What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a medical treatment approach that involves insertion of thin, sterile needles into the body at specific locations in order to stimulate reparative processes through neuromodulation.

Acupuncture, like all medicine, has been evolving over the last 3,000 years. As early as 1,000 BC, physicians have recognized the value of acupuncture for treatment of internal medicine disorders. These ancient Chinese healers observed that stimulation of specific sites on the body influenced restorative change within the system and they acknowledged that these effects were mediated via the vasculature and associated with nerves.

In the 1900’s a French clerk working in China mistranslated ancient acupuncture texts. He transiated Qi as energy for “lack of a better word” and the errors in translation shifted the focus of acupuncture from its original emphasis on stimulation of significant locations along blood vessels and nerves, to metaphors and a concept of “points” along invisivle “meridians” that move energy. Today acupuncture is taught in medical schools and both Western and Eastern modalities are commonly used. There is extensive research on the neurophysiologic basis of acupuncture. While there are some that prefer the metaphors, medical acupuncture practitioners use anatomy and neurophysiology to get the best benefits of thousands of years of Chinese medicine, as adjunct to modern medicine.

How will patients benefit from acupuncture?

Additional treatments can be offered when other avenues have been exhausted; for instance, animals with chronic pain. Acupuncture provides alternative treatment options that have better pain control, minimal side effects, decrease in healing times and can be used simultaneously with most drugs.

How safe is acupuncture?

Acupuncture uses thin, sterile needles and problems as a result of acupuncture are rare.

How long does the session last?

It depends on a patient’s needs, but usually a single acupuncture session lasts 20-45 minutes.

How many treatments are needed?

It depends on each patient – some patients see improvement within the first three treatments, while pets with chronic conditions like arthritis will benefit from long term maintenance therapy.

Does acupuncture hurt?

The needles used are tiny, flexible, hair-like needles that are smaller than insulin needles. Most patients either do not feel them or after a brief “zing” feel relief.

What happens during my appointment?

Each acupuncture visit will include a myofascial examination to determine the best course of treatment for that patient. Depending on results of the examination, we will insert needles in locations appropriate for the condition and in order to relieve any painful trigger points in the muscles. Pets can stay in any position that is comfortable for them. Clients are welcome to give them treats – so don’t forget to bring them snacks for the visit – and pet them (while being mindful of the needles). Most pets are relaxed during treatment, so they will not move. Needles are usually left in place for 15-30 minutes.

Most patients are relaxed and quiet after acupuncture, so they should not be encouraged to do any physical activity like hiking or running for at least 24 hours. Some pets with chronic conditions like arthritis may appear weaker during the first 12 hours as their body responds to acupuncture, so their families need to let them rest and be comfortable. Since acupuncture is complementary to medical treatment, medications should not be stopped, unless directed by your regular veterinarian. Most pets in chronic pain will still need to receive their anti-inflammatory or pain medications as directed by their doctors. Typically, it may take several treatments to see if acupuncture works for your pet. In some cases, like for dogs with chronic arthritis or neurological conditions, a long term management plan may be recommended.

Do you practice Traditional Chinese Medicine or Homeopathy?

Ellicott Small Animal Hospital does not practice TCM or Homeopathy. At this time there is no reliable evidence or research to support their principles, and these practices may actually delay legitimate medical diagnosis and therapy, thus prolonging suffering and potentially denying patients relief. According to American Veterinary Medical Association, “diagnosis should be based on sound, accepted principles of veterinary medicine” and AVMA proposed a policy that “homeopathy is an ineffective practice and that its use as a veterinary therapy should be discouraged.”