Would you try acupuncture on your pet?
If your dog hobbles around, with his arthritis causing discomfort despite meds from the vet, would you think of seeking relief with acupuncture to put the spring back in his step and having him playing ball again? Of course, this will depend on whether you believe acupuncture works or think it’s a bunch of hooey.
Perhaps you know someone whose dog had acupuncture and it made a big difference to their pet. But then you ask yourself: Did it actually work or was it the placebo effect? If you’re wondering whether acupuncture could benefit your stiff, arthritic pet, here is the lowdown on what is the oldest therapy in the world: your Pet Insurance University guide to acupuncture.
What is Acupuncture?
The theory of acupuncture is that it “harmonizes the internal life forces.” This all sounds rather mystic and, in these days of evidence-based medicine, statistics, trials, and proof, this appears on first inspection to be a bit lightweight. For a start, what are these “internal life forces?”
If you are deeply skeptical already, suspend disbelief and bear with us to look at the evidence (because there is some!).
Yin and Yang
The ancients believed in yin and yang, with yin represented by black as a negative force, and yang by white as the positive. Neither force can exist without the other, and when one gets out of balance in the body, ill health results. Acupuncture is said to restore that balance. Sounding more and more like a bunch of hooey? Actually, it’s really not.
Enter modern science and MRI scanners. We now have the ability to monitor a body receiving acupuncture and watch for changes in the brain and nerves. Guess what? It looks like the findings rather back up the claim that acupuncture does work. But to understand this more fully, there’s some more hooey-sounding background.
The ancients believed that points on the outside of the body were joined to corresponding organs by energy lines called meridians. The theory says when a point on the external meridian is stimulated with an acupuncture needle it benefits the destination organ.
You could be forgiven for thinking this sounds rather fanciful, which means you’ll be even more surprised to learn that modern science has stepped in to back up the benefits of acupuncture. Suspend all disbelief because MRI scans show it has an effect on the way nerves work.
The proven effects of acupuncture include stimulation of nerves that:
- Inhibit the passage of pain messages
- Encourage the release of natural painkillers
- Trigger the pituitary gland to release endorphins (natural morphine)
Thus, it’s official: Acupuncture works. Those unbelievers amongst you need to know that scientific studies in people (for once acting as guinea pigs for animals) show notable results. One study found acupuncture resulted in sustained improvements in patients suffering from neck pain. Another found it provided sufficient pain relief for 95 percent of patients who underwent minor facial surgery .
It is also believed acupuncture can:
- Increase the speed at which tissue heals
- Cause the release of various feel-good hormones such as endorphins and serotonin
- Activate the immune system to fight infections
Acupuncture can help the body to heal itself, and it has the ability to reduce the dose of medication needed to control pain. Its effects depend on:
- The external points chosen (and the meridian connected to it)
- The method of stimulation (type of needle and if it is rotated)
- Duration and length of treatment
The conditions acupuncture can help are wide and varied. A small flavor of the indications for acupuncture are allergies, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, arthritis, back problems, asthma, bronchitis, hormone issues, reproductive problems, sprains, strains and many others.
And finally, a word of warning: Acupuncture is so effective that it removes pain and hence hides vital clues as to what’s causing the problem. A reputable, qualified veterinary acupuncturist will insist on a diagnosis before starting therapy, since removing the symptoms can make future diagnosis more difficult.
So when asking is acupuncture a bunch of hooey, the answer is definitely no, it’s a healing tool and one with the potential to benefit your pet.