The Ancient Art of Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese medicine, although relatively new to the Western world, has been practiced for thousands of years. According to Chinese medicine, disease is considered an imbalance or disharmony within the body. Chinese medicine strives to improve the health of the patient by correcting this imbalance and approaches treatment of the whole patient. For this reason, it is regarded as holistic medicine. Traditional Chinese veterinary medicine can be divided into four main treatment modalities – acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy and Tui-na (a form of medical massage). This article will address the use of acupuncture in veterinary medicine.
What is Acupuncture?
It's believed that acupuncture stimulates healing processes in the body through the movement of life-energy, known as chi or qi (chee). The treatment has been used for both prevention and the treatment of diseases.
Acupuncture is performed by the placement of very thin, specialized needles into the skin at specific points in the body. Each point produces a specific action when stimulated. Through the stimulation of these acupoints, chi flows though the body via pathways, known as meridians. This movement of energy is beneficial in treating a variety of conditions including pain.
How does acupuncture work?
Placement of needles into acupoints stimulates the body to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemical messengers can change how pain is felt and encourage healing.
There are three main types of acupuncture:
1. Dry Needling - Traditional acupuncture using needles
2. Electro acupuncture – Electrodes are attached to acupuncture needles providing a mild electrical current.
3. Aquapuncture - Injection of substances, such as Vitamin B12 or saline into acupoints.
What conditions benefit from acupuncture?
Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis
Neurologic problems, such as intervertebral disk disease
Allergies and other skin problems
Certain reproductive problems
Where can I find veterinary acupuncture?
To become an accredited veterinary acupuncturist, an individual must be a licensed veterinarian who has completed advanced training in the field of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and, specifically, acupuncture techniques. Your vet can provide you with the best resources to find a veterinary acupuncturist. You can also visit the College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) website or the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) website for more information.
What happens during an acupuncture session and how will my pet react?
Most patients tolerate acupuncture very well. Ideally, the session will take place in a quiet environment, which will allow patients to relax during treatment. Acupuncture needles are single-use, very thin, solid, sterile needles. The insertion of needles is usually painless.
Multiple needles are placed and remain in place for a specified amount of time, which varies depending on the condition being treated – usually between 10 and 30 minutes. Some animals will even fall asleep during a treatment. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, acupuncture is safe and adverse reactions are very uncommon. More than one session may be necessary, especially when treating a chronic condition.
Although viewed as alternative therapy, it may be better to consider acupuncture and Western veterinary medicine as complementary to each other.
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