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Postcards July 2021 - Acupuncture in Veterinary Medicine

If you are like most people, you have not considered acupuncture as a treatment option for your pets or animals. What is acupuncture actually? How does acupuncture really work? Why would you even consider acupuncture? For most, there are lots of unanswered questions when it comes to the topic of acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a medicinal technique used as alternative therapy for many physical ailments and issues. Tiny needles are inserted into specific points on the body that have specific actions when stimulated, to produce a healing response. Ancient Chinese medicine has shown that imbalances of vital energies in the body cause illness. Acupuncture focuses on restoring the balance in the body and promoting healing. Specific acupuncture points have been well charted for both humans and animals and connected with each other and various internal organs by meridians or channels, many of these following along the body’s major nerve trunks. Each point has specific actions once stimulated. Blood flow is improved increasing oxygenation to tissues, reducing the amount of waste products made, and increasing the amount of metabolic waste the body can remove. Muscles are relaxed at the location the needle is placed as well as those located other places, working both locally and generally.

Acupuncture was around before modern science could prove and study it, but since, many important studies have been done to show how it works. According to the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, functional MRI has been used to examine 15 of the many points proving the mechanism of acupuncture, showing that stimulation to specific points results in specific changes in the central nervous system. For example, points with pain relieving properties associated with them tend to activate specific pain – associated brainstem regions. A consensus statement has been given by The National Institute of Health saying that there is compelling evidence that acupuncture was useful in the management of osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain.

Acupuncture is now known to assist the body in healing itself by affecting certain physiological changes such as stimulating nerves, increasing blood circulation, relieving muscle spasms, and causing the release of hormones such as endorphins (a pain chemical the body uses) and cortisol (a natural form of steroid). Many other effects are still unknown and further research is needed to discover all the benefits and techniques. Functional problems that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation such as allergies and pain can be managed effectively. For example, arthritis, back problems, traumas, asthmas, skin inflammation, GI problems such as diarrhea, seizures, and some repro conditions.

Acupuncture should never be done without a proper veterinary medical diagnosis and an ongoing assessment of the overall condition by a licensed veterinarian. Pain could be masked as well as other clinical signs that may delay proper diagnosis if treatment is implemented prior to veterinarian evaluation. Decreasing pain could also allow the animal to increase activity which could delay healing or worsen the original condition. A veterinarian who is certified and properly trained in acupuncture can also determine whether the animal is likely to benefit from treatment or if another treatment is more appropriate. Your primary care veterinarian should be able to help you find a trained local veterinary acupuncturist.

Acupuncture is used worldwide either along with or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of animal. Veterinary practices in China have used acupuncture for thousands of years to treat many ailments. It is also used for preventative medicine as well. The use of acupuncture is increasing as clinical research has been showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans. Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.

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