Benefits of Acupuncture
by Dr. Annette Richmond, DVM
Acupuncture has been used to help people and animals for more than 3000 years. It is effective for many different physical and emotional disorders. For example, musculoskeletal problems (like arthritis), neurologic deficits (paralysis), metabolic and hormonal imbalances, allergies and allergic reactions, intestinal problems, and even generalized anxiety and separation issues are a few of the disorders for which acupuncture is used. Acupuncture is a safe method of treatment and complements most Western medical treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, pain medication, and antibiotic use. And because of its safety profile, it is an excellent adjunct treatment for most ailments. However, it is important that the acupuncture is done by a certified veterinary acupuncturist who can diagnose and treat the animal properly.
Probably the most widely recognized benefit of acupuncture is its pain relieving qualities and its anti-inflammatory effects. These effects are very strong and documented in literature. In humans, acupuncture has been used as a substitute for anesthesia during dental surgery, and for pain relief during child birth. During an acupuncture treatment, the body’s natural pain killers, beta endorphins and beta encephalin, and its natural steroids, cortisol, are released. This combination has a profound effect on animals who suffer with arthritis of the neck, back, hips, and legs; hip and elbow dysplasia, strained muscles (like those of agility dogs), disc disease, neurologic deficits (including paralysis and weakness), and many other musculoskeletal disorders. Acupuncture also can reduce the discomfort and inflammation before and after orthopedic surgeries that involve ruptured ligaments or fractured bones. Acupuncture treatments can strengthen the animal before surgery, and acupuncture can increase the speed and the quality of recovery after surgery.
Neurologic deficits or neuropathies respond extremely well to acupuncture. Animals with paralysis or nerve deficits from an injury, animals with intervertebral disc disease, and animals that have undergone spinal surgery have been treated with acupuncture and have had amazing results. Animals with these disorders that could not walk are then able to go for daily walks again, leap up into their owner’s laps, and climb back up onto their favorite place on the couch without pain and discomfort. It is one of the few treatment modalities that actually helps nerves regenerate.
Acupuncture works to strengthen the immune system in several different ways. It enhances the level of white blood cells—specifically, natural killer cells that rid the body of invading infections. Acupuncture also regulates the level of antibodies and increases blood circulation, both of which have a role in supporting the immune system. Acupuncture is therefore an excellent addition to any immune strengthening regimen for animals with acute or chronic infections.
With certain health conditions (for example, arthritis and skin allergies), acupuncture treatments can be effective enough to reduce or even eliminate the need to take pharmaceutical drugs. In traditional Western medicine, animals with arthritic pain or skin allergies are often treated with steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. These medications can adversely affect the liver or kidneys. Some animals already have an organ dysfunction, such as liver disease, and because the liver metabolizes most drugs, taking steroids and anti-inflammatory medications stresses the liver even more. The animal feels relief from the pain or the allergy, but the liver is damaged. With acupuncture, animals can reduce the amount of these drugs they are taking or even eliminate them altogether. This is because acupuncture improves their health while at the same time protects and strengthens their organs. For many animals, reducing the amount of drugs they are taking is necessary and improves their overall health and improves longevity.
Acupuncture also works on the body on an energetic level. The Eastern concept of Qi (pronounced chee) is called the life energy. Acupuncture strengthens and balances Qi. This balancing of life energy helps animals feel grounded and can reduce their anxiety. Animals who have experienced trauma in their past—for example, animals that have experienced abuse and neglect can often overcome their anxiety. Stimulating an animal’s Qi improves its emotional health, which in turn affects its physical well being. Supporting the Qi in an older animal can increase vitality, resulting in a better appetite, increased physical activity, and increased sociability with other animals and people.
Other treatment modalities used along with acupuncture are electrostimulation and laser therapy. Electrostimulation is a gentle electric current that is attached to the needles to give a specific area of muscle a mild massage. The effect of the stimulation reduces muscle spasm, decreases pain in strained muscles, and helps nerves regenerate. Laser therapy is a light wave that penetrates the soft tissue to reduce inflammation and improve circulation. This is beneficial for wounds that are not healing well, and can speed the recovery of musculoskeletal disorders in athletic or competitive animals. Both these modalities complement acupuncture to give a more complete and effective treatment.
Dr. Annette Richmond is a doctor of veterinary medicine. She earned her degree from UC Davis in 1997. She is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist, trained through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, and is currently becoming a certified canine rehabilitation therapist through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. After 10 years of practicing in a traditional veterinary hospital where she integrated acupuncture and other natural treatments, she opened Natural Veterinary Therapy in Pacific Grove in 2007. She treats most common ailments by integrating traditional and natural medicine. She uses acupuncture, naturopathic medicines, natural supplements, wholesome foods, and physical therapy. Natural Veterinary Therapy has the only underwater treadmill for small animals on the Monterey Peninsula. Natural Veterinary Therapy is located at 510 Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. Dr. Richmond can be contacted at (831) 655-0501. www.naturalveterinarytherapy.com.