What is acupuncture?
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) has four main components: acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy, and Tui-na (manipulative therapy). Acupuncture usually involves the insertion of thin sterile needles into discrete and specific point on the body in order to cause a therapeutic effect, but may include other methods such as electrical stimulation and moxibustion. The point on the body is call "Shu-xue" or acupuncture point (acupoint). The ancient Chinese discovered 361 acupoints in humans and 173 acupoints in animals.
What is the history of acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been practiced in both animals and humans for thousands of years in China. The earliest veterinary acupuncture book, "Bo Le Zhen Jing" (Bole's Canon of Veterinary Acupuncture), is believed to have been written by Dr. Bo Le in the Qin-mu-gong period (659 B.C.E. to 621 B.C.E.). Veterinary treatment protocols using acupuncture are well-documented in this textbook. Since then, acupuncture has been a part of the mainstream veterinary medical system in China.
Is there any scientific evidence on how acupuncture works?
Modern research shows that acupoints are located in the areas where there is a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, small arterioles, and lymphatic vessels. Most acupoints are motor points. A great number of studies indicate that the stimulation of acupoints induces the release of beta-endorphins, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters. The US National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (www.pubmed.gov) has over 25,000 research papers regarding acupuncture, and over 400 animal-specific articles.
What is Qi?
Qi (pronounced "chee") is life force or vital energy. There are two contrasting forms of Qi: Yin and Yang. Yin energy tends to be cool, dark, still, and moving downward, while Yang energy is warm, light, mobile, expanding, and moving upward. Physiologically, Qi flows throughout the body all the time, maintaining a balance of Yin and Yang. When the flow of Qi is interrupted by any pathological factor (such as a viral or bacterial infection), the balance of Yin and Yang will be disrupted and consequently, a disease may occur. Pain is interpreted as the blockage of Qi flow. Acupuncture stimulation resolves this blockage, freeing the flow of Qi and enabling the body to heal itself. Homeostasis is restored when Yin and Yang Qi are in balance.
What is a Channel or Meridian?
A Channel or Meridian is where Qi flows inside the body. There are 12 Regular Channels and 8 Extraordinary Channels. The most commonly used acupuncture points are located along these Channels. Each Regular Channel is related to specific paired organs. The network of Channels is called the Jing-Luo system.
Is acupuncture safe?
Yes! Acupuncture is a very safe medical procedure when administered by a qualified practitioner. Very few negative effects have been found in clinical cases.
How long does each treatment take?
Each session may take 20 to 45 minutes; the first session usually takes longer than follow-up appointments.
How soon can we expect results?
Some results can be seen immediately, but others will require several treatments. Generally a minimum of 3 to 5 treatments 1-2 weeks apart for chronic conditions are needed before one can expect notable improvement.
How many treatments are needed?
As in all medicine, this depends on the situation and treatments can be done daily, weekly, monthly, or even further apart depending on the severity and chronicity of the condition.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Rarely! Acupuncture is not painful because acupuncture points are stimulated using very fine needles, almost as thin as a hair. Over 95% of patients are comfortable with acupuncture therapy. Due to the relaxation effect, some animals will fall asleep during acupuncture treatments. In general, sedation is not needed before an acupuncture treatment.
Who is qualified to perform veterinary acupuncture?
Only licensed veterinarians are qualified to practice veterinary acupuncture. A veterinarian that is certified in acupuncture is highly recommended.
What physiological effects are induced by acupuncture?
Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulation induces the following physiological effects:
- Pain relief
- Promotion of tissue healing processes
- Regulation of gastrointestinal motility
- Anti-inflammatory effects
- Hormone and reproductive regulation
- Antifebrile effects
When is acupuncture recommended?
Clinical trials indicate that acupuncture therapy can be effective in the following conditions:
- Musculoskeletal problems: muscle soreness, back pain, osteoarthritis, and degenerative joint disease
- Neurological disorders: seizures, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), laryngeal hemiplegia, and facial and radial nerve paralysis
- Gastrointestinal disorders: diarrhea, gastric ulcers, colic, vomiting, constipation, and impactions
- Other chronic conditions: skin problems, heaves, asthma, cough, uveitis, renal failure, chronic liver diseases, behavioural problems, infertility, Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, geriatric weakness, and anhidrosis
- Quality of life, cancer, and hospice care
- Performance enhancement and the prevention of disease
Acupuncture should be used with caution in the following conditions: fractures, pregnancy, and open wounds and tumours.
Why is acupuncture frequently combined with herbs?
Many acupuncturists choose to combine acupuncture with herbal medicine because the use of herbs enhances the effectiveness of acupuncture.