Acupuncture is an ancient healing art which has been used in China for more than 2000 years. The technique is based on the insertion of tiny needles at specific points in the body in regions both local and distant to the area of pain. This may bring both relief of pain and treatment of disease.
There is some controversy as to how acupuncture actually works. The chinese system is based on the concept of 'qi'- an air or energy that flows through the body giving vitality to the mind and body along meridians or channels. A 'blockage' of a channel stops the flow of qi which is treated at certain points according to the disease. In Western Medicine it is thought that the treatment stimulates the neuroendocrine system, resulting in upregulation of opioid in the body and increased circulation to diseased areas.
Acupuncture is especially helpful in the treatment of muscle trigger points and muscular pain. It works very well in combination with chiropractic as both treatments work by acting on the nervous system. Some areas of the spine cannot be reached to apply a chiropractic adjustment, so acupuncture is especially useful in these cases. Because acupuncture alters perception of pain it can be beneficial in horses with chronic disease to bring relief from pain, slow progression and enable the dose of other medications to be reduced.
It may also be used to treat some diseases of the internal organs such as reproductive problems, conditions of the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems because of the stimulation to the nervous system.
Who Can do animal acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an invasive procedure because it involves inserting needles into the body. Therefore under UK law it can only be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon.
Will my horse like it?
The tolerance of horses to acupuncture depends on the animal- some really like it and some don't! If necessary the horse can be sedated to enable the needles to be placed, although if your horse is needle shy then he probably isn't a good candidate for needle acupuncture. Alternatively acupuressure massage can be carried out with a massage machine- the machine is applied to the desired point to provide mechanical stimulation instead of inserting needles. Most horses really enjoy this method of treatment.
Good reaction around an acupuncture needle in the neck of the horse above.