Acupuncture is a treatment that involves inserting fine, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points of the body to induce a healing response. The treatment evolved over 3000 years ago in China and it is now being used in veterinary and medical practices throughout the world. In veterinary medicine, acupuncture is increasingly being recognized as a useful treatment for a wide range of conditions.

Acupuncture is a so-called regulatory treatment. The Chinese conceive of illness as being caused by disturbances in an organism’s energy balance. The purpose of acupuncture is to resolve and relieve these imbalances and energy obstructions, and thus effect healing. No distinction is drawn between physical and psychological conditions, rather diagnosis is based on both components as a whole. Obstructions to the flow of energy can be caused by a force acting from outside, overexertion, excess or unequal strain, and insufficient exercise, as well as neural factors. If such energy obstructions remain unrecognised and unresolved for any length of time, they can lead to pathological and anatomical changes for example arthrosis.

How does acupuncture work?

Western Scientific Explanation

Inserting acupuncture needles stimulates tiny nerve endings that carry impulses to the spinal cord and brain. This results in responses within the nervous and endocrine systems, leading to the release of neurotransmitters and hormones. These influence the function of the body tissues and organ systems.

The effect of an individual needle is determined by where it is placed in the body and which nerves are stimulated – hence the need for a thorough knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.

First Acupuncture increases the release of natural painkillers such as endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin which act on the pain pathways in the brain and spinal cord and can block the transmission of incoming pain signals. In the mid-brain,these cause switching and reduced inhibition of the posterior horn cells via non-opiates, the monoamines. The third level comprises the core areas of the hypothalamus, where beta-endorphin is released.

Not verified yet are other effects of acupuncture that have been clinically described like  immune stimulation, skin ailments, and help with psychological conditions.A list of ailments for which acupuncture can be effectively employed has been published by the World Health Organisation.

The purpose of an acupuncture treatment is to restore the patient to a state of balance or homeostasis. By influencing part of the brain called the hypothalamus, acupuncture can affect homeostatic regulatory mechanisms such as the control of blood pressure, pulse, respiration, intestinal motility, hormone secretion and white blood cell production.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Health can be defined as a state of harmony of an animal with its internal environment and within its external environment. There is complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.

An acupuncturist who practises Traditional Chinese Medicine will look at the whole horse and not just the diseased part. Consideration will be given to why the disease developed in the first place. This is why it is important for the first examination to take place with the horse in its home surroundings rather than at a veterinary clinic.

The purpose of an acupuncture treatment is to restore the patient to a state of balance or homeostasis.

Acupuncture can be used to treat all types of pain, in particular those affecting the musculoskeletal system. Acupuncture can also be applied in the treatment of chronic internal ailments. Traditional Chinese medicine considers physical ailments and psychological problems as a unit, allowing psychological disorders to be also treated with acupuncture. It is important that a conventional Western medical diagnosis has been obtained prior to the commencement of acupuncture treatment. For example, it is natural for an animal with pain in its front legs and no discernable lameness to develop back pains. In this case, the back is the secondary problem. It is therefore first of all necessary to treat the pain in the front legs. The back can then be treated with acupuncture. A conventional medical diagnosis is required to determine the cause of the lameness. A traditional Chinese diagnosis is performed supplementally. It is then possible to decide which form of treatment to use or whether to combine the two.

Chinese medicine postulates a system of energy paths known as meridians, which run through an animals body in a network.There are twelve regular and eight extraordinary meridians. According to the traditional Chinese concept, a form of energy known as Qi flows through the meridians.

Just as the water flow can change in a river bed, the flow of energy is also susceptible to change. Energy obstructions within the meridian system cause pains, which can manifest themselves as muscular tension, back pain, lameness, or – in particular with horses – insubordination towards the rider.