Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to successfully treat both animals and humans. It is being used by an increasing number of vets as a complementary or adjunctive therapy. Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points on the body with thin, sterile, single-use needles to assist healing, reduce pain and improve quality of life.
Chinese medicine uses acupuncture holistically to aid restoration of energy balance in the body by redirecting the flow of Qi along imaginary energy channels called meridians. The Western scientific approach, more commonly practised in the UK, uses needling predominantly to achieve pain relief in a wide variety of conditions. There is a lot of overlap between the two approaches.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is understood to work on three levels:
1. Locally, needling releases muscle spasm, increases blood flow to an area, stimulating release of healing chemicals at the site of needle placement.
2. Segmentally, acupuncture needles, placed in the same spinal segment as the affected area, modify the pain signals travelling up to this area of the spinal cord, effectively blocking pain sensation.
3. Centrally, one of the responses to acupuncture is the release of neurotransmitters and hormones such as endorphins and serotonin in the brain. This enhances an animal’s general wellbeing and ability to cope with its problems.
The combined effect of acupuncture, acting at all three levels, often results in a good level of pain relief and improved quality of life.
There is a small percentage of animals, as people, that gain no benefit from acupuncture, reasons are not currently understood and this cannot be predicted. It’s unusual but if this is suspected a course will be terminated.
At Penbode Pet Vets Claire Davies, who has been a small animal vet here from 1992 uses complementary therapies alongside conventional practice on a regular basis. She is very happy to speak to you if think acupuncture might help your pet.