Frequently Asked Questions:
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of small sterile needles into very specific points on the body with the purpose of creating a therapeutic effect. These acupoints are found along precise channels or meridians that travel along the entire body, and directly involve the nervous system. This procedure can involve other methods such as stimulation of these points via electrical stimulation, aqua-acupuncture, or moxibustion (applying a heat source over the acupoint). Many times acupuncture is combined with the use of herbs and/or specific food recommendations as depending on the individual TCVM diagnosis, their use can enhance and help maintain the effects of the acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture has been practiced and part of mainstream medical care on humans and animals in China for thousands of years. The ancient Chinese discovered 361 acupoints in humans and 173 acupoint in animals.
Is acupuncture safe and does it hurt my animal?
Acupuncture is a very safe medical procedure when performed by a trained practitioner with very few negative effects having been found and/or documented in clinical cases. Although some animals can have a very profound reaction to the effects of acupuncture, it is rarely painful and a vast majority of patients are comfortable and enjoy their treatments. Sedation is not needed, and some animals will even fall asleep during their acupuncture treatment.
What is Qi and what is a Channel/Meridian?
Qi (say "chee") is the intangible vital energy that is within every living being that allows it to function and be alive. Qi flows throughout the body at all times keeping its contrasting forms of Yin and Yang in constant balance to maintain health and homeostasis. When the flow of Qi is blocked by a pathologic process such as infection or pain, disease within the body can result. This could range from a bacterial or viral infection to dermatologic disease to orthopedic disease etc. Acupuncture stimulation resolves this blockage of Qi, thus allowing the body's own immune system to heal itself and restore balance.
A channel or meridian is the path along which Qi flows within the body. There are 12 Regular Channels and 8 Extraordinary Channels with the most commonly used acupoints found along these channels.
Is there any scientific proof of why acupuncture works?
Although producing results for thousands of years, modern imaging and research has shown that acupoints are located in areas of the body that have a high number of free nerve endings, mast cells, arterioles, and lymphatic vessels. There are many studies that have proven that acupuncture causes the release of beta-endorphins, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters which are huge reason for the therapeutic effects that we see/experience clinically. If you visit the Library of Medicine at the U.S. National Institutes of Health there are over 20,000 articles involving acupuncture and over 300 that relate specifically to animals.
Specific effects of acupuncture that have been demonstrated in studies are:
- Promoting tissue healing / Stimulate the release of stem cells
-Regulate gastrointestinal motility
-Anti-inflammatory and antifebrile effects
-Hormone and reproductive regulation
Given these effects, many conditions can greatly benefit from acupuncture treatment. Examples include, but are not limited to:
-Musculoskeletal Issues: muscle soreness, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, and back pain
-Neurologic Diseases: Intervertebral Disc Disease, seizures, laryngeal hemiplagia, facial nerve paralysis
-Gastrointestinal Disorders: diarrhea, constipation, colic, gastric ulcers, vomiting
-Chronic Disorders: heaves, asthma, infertility, Cushing's Disease, skin disease, uveitis, liver and renal disease, behavioral problems
-Overall Quality of Life: maintenance, performance, prevention of disease, geriatric care, hospice care
How long does each treatment take and how many treatments are needed?
The initial acupuncture session generally takes longer as a detailed history of the animal is obtained, which is very important to achieve the correct traditional Chinese veterinary medical diagnosis. Therefore, each session can take 20-45 minutes with follow up treatments being on the shorter end. Each animal is very individual with regards to his/her specific treatment program so it depends on the case, but treatments can be performed on a daily, weekly, monthly, or even further apart depending on the condition. Some animals experience profound results right away, especially those with an acute (recent) problem, but it is very common to have to perform multiple treatments to achieve maximum results. In general, a minimum of 3-5 treatments that are spaced 1-2 weeks apart are needed for chronic (long standing) conditions.
When is acupuncture contraindicated?
Acupuncture is not meant to replace traditional western medicine, and actually works best when integrated and combined with traditional veterinary care. There are conditions for which western medicine is superior, and those for which eastern medicine provides superior results. The goal is to find the perfect balance to keep our animals in optimum health.
Acupuncture should be used with caution in cases of fracture, pregnancy, open wounds, and tumors.