Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that has been practiced in China for over 4,000 years. TCM is based on the concept of energy, or Qi (pronounced Chi). Qi circulates through the body along defined pathways called meridians, much as blood circulates through blood vessels. On these meridians there are points on the skin surface referred to as acupuncture points. It is via the acupuncture points that the energy flowing within the meridian can be reached and therefore, where the energy can be manipulated. 1e,
The harmonious flow of Qi through the meridians is found in a state of health. But in disease states, Qi becomes excessive, is blocked, or is depleted. This results in the clinical signs of disease which we observe (i.e. vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the urine, lameness, etc.). By treating certain acupuncture points, sometimes located far from the site of symptoms, the veterinary acupuncturist can assist the body to heal itself by balancing its own vital energy, or Qi.
Acupuncture may be used in conjunction with conventional medicine and surgical techniques to enhance the effectiveness of treatment. It may be used as the sole modality when conventional treatment is not possible due to the age and physical condition of the animal or the nature of the disease.
What Acupuncture Treats
In companion animals, acupuncture is most commonly used for treating:
- Musculoskeletal Problems
- Hip Dysplasia
- Intervertebral Disc Disease
- Urinary Problems
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- Chronic Renal Failure
- Respiratory & Intestinal Problems
- Chronic Vomiting
- Recurrent Diarrhea
There are numerous reports from veterinary clinical practices, and others published in texts and journals, that list hundreds of clinical conditions that respond to acupuncture therapy. However, acupuncture is not a cure all. There are also numerous conditions in which conventional medicine would be more appropriate, for example broken bones, internal injuries, or infections.
Acupuncture is performed with thin flexible needles most often made of stainless steel. There is often brief pain of a minor nature as the needle passes through the skin. As the energy changes, the animal may experience other sensations equivalent to the subjective human experiences of relaxation or local numbness, heat, dull aching, or tingling.
In veterinary acupuncture, a primary emphasis is placed on the initial and subsequent clinical evaluations. These evaluations are based upon clinical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests of the patient. The owner is encouraged to be present during treatment. Sedation is rarely required so the treatment can be done on an outpatient basis.
While interval and duration of treatments vary, the procedure generally lasts from 10 to 20 minutes, although a 1 hour appointment is initially scheduled to provide time for a comlete physical along with a thorough history. Patients are often treated every 1-2 weeks for 4-6 treatments. A positive response is often noticed within the first 3-4 treatments, sometimes earlier, depending upon the condition treated. Animals usually require “tune-ups” at regular intervals, usually every 3-6 months.
Acupuncture and the Law
The American Veterinary Medical Association approved acupuncture as an acceptable modality of treatment for animals in 1988. This approval came after much research and development on the part of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (I.V.A.S.). This society endeavors to establish uniformly high standards of veterinary acupuncture through its accreditation courses and examinations. I.V.A.S. was chartered in 1974 and since that time has accredited hundreds of veterinarians nationwide.