Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points on the body (acupoints) to cause a desired healing effect. The
word acupuncture comes from the Greek words acus needle, and pungare to pierce. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is comprised of five distinct branches: acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine,
Chinese food therapy, Tui-na and Tai-chi/Qi-gong. TCM is believed to have been in use for about 3000 years in humans and 2600 years in horses. The first known written record
of the basic theories of TCM is in Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) which was written during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). Acupuncture
is the most utilized and accepted branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The 2002 National Health Interview Survey
conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes
of Heath, and the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) revealed
that 8.2 million American adults had utilized acupuncture.
Most Americans were first exposed to acupuncture when New York Times reporter and member of President Nixon's press corps
in China, James Reston, wrote about his emergency appendectomy and post-operative pain management with acupuncture while visiting
Peking in 1971. Soon after, Western physicians began to travel to China to observe the procedure.
Scientific Basis of Acupuncture
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a consensus on acupuncture in 1997 and found compelling evidence that acupuncture
was useful for adult postoperative and chemotherapy associated nausea and vomiting, postoperative dental pain, addiction,
stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain,
carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma.
The basic tenets that acupuncture is based upon (point selection, method of stimulation, and duration of stimulation) have
been proven using fMRI. Specific changes in specific areas of the central nervous system were observed when different acupuncture
points were stimulated. When electroacupuncture was added to these points, the changes were more pronounced.1
At the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth congresses of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, abstracts from previously
untranslated studies from Brazil, Korea, China and Taiwan were presented. Among the studies were the successful treatment
of neurological disturbances due to distemper in dogs with acupuncture, increased lymphocyte count in dogs 21 days after concurrent
rabies immunization and treatment with acupuncture, increased gastrointestinal motility following electroacupuncture in dogs
and horses, antipyretic effect following electroacupuncture in six febrile equine cases, and the regulation of reproductive
functions in cows. To date, there are 13,695 Pubmed citations on acupuncture and at least 219 of these are double-blind studies.
A new journal, The American Journal of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, was established in 2006 to promote the publication
of evidence-based research on the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.
Acupuncture needles are made from surgical stainless steel and vary in gauge, length, and the presence or lack of silicon
coating. They come sterilized and sealed in packages (individually and are intended for single-use only.
Dry Needle Bai-zhen (white needle)
Insertion of a needle without the intention of bleeding or injecting any substances. Conventional needling technique and most
Transmission of electrical energy through acupuncture points via the attachment of electronic devices (leads connected to
an electroacupuncture machine) to acupuncture needles that are already in place. Continuous and uniform stimulation is created
and maintained for a prescribed amount of time. Among the advantages of electroacupuncture are increased effectiveness of
treatment, fewer treatments required, and decreased labor (fewer needles, no manual stimulation of needles). Frequency can
be adjusted to mediate the release of β-endorphin or serotonin and dynorphins. β-endorphin is 10-100 times more potent than
morphine and circulates in the body for several hours. Acupuncture analgesia is associated with increased levels of β-endorphin
in the CSF however there is debate on how pituitary β-endorphin reaches the brain to cause analgesia. There is also strong
evidence that acupuncture analgesia is mediated by serotonin. 5-HT concentrations have been shown to increase 30-40% in the
systemic circulation post-acupuncture treatment. Dynorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine and are released within
the spinal cord in response to high frequency electroacupuncture providing segmental pain relief. Electroacupuncture is commonly
utilized for pain relief, nerve stimulation (bladder atony, laryngeal hemiplegia, etc.), internal medicine disorders and paresis/paralysis.
See lecture notes "Veterinary Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs: Clinical Applications and Contraindications" for contraindications
of electroacupuncture use.
The injection of liquids into specific acupoints. This technique is utilized to reinforce points already needled, for points
where full needle insertion is contraindicated (e.g., ventral abdominal points), or for animals that are very active and will
not stay still for regular needling. Fluids commonly utilized include sterile saline, Vit B-12, B-complex, Adequan, homeopathic
remedies, antibiotics, acepromazine, and the patient's own blood. For cats, 27 gauge needles are utilized; for dogs 25-27
gauge needles, and for horses 20-22 gauge needles.
Hemoacupuncture (red needle)
Controlled, intentional bleeding of specific, proven acupoints for excess conditions such as Heat (e.g., fever). Contraindicated
in animals that are weak/debilitated, pregnant, Qi/Blood deficient, dehydrated, severe Yin Deficient, or that have possible
Controlled injection of air into specific acupoints. Used for muscle atrophy. Contraindicated on the head.
Injection of a solid substance in an acupoint. Gold bead/wire, magnetic bead or pellet and suture material are all commonly
utilized. This provides permanent stimulation of acupoints. If gold is utilized, subsequent MRI is contraindicated.
Burning of Artemesia argyi (Ai-ye) leaves to warm meridians, expel Cold and Wind, revive Yang, and alleviate stagnation. Artemsia
leaves are crushed and rolled into a cylinder which is lit and either held over the skin or applied directly to an acupuncture
needle that has already been inserted.
Use of lasers to stimulate acupoints. Two types are typically utilized, red light emitters (wave length 632-650 nm, helium-neon)
or infrared light emitters (wave length 902 nm, gallium-arsenite diode). Red light emitters reach a depth of 0.8-15mm in tissue
while infrared light penetrates up to 10mm-5cm in tissue. Some feel that the animal's haircoat prevents the penetration of