Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)
Acupuncture is just one of five branches of therapies that are governed by the principles of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). The other four are Chinese Herbal Medicine, Tui Nai ( a form of massage/chiropractic and acupressure), Diet/Nutrition and Qi Gong ( a form of energy exercise ). TCVM has been successfully used in China for over 3000 years. It seeks to find the true basis of the disorder affecting the animal and not to just suppress the symptoms. The practice of TCVM promotes healing of the animal’s body by creating balance within the body. This gives the body the power and the tools to begin the process of restorative healing.
Acupuncture is primarily used in sport horses to control pain and correct imbalances in the horse’s body. Fine needles are gently placed in the acupuncture points on the horse’s body. These points are situated along meridians—a system of inter-connected channels that transport energy or Qi (pronounced “Chee” ). Any kind of blockage or stagnation in this flow of Qi can create both pain and loss of proper function in that area or organ system. Chronic problems, in particular, are almost always characterized by energy stagnation.
The Diagnostic Acupuncture Scan
“Scanning” your horse involves evaluating its sensitivity to palpation of certain acupuncture points. A sensitive reaction could indicate a problem with a structure along the associated meridian or an internal organ. In horses, certain points or combinations of points are consistently related to specific musculoskeletal or medical issues. Scanning a horse’s diagnostic points can often effectively identify subtle lameness issues or bring attention to a pending problem. If your horse consistently shows sensitivity to particular points, it is very likely that there is an underlying problem that should be addressed.
Acupuncture in Practice
The practitioner uses acupuncture needles to stimulate the flow of energy along/within/through the meridians. The needles can be used “dry,” they can be used to inject substances such as vitamin B-12 or [saline], and they can also be attached to a low pulsating electrical current, which produces a continuous level of stimulation. Each method helps to restore the free energy flow throughout the meridians and stimulates the body’s own healing mechanisms, allowing for resolution without relapse to occur.
While acupuncture in horses is perhaps best known for treating musculoskeletal and back problems, it has also successfully treated medical conditions such as colic, allergies, neurologic disease, reproductive disorders, non-sweaters, and headshaking. Like humans, horses vary in their attitudes towards needles. Most accept acupuncture quite easily, but a small percentage will not be able to tolerate this therapy.
Acupuncture or Chiropractic?
In general, this is a case by case decision, but my answer is usually the same as my answer to another question: Adequan or Legend? And the answer is Both. The two treatment options (in both cases) are synergistic—the structural changes initiated by a chiropractic treatment are reinforced by the energy balancing of the acupuncture session, and vice versa. These two modalities in combination give the animal the foundation and strength it needs to initiate a healing pattern that will continue to strengthen rather than give out over time.