Equine Acupuncture Can Help Conditions
V eterinary science has made great advances in the diagnosis and treatment of lameness and back pain in horses, and there is increasing evidence supporting the use of the ancient art of acupuncture alongside conventional western medicine.
The word acupuncture is derived from the Latin Acus meaning needle and punctara meaning puncture. The technique is most commonly recognised as an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and involves piercing the skin with fine needles in order to relieve pain, cure disease and promote health. The use of acupuncture in China dates back at least 3,000 years. However, the technique has developed independently in many communities around the world.
Acupuncture for animals is an act of veterinary surgery. In the UK only a qualified veterinary surgeon can carry out acupuncture on horses. It has been used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. In veterinary medicine it is a very useful additional technique in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain in horses. In particular back pain either primary or secondary to lameness; neck pain and stiffness; muscle spasm; osteoarthritis and support for elderly horses.
There are many other conditions of the horse where acupuncture has been used which include laminitis and certain causes of headshaking.
There are two schools of thought used to explain how acupuncture works – the Traditional Chinese Explanation and the Western Scientific Explanation. The Chinese approach to disease is very holistic, and emotional, hereditary and environmental factors are considered important factors in disease patterns. The philosophy and aim of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is to store equilibrium between physical, emotional and spiritual factors, thus restoring and maintaining health. Treatment involves using needles in specific acupuncture points (often in combination with herbal therapy) to achieve this balance, by addressing imbalances in Yin and Yang and the flow of energy (Qi) and blood.
The Western view of acupuncture is used predominantly in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and, in particular chronic pain in animals. Nerves, muscles and acupuncture points are needled which correspond to the affected or painful areas. This results in local pain relief (‘pain gating’) as well as descending pain inhibition from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord pathways). Acupuncture stimulates the release of pain relieving chemicals in the brain and spinal cord (e.g. endorphins, serotonin and noradrenalin). These produce more generalised pain relief. These effects, combined with local needling of painful trigger points in taut muscle bands, can result in exceptional relief of pain.
Acupuncture is accepted well by most horses. Many relax and even appear to enjoy repeat treatments once they appreciate the routine. The technique is often used to complement orthodox treatments or when orthodox medicine fails.
Since the procedure is drug-free there are no with holding periods and hence the treatment can be given close to competition for sport and racehorses. The technique can have profound effects in the treatment of both osteoarthritis and muscular conditions and hence may help to give a better quality of life to older horses.
Penhale Equine Clinic is hosting an Equine Acupuncture and Physiotherapy talk on September 30 at the Memorial Hall, Holsworthy, 8pm. Enquiries call 01409 255549.
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