Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice of insertion of needles into specific points on the body which are areas of concentrated nerve endings and immune system cells. Stimulation of these points by various methods (needles, vitamin injections, laser, electro-acupuncture) activates pain-associated brainstem regions and helps improve healing and pain control. 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.
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). Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulation induces the following physiological effects:
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Clinical trials indicate that acupuncture therapy can be effective in the following conditions:
- Musculoskeletal problems: muscle soreness, back pain, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, degenerative myelopathy, traumatic nerve injury, chronic pain
- Neurological disorders: intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), seizures, laryngeal hemiplegia, and facial and radial nerve paralysis
- Gastrointestinal disorders: diarrhea, gastric ulcers, colic, vomiting, constipation, and impactions
- Respiratory problems such as feline asthma
- Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
- Other chronic conditions: asthma, cough, uveitis, renal failure, chronic liver diseases, behavioral problems, infertility, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and geriatric weakness
- Quality of life, maintenance, performance enhancement, prevention of disease, and hospice care
- Any condition may potentially benefit from acupuncture!
Can my animal benefit from acupuncture?
The success of the treatment will vary according to the condition being treated. The length and frequency of the treatments depends on the condition of the patient and the method of stimulation that is used by the veterinary acupuncturist. Some results can be seen immediately, but most will require several treatments. For those pets with a previously diagnosed disease, veterinary acupuncture can improve their quality of life, help to minimize clinical signs and in some cases promote resolution.
Is acupuncture painful?
Most animals are extremely tolerant and accepting of needle placement from the first session. Often as the sessions continue they may even fall asleep during the treatment. For those that are more sensitive, most become receptive in time. Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal’s condition may seem worse for up to 48 hours after a treatment. Other animals become lethargic or sleepy for 24 hours. These effects are an indication that some physiological changes are developing, and they are most often followed by an improvement in the animal’s condition
Can acupuncture be combined with other types of veterinary medicine?
Acupuncture is useful as an adjunct therapy to control vomiting associated with chemotherapy, to manage post-operative pain and to speed healing after injuries. However, acupuncture is effective as the sole form of treatment for many conditions. In general, acupuncture can be very effectively combined with most conventional and alternative therapies. It is especially amenable to using in combination with chiropractic care as they both aim to improve healing and pain control through affecting the nervous system.
Summary: acupuncture stimulates healing in some conditions and provides effective pain relief in others. It is a safe and effective treatment option for many conditions and may reduce or eliminate the need for chronic medication.
For more information:
International Veterinary Acupuncture Society: https://www.ivas.org/about-ivas/what-is-veterinary-acupuncture/
American Association of Veterinary Acupuncture: https://www.aava.org/resources/what-is-acupuncture/
Acupuncture for Animals by Dr. Steve Marsden: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/veterinary-acupuncture