Acupuncture – What You Need to Know
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the insertion of small needles into specific points and depths on the body to alter the body’s biochemical and physiological properties primarily through stimulation of the central nervous system to cause a desired healing effect. Acupuncture has been used in humans and animals for over 4,000 years to treat many ailments. It may also be used as a preventative treatment against various acute and chronic conditions in animals. In the US, the American Veterinary Medical Association considers veterinary acupuncture a valid modality within the practice of veterinary medicine and surgery. Used either by itself or in conjunction with Western medicine, veterinary acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes.
How does acupuncture work?
A healthy body is said to be in “homeostasis” or “balance”. Illness and/or injury cause the body to become unbalanced. Acupuncture is a key therapy used to bring the body back into its proper homeostatic state and it is known to affect all major physiological systems. It works primarily through the central nervous system, affecting musculoskeletal, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems. It does more than relieve pain. How it works depends on what condition one is treating and which points are utilized. Acupuncture increases circulation; causes a release of many neurochemicals, some of which are endorphins, the body’s “natural pain-killing” hormones; relieves muscle spasms; stimulates nerves; and stimulates the body’s defense systems; as well as numerous other beneficial effects.
How will my animal react?
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals, when it is administered by a properly trained veterinarian. The needles used are sterile, disposable, thin stainless steel. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but they do exist. An animal’s condition may seem worse for
up to48 hours after a treatment. Other animals may become sleepy or lethargic for 24 hours after acupuncture. 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.
What conditions respond well to acupuncture?
Acupuncture is mainly indicated for functional problems such as those that involve pain, non-infectious inflammation (such as arthritis, allergies), and paralysis. Common small animal uses:
1. Musculoskeletal and neurologic problems
- Arthritis, DJD, hip dysplasia
- Intervertebral Disc Disease
- Post-operative orthopedic surgery
- Nerve injuries, paralysis
2. Skin problems
- Lick granulomas
3. Gastrointestinal problems
- Diarrhea, vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic asthma
- Urine spraying
- Numerous other conditions have responded to acupuncture as well.
How long do acupuncture treatments last and how often are they given?
The length and frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the condition of the patient. Treatments can last up to 45 minutes. There are many ways of stimulating acupuncture points (dry needles, aquapuncture, electrical stimulation, heating). Typically a patient is treated once a week for 3-6 weeks until desirable effects are seen or demonstrated. Treatments are then tapered according to the patient’s response, commonly about every 2-6 months for maintenance. As a gauge, the more chronic the problem the longer it usually takes to see results. Acupuncture is also commonly used as needed for maintenance relaxation and “tune-ups” in performance/working animals.
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