Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, solid needles into the body for pain relief or to aid the body in dealing with other diseases.
The western view of acupuncture is mainly used to address musculoskeletal pain and relies on over-riding existing pain signals with the stimuli of the needles inserted.
This type of approach is particularly effective in treatment of chronic pain such as arthritis and post-operative pain.
The effect of acupuncture is explained by the release of the body’s own hormones in response to the tissue nerve endings stimulated by the fine needles. The hormones released are endorphins, serotonin, noradrenalin and adenosine. Some of these hormones can directly relieve pain which is the desired effect when battling inflammation of the joints and muscular tensions.
Most pets tolerate acupuncture very well. Ideally, the patient is in a stress-free environment, which means a quiet, warm room and a blanket or mat to lie on. The patient will be able to lie on their side or on their belly as mostly back and legs are ‘needled’. Sedation of pets is not needed.
The most common conditions that are treated with acupuncture are arthritis, pain secondary to disc disease and bony changes of the spine as well as muscle strains. The usual course of treatments are once weekly for four to six weeks and then as needed to maintain comfort levels. This can be every three to four weeks. Most animals respond to acupuncture but may not do so until the second or third treatment and in some cases the patient may appear worse after the first treatment before showing improvement.
Legally, acupuncture must be performed by a veterinary surgeon. Acupuncture is generally very safe when performed by a trained veterinary surgeon that is knowledgeable of anatomy and conditions that would make it unsafe to perform acupuncture.