What is acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is a medical system that has its roots in China and has been used for thousands of years to treat animals. 

Veterinary acupuncture is one of the branches of TCVM. It is the insertion of small needles in specific locations of the body - acupuncture points (acupoints). The ancient Chinese discovered 173 points in animals. Recent research has shown that these acupoints are located in areas of high density of free nerve endings, immune mediating cells, and lymphatic vessels. 

Acupuncture results in physiological responses which can include increase in blood circulation, reduced inflammation, release of endorphins (a self-produced painkiller) and relaxation. 

From a more traditional Chinese point of view, acupuncture helps Qi flow better and enables the body to heal itself and restore balance. Qi in TCVM is the life force or vital energy. There are two forms of Qi, the Yin and Yang. Acupuncture helps balancing these two contrasting forms. 

If you would like more information about veterinary acupuncture, please visit the resources page.

Veterinary acupuncture is one of the many modalities used in integrative pain management. Acupuncture can help treat  arthritis, disc disease, post orthopedic surgery, among others. 

Effective pain management is best achieved with multimodal strategies. Integrative medicine is very important to ensure your pet is getting the best possible care. 

Benefits for Senior Pets

The mechanism behind how acupuncture provides its therapeutic benefits is not fully understood, but there are several theories from both a medical and a traditional Chinese perspective that attempt to explain its effects.

1. Neurotransmitter Release: Acupuncture stimulates sensory nerves in the skin and muscles, which then send signals to the central nervous system. This process triggers the release of neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and serotonin, which have pain-relieving and mood-enhancing effects.

2. Modulation of Pain Pathways: Acupuncture can influence the transmission of pain signals along the spinal cord and brain, potentially reducing the perception of pain. This modulation can be explained by the "Gate Theory" of pain.

3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Acupuncture has been shown to decrease the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals and promote the release of anti-inflammatory substances, leading to reduced inflammation in the body.

4. Increased Blood Circulation: The stimulation of acupuncture points may improve blood flow to the treated area, promoting tissue repair and healing.

5. Muscle Relaxation: Acupuncture can lead to the release of muscle tension by stimulating specific points, helping to relax tight muscles and relieve spasms.

From a Traditional Chinese Perspective:

1. Improve flow of Qi: According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the body's vital energy, known as Qi, flows through channels or meridians. Acupuncture is believed to influence the flow of Qi, promoting balance and harmony in the body.

2. Yin and Yang Balance: TCM emphasizes the balance of opposing forces, yin and yang, within the body. Acupuncture aims to correct imbalances and restore harmony between these forces.

3. Organ Systems: Acupuncture points are associated with specific organ systems in TCM. Stimulating these points is believed to affect the corresponding organs and their functions.

4. Five Elements: TCM categorizes the body's organs and tissues into five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), each associated with particular meridians. Acupuncture seeks to address imbalances within these elements.

5. Individualized Treatment: Acupuncture in TCM is highly personalized, with practitioners considering an animal's constitution, pattern of disharmony, and the relationship between different symptoms before selecting points for treatment.

Ultimately, whether viewed from a medical or traditional Chinese perspective, acupuncture has shown to be a valuable and safe therapy to manage pain.