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Acupuncture is one facet of traditional Chinese medicine where needles are inserted into specific points on the body to produce a healing response. Each acupuncture point has specific actions when stimulated. Combinations of points are often stimulated to take advantage of synergistic reactions between them. Which acupuncture points are stimulated, the depth of needle insertion, the type of stimulation applied to the needles, and the duration of each treatment session depends on the patient's tolerance, the experience and training of the practitioner, and the condition being treated
This technique has been used in veterinary practice in China for thousands of years to treat many ailments. The Chinese also use acupuncture as preventative medicine. Acupuncture is used all around the world, either along or in conjunction with Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of conditions in every species of animal. Clinical research has been conducted showing positive results in the treatment of both animals and humans, and the use of acupuncture is increasing. Acupuncture will not cure every condition, but it can work very well when it is indicated.
Acupuncture is indicated for a wide variety of problems ranging from pain to behavioral problems. Most commonly acupuncture is used for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. Some of the general conditions where it might be applied are the following:
In addition, regular acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World-class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training. Horses involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition.
Although acupuncture has its roots in ancient times before modern scientific methods were available with which to study it, many important studies have been done to indicate how acupuncture works and what physiologic mechanisms are involved in its actions. Using functional MRI (fMRI), to examine 15 different points, the basic tenets of acupuncture have been proven. Those are that acupuncture is based upon the point selected, the method of stimulation, and the duration of stimulation. Stimulation of these points result in specific changes in the central nervous system. It was shown that acupuncture points that have pain relieving properties associated with them tend to activate specific pain-association brainstem regions. The National Institute of Health developed a consensus statement about acupuncture and its efficacy. NIH said that there was compelling evidence that acupuncture was useful in the management of osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain.
In western medical terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. For example, acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm, and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid). Although many of acupuncture’s physiological effects have been studied, many more are still unknown. Further research must be conducted to discover all of acupuncture’s effects and its proper uses in veterinary medicine.
Your horse can be ridden prior to the treatment but it is best they not be worked hard. The horse should be done working no less than 1 hour to the appointment so that they are fully cooled out and relaxed at the time of the appointment. Please make sure they are reasonably clean (they do not need to be immaculate) and dry.
As with every good medical exam we will start with a discussion of the horses history and any problems/concerns you may have as well as what you may be feeling under tack.
After that we will perform a baseline exam which involves watching the horse walk, palpation of the spine for pain or heat as well as scanning the horse for areas of sensitivity. Once the patient has been assessed, a diagnosis and treatment plan is formed. Needles are then placed at specific acupuncture points and are typically left in place for 20-30 minutes.
How long the treatment lasts depends largely on the type of acupuncture performed. Dry needling generally takes 20-30 minutes. Electroacupuncture generally takes 45-60 minutes.
While time off after the treatment is not always necessary it is best to give them about 24 hours off with a lighter work. Patients that received aqua-acupuncture may have some soreness for up to 72 hours.
This question must be answered on an individual basis for each patient. In most cases, a single treatment is not enough to eliminate the problem. Significant improvement can be seen after just 1 treatment but more chronic or severe problems may take 4-6 treatments to see improvement. Some horses and some conditions will not respond to acupuncture. To assess whether an horse will respond to acupuncture I recommend giving them at least 3-4 treatments 2 weeks apart to determine whether they will respond.
Frequency of preventative or “maintenance” treatments depend on the horses problems, work load and performance level but are typically once every 4 to 6 weeks.