated for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:
In addition, regular acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World-class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training. If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition.
Although acupuncture has its roots in ancient times before modern scientific methods were available with which to study it, many important studies have been done to indicate how acupuncture works and what physiologic mechanisms are involved in its actions. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), to examine 15 different points, the basic tenets of acupuncture have been proven. Those are that acupuncture is based upon the point selected, the method of stimulation, and the duration of stimulation. Stimulation of these points result in specific changes in the central nervous system. It was shown that acupuncture points that have pain relieving properties associated with them tend to activate specific painassociation brainstem regions. The National Institute of Health (NIH) developed a consensus statement about acupuncture and its efficacy. NIH said that there was compelling evidence that acupuncture was useful in the management of osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain.
In western medical terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Further research must be conducted to discover all of acupuncture’s effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.
For small animals, the insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. The larger needles necessary for large animals may cause some pain as the needle passes through the skin. In all animals, once the needles are in place, there should be no pain. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. Nevertheless, acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation, presumed to be those such as tingles, cramps, or numbness which can occur in humans and which may be uncomfortable to some animals.
There are two important criteria you should look for in a veterinary acupuncturist:
1. Your veterinary acupuncturist must be a licensed veterinarian.
2. Your veterinary acupuncturist should have formal training in the practice of veterinary acupuncture.
In most countries, states, and provinces, veterinary acupuncture is considered a surgical procedure that only licensed veterinarians may legally administer to animals. A veterinarian is in the best position to properly diagnose an animal’s health problem and then to determine whether the animal is likely to benefit from an acupuncture treatment, or whether its problem requires chemical, surgical, or no intervention. Because of the differences in anatomy, and the potential for harm if the treatments are done incorrectly, only a properly trained veterinarian should perform acupuncture on animals. Proper training should include an extensive educational program. The more your veterinarian knows about traditional Chinese philosophies and western scientific basis for acupuncture the more you can be assured that your animals will be treated properly.