Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to change hormonal and neurological input to the patient. These points correspond to neurologic and neurovascular pathways in a mammal’s body. They are generally named by the historical meridian channel names and numbers that were assigned in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture has been proven to stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms and moderate the release of certain hormones, such as endorphins and cortisol. For some conditions, electrical current may be applied to the needles to increase the desired effect. Acupuncture can be used for many different problems including pain (chronic and postsurgical), arthritis, allergies, reproductive diseases, seizures, excessive grooming, incontinence, phobias, disk diseases, asthma, vomiting, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, decreased appetite, and many other situations. While western, or allopathic, medicine is superb in dealing with acute, traumatic, and infectious disease, acupuncture can be very helpful for more chronic conditions or to alleviate some of the side effects from necessary western treatments, such as chemotherapy. There is considerable research being done to investigate the use of acupuncture in some conditions that have been treated traditionally with surgery, such as intervertebral disk disease and partially ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee, common conditions in both humans and dogs.
What to Expect From An Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture needles are very thin. Therefore, for most animals, the needle insertion is painless. Occasionally, there may be mild, momentary discomfort, a tingling sensation or numbness. There should not be any pain once the needles are inserted. Most dogs and many cats come to love their treatments. Many will relax so much, they will fall asleep. Side effects are rare. Some animals may have worse symptoms for up to 48 hours, after which there is significant improvement. Some may be sleepy for 24 hours. The needles may be in place for a few seconds up to 30 minutes, depending on the effect needed for each patient. Acute problems frequently respond well to treatments several times a week for two to three weeks. Occasionally, one treatment will be sufficient. Chronic problems are usually treated once weekly for four to six weeks, then tapered to the lowest frequency possible to retain the improvement. With patients with arthritis, the frequency may change with the seasons (temperature), weather (barometric pressure), or based on the amount of exercise and soreness the exercise may cause. Severe conditions may require more frequent treatments or treatments for a longer period of time. Approximately 20% of patients will not respond to acupuncture. This will be evident by the fourth to sixth treatment, when most patient’s response should be peaking. If this occurs, treatment is discontinued. Another 20% will be “hyper-responders”, those patients that show remarkable improvement within the first 24 hours.