What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has gained increasing recognition and popularity as a useful adjunct to modern medicine in animals as well as humans. Acupuncture (acus – needle, punctura – puncture) is defined as ‘the insertion of a solid needle into the body for the purpose of treating disease’. Under UK law, acupuncture of animals may only be performed by appropriately qualified veterinary surgeons.
Acupuncture can be divided into two approaches: Traditional Chinese Medicine, which aims to restore a balance between the physical, emotional and spiritual factors and is considered a holistic approach, and the Western Method which describes the action of acupuncture in terms of the neuroendocrine systems as well as the autonomic systems. We combine both these approaches.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system having both analgesic (pain relieving) and non-analgesic effects. Acupuncture stimulates the release of the body’s own pain relieving and anti-inflammatory substances. In particular, the body releases endorphins which are natural pain killers. Needling also stimulates the release of other potent neurotransmitters that promote nerve growth, increase blood flow and encourage healing.
How Can Acupuncture Help?
Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions in all animals. It is not a miracle cure but can be successful in managing many conditions alongside conventional therapy.
How Will My Animal React?
Acupuncture is performed with sterile, thin stainless steel needles. There is occasionally a brief moment of sensitivity as the needle penetrates the skin but once the needles are in place, most animals relax.
Not all animals (or humans) respond to acupuncture. About 10-20% of animals are ‘non-responders’ but this cannot be determined until treatment has commenced. Some animals are very sensitive to treatment and require only brief light ‘needling’ while others may need stronger stimulation.
It is possible to see worsening of signs (if painful condition) after treatment and subsequent treatments will be altered accordingly.
A very small number of animals (mainly horses) will require light sedation before needle placement if they are nervous or very painful. Sedation will not alter the animal's response to treatment.
How Often and How Long
Acupuncture is usually carried out once a week for between four and six treatments to assess their effects. After the initial course, treatment frequency will be altered depending on the animal's response and may require maintenance treatments monthly or a few times a year.
The first consultation can take up to one hour. Following history taking, an examination is performed before acupuncture needles are placed into appropriate points. The needles are left in place for between 5-20 minutes.
Following treatments, many animals will be relaxed and it is advisable to allow them to rest following treatment. We recommend resting directly after a session however, normal exercise can be resumed the following day.