Acupuncture - Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does acupuncture work?

Chinese medical philosophy, often called Traditional Chinese Medicine or just TCM, is based on the belief that there is an energy which flows through all living creatures called Qi. This energy circulates through the body from organ to organ in channels called meridians. TCM defines disease as a result of an imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and thereby assist the body to heal disease and maintain health.

In Western terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes. Acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, stimulate the immune system, relieve muscle spasm, release hormones such as endorphins (the body's own pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid).

2. When should someone consider acupuncture for their pet?

Acupuncture is known to have good therapeutic effect in a wide variety of animal diseases. Pain modification is an important application of veterinary acupuncture, but there are much wider applications. Examples of clinical conditions where veterinary acupuncture may be used are: Gastrointestinal disorders- gastritis, enteritis, colitis, vomiting, rectal prolapse, megacolon; Respiratory problems- rhinitis, asthma, chronic cough, epistaxis; Neurological disorders- epilepsy, deafness, chronic pain, pinched nerves; Urinary disorders- incontinence, cystitis; Musculoskeletal disorders- chronic degenerative joint disease, disc disease, hip dysplasia, tendonitis, muscle spasms; and Dermatological problems- chronic skin disease, lick granulomas, allergic dermatitis. These are just a sampling of how acupuncture can benefit veterinary patients.

3. Is acupuncture painful?

The insertion of acupuncture needles is associated with a minimum amount of pain. The needles used are very small and individually sterilized. Once the needles pass through the skin there is usually no pain. Many animals become relaxed and may even become sleepy. Acupuncture treatment may cause some sensation such as experienced in humans such as tingles, or numbness which may be uncomfortable to some animals.

4. How soon before you see results?

A positive response is generally seen after the first to third treatment. Once a maximum response is achieved (usually after 4-8 treatments) treatments are tapered off so the greatest amount of symptom-free time elapses between them. Many animals with chronic conditions can taper off to 2-4 treatments per year.

5. How often should the treatment be done?

The length and frequency of treatments depends on the problem and condition of the patient. Stimulation of an individual acupuncture point maybe for as little as 10 seconds or as long as 20 minutes, generally acute problems require less time and frequency of treatment. For example an acute sprain may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several or several dozen treatments.