Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

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Body in Balance…

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCVM, has been utilized to treat animals for thousands of years and can be traced to the Neolithic period in China. Over time, diagnoses and treatments were extended from humans to farm animals and most importantly to the brave horses of the Emperor’s army who were an essential part of fighting invasion from neighboring territories. Early manuscripts of TCVM were later extrapolated and extended to our companion animal friends and are still referenced today.

Acupuncture is one tool, or modality, in TCVM by which we can attain balance in the body. Acupuncture is comprised of three essential factors: the acupuncture point, stimulating methods, and therapeutic effects.

What are acupuncture points? In Chinese, these are called Shue Xue or literally “communicating holes.” They communicate with fascia (a type of connective tissue) and muscle in areas concentrated with nerves, blood vessels, lymph ducts, connective tissue, and cells.

Related acupuncture points are connected in the body by channels or “meridians.” There are 14 meridians near the body surface that act as a communication superhighway; that is, they are the systemic pathways by which energy flows through the body. These acupuncture points are named by channel and number. For example, Lung 9 or LU-9 is the ninth acupuncture point on the lung meridian and is known to support lung function. The end of one meridian is the start of another and eventually all of the meridians are connected, just as all of our internal organs are connected. Acupuncture points are known to exist in anatomical areas of decreased electrical resistance and increased electrical conductivity. These areas are concentrated in free nerve endings, arterioles, lymphatic vessels, and mast cells.

Stimulating methods are the second part of the acupuncture treatment. These include using acupuncture needles only, or ‘dry needle’ acupuncture. Electro-acupuncture may be used to stimulate acupuncture points. Electro-acupuncture is achieved by using a stimulation unit which sends a current through the acupuncture needle and into the acupoint to achieve a desired effect. Aqua-acupuncture may be utilized by injecting of a sterile substance, usually vitamin B12, into an acupuncture point for extended stimulation and therapeutic effect.

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The take home message for acupuncture is the following: A needle is inserted into an acupoint to create a physiologic change. This physiologic change may include beta-endorphin and endogenous opioid release to achieve pain management. Other physiologic changes may include immune system stimulation and muscle relaxation. These changes are the basis of clinical treatment. Chinese herbal therapy may also be used in combination with acupuncture to achieve balance.

What can we treat with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine? Musculoskeletal diseases, gastrointestinal disease, neurological disease, renal disease, autoimmune disease, and yes, even cancer can all be treated with TCVM. Cancer is a special consideration and treatment with TCVM modalities and herbal formulas, as true treatment modalities and medicines, should not be used without the guidance of your veterinarian. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine are part of a holistic approach to animal wellness and are wonderful complements to each other.