Acupuncture: What’s the point?
"Acupuncture" literally means piercing the skin with a needle. But you ask, what makes it different than using a needle to draw blood or give an injection? Acupuncture needles are placed in specific locations, so they affect the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.
How does acupuncture work?
Scientific studies have shown the following:
- The needle insertions cause micro traumas that stimulate muscle and collagen fibers.
- The insertions also cause the release of chemicals that stimulate the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord.
- These chemicals interrupt pain transmission via the spinal cord to the brain, changing the perception of pain.
- The resulting pain relief reduces stress and inflammation, regulates digestion, and improves respiration.
- All these effects cause the body to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, etc.
How do we know it works? Scientific experiments have measured that during acupuncture treatment, it takes greater stimulation to cause pain. Functional MRI imaging show areas in the brain that are stimulated when needles are placed in specific spots. Blood samples drawn during electroacupuncture reveal the release of feel-good chemicals, endorphins.
Where does my vet put the needles? Eastern medicine recognizes “channels” of energy called meridians where needles are placed to facilitate flow of the body's energy. Western medical acupuncture has borrowed the term meridians and the location of points along nerve pathways. Treatment points can be identified externally by measuring electrical resistance and conductivity. Microscopic examination of tissue at treatment points shows a concentration of nerve endings, small blood vessels, lymph vessels and mast cells.
Are there different ways to perform acupuncture? The most common methods of acupuncture are inserting dry needles or using electrical stimulation of the needles (electroacupuncture).
When should I seek acupuncture for my pet? By far, the most common reason for seeking acupuncture treatments for pets is for arthritis and other musculoskeletal pain. It’s very effective in helping to speed recovery from back injuries. It can also be used to treat respiratory problems, such as feline asthma. It can be helpful in treating GI illness such as constipation and diarrhea.
What can I expect if I get acupuncture performed on my pet? An appointment will include an examination and treatment. Needles are generally left in place from 15-30 minutes depending on the pet. Acute problems may be resolved in a few appointments. Chronic problems, such as arthritis, require ongoing maintenance treatments.