What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a 3000 year old method of care with ancient Chinese roots. Principles of acupuncture are based on evaluation of the patient as a whole to identify imbalance in the body and treat the underlying "dis-ease". Acupuncture is a safe and effective form of medical treatment which uses insertion of very fine needles in very specific locations to stimulate a therapeutic effect. The technique encourages the body in its own natural healing by affecting certain physiological changes, restoring normal body balance and function, and thus physical and mental well being. Acupuncture promotes pain relief, recovery of normal circulation and immune function and overall homeostasis.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture points (acupoints) are located in connective tissues planes or between muscles and tendons. These areas are connected to other myofascial zones regionally (Western philosophy) or connect via "channels" or “meridians" (Eastern philosophy). Acupoints are near the body surface in areas where there is a high density of free nerve endings, small arteries, lymphatic vessels, and other important regulatory cells. When stimulated they can have both local effects as well as distant effects, causing systemic physiologic changes in the body.
In Western medicine terms, acupuncture needles placed at these acupoints allow for neuromodulation by stimulating nerve fibers, altering and releasing cytokines, and causing changes to inflammatory mediators. Decreased inflammation, increased circulation and immune function, and pain relief occur via the release of biochemicals in the body including endorphins, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters.
In Eastern medicine terms, the goal is to keep energy or Qi moving from one acupoint to the next and from channel to channel. Pain is interpreted as a blockage of Qi flow. Blocked energy or Qi flow from disease leads to an imbalance and obstruction which translates to pain, inflammation, and immune dysregulation. Acupuncture stimulation releases the blockage, frees the flow of Qi and allows homeostasis and health to be restored.
When conventional western medicine is not able to fully help the patient, has too many risks or side effects, or procedures are too expensive, acupuncture can be an excellent option for treatment and to bring the body back into balance again. Integrating both branches of veterinary medicine can offer the synergistic effects.
How do animals respond to acupuncture?
As with people, each animal responds differently to acupuncture. Most dogs and cats tolerate acupuncture well and will often become very relaxed during the acupuncture treatment and even fall asleep. Commonly they do not feel the insertion of the needle, but may get a warm or tingling sensation similar to humans. Occasionally a pet will reaction to a needle placement and then relax, but It is rare for a patient to be intolerant of the acupuncture needles.
Laser acupuncture can also be incorporated into treatments, stimulating acupuncture points in patients who are very sensitive to acupuncture needle placement and for hard to reach acupuncture points.
Aqua acupuncture is the injection of a small amount of fluid, such as sterile saline or Vitamin B12, at acupuncture points for a longer lasting effect.
Electroacupuncture applies a very small electrical stimulus via in-place acupuncture needles to enhance the effects of acupuncture treatments.
How long does a treatment session take and how many treatments are needed?
Needles are usually left in place for 10-30 minutes, depending on the desired effects.
The number of treatments a pet will require depends on several factors including how long the problem has been present. Acute issues can sometimes be treated with 1-2 visits. With chronic diseases, animals may need weekly or every other week treatments for 4-6 weeks and then gradually increase time between treatments.
Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in the treatment of:
Degenerative joint disease
Intervertebral disc disease
Tendon, muscle and ligament injuries
Hip and elbow dysplasia
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic vomiting and diarrhea
Side effects of cancer and chemotherapy
Behavior issues (i.e. anxiety)
Post operative pain and healing
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