Acupuncture was developed as a treatment long before our current understanding of modern medicine. This traditional Chinese practice was based on proposed energy channels or meridians. Although we still use these acupuncture points, channels, and meridians, we can better explain the mechanism of action in modern scientific terms.
Research into the mechanism of action of acupuncture has rapidly expanded in recent years. Using what we have learned, we have been able to challenge some of the traditional Chinese theories, as well as improve our techniques to be in line with the most current understanding of the biomechanical and neurologic mechanisms of action.
The basis of acupuncture is neuromodulation. Using points located just under the skin along nerves, acupuncture stimulates areas of the spinal cord and brain to release pain-reducing substances and growth factors as well as to promote a sense of relaxation. Additionally, acupuncture can increase blood flow to targeted areas, such as organs, muscles or joints, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the immune system.
A more recent modification to traditional techniques is electroacupuncture. This is the application of electrical stimulation to the acupuncture needles. Many clinical studies in both human and veterinary patients involve electroacupuncture, and this technique appears to enhance the effects of needle placement.
Acupuncture can have benefits for a wide variety of medical conditions. Pets that suffer from musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, cruciate ligament disease, kidney disease, respiratory illness, constipation and other gastrointestinal illness, nerve injury and paralysis, as well as other conditions can all benefit from acupuncture. There are applications for acupuncture in cases of acute injury and illness as well as chronic disease and pain conditions. Acupuncture can somtimes be used in place of traditional medicine or surgery when there are contraindications to these traditional therapies, or it can be used to complement traditional western medicine techniques.
Both acupuncture and electroacupuncture are accepted well by most patients. .For those who are needle-shy, we distract with treats or very gentle restraint. For clients who have had acupuncture treatment and found it uncomfortable, please know that the aim of veterinary medical acupuncture is to stimulate nerve pathways without causing pain. We will always strive to minimize any feeling of discomfort while using acupuncture on our patients.
Acupuncture is an extremely safe method of treatment. Single use, sterile, thin and flexible stainless steel needles are used. Often these needles are placed with the aid of an insertion tube, which helps to bypass the pain receptors present in the skin and facilitate needle insertion. Acpuncture works to balance the body’s own nervous system without the use of chemicals, so complications rarely, if ever, develop.
A proper diagnosis is essential prior to beginning therapy and to obtain a successful treatment outcome. The first appointment will consist of a thorough review of relevant history, complete physical exam, and a myofascial exam. The myofascial exam will help to identify any regions of neurologic dysfunction, musculoskeletal pain as well as reactive or “trigger” points which will aid in treatment planning. The condition or conditions being treated will dictate the number of needles placed for any one particular session. A treatment may last only a few minutes or up to thirty minutes depending on the condition being treated, the method employed, and patient tolerance.
There will be significant variation in the treatment interval depending on the condition being treated and whether it is acute or chronic in nature. Initially, patients may be treated from one to three times per week for the first four to six weeks. A positive response is often noted after the first 4 to 6 treatments, although some pets will exhibit a positive response after the first treatment. Following the intial 4-6 treatments, frequency will be tapered to the internal necessary to maintain the pet’s improvement. We will work closely with you to develop a treatment schedule that is individually tailored to meet your pet’s needs.