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Introduction to Equine Acupuncture
Madalyn Ward, DVM
Acupuncture is a system of medicine developed in China over 3000 years ago. Veterinarians receive their Acupuncture training through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. This course gives a basic introduction to traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture point location and action. The emphasis in equine Acupuncture is the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, however, Acupuncture can also treat chronic disease. Research has shown that stimulation of Acupuncture points causes a systemic reaction in the body. Basic Principles In addition to the cardiovascular and nervous system the body also has an energy system. Energy or Qi flows through the body in pathways called meridians. These meridians are regulated by Acupuncture points. There are 12 main pairs of meridians and 2 unpaired meridians.
The Bladder Meridian is one of the most often treated meridians on the horse. It is located along each side of the spine and contains some of the most important Acupuncture points in the body. Acupuncture points are located on meridians and control the flow of energy through them. Dysfunction occurs when the energy flow is blocked or imbalanced with one meridian containing too much energy and another too little. The goal of Acupuncture treatment is to remove blockages and balance energy flow through the body. For example, the Lung and associated Large Intestine Meridians may be affected in a horse recovering from a respiratory infection. These meridians run down the inside and outside respectively of the front leg, therefore, energy blockages in these meridians may cause front leg lameness. The Lung Association point is located on the Bladder Meridian immediately behind the shoulder blade and soreness at this point may cause resistance to tightening of the girth. The Large Intestine Association point is located on the Bladder Meridian in the Middle Gluteal muscle and soreness of this point may result in hind leg lameness.
Acupuncture Points can be stimulated by several methods:
• Acupuncture needles
• Aqua puncture - injecting fluid into point
• Electro-acupuncture - electrical stimulation of points
• Moxibustion - use of heat on points
• Cold laser - use of light on points
• Gold beads - implanted surgically
The use of Acupuncture to balance energy in the body is based on the Chinese principle of Yin and Yang. For the body to function at optimum levels it must have a balance of Yin and Yang just as the Earth needs a balance of day and night,summer and winter, etc. Traditional Chinese medicine does not consider viruses or bacteria as causes of disease, instead they recognize External Environmental Pathogens that imbalance our systems allowing these organisms to multiply.
Examples of such pathogens include:
• WIND COLD
• HEAT DAMP
• DRYNESS FIRE
These pathogens can invade at the level of the meridians on the surface of the body or deeper in the body to cause serious disease. Example: Invasion of the Stomach Meridian by Cold would cause stiffness as Cold causes contraction. Since the Stomach Meridian runs over the stifle joint stiffness in this area early in a ride before the horse warms up might be the presenting symptom. Example: Heat invading the Lungs would present as a fever, cough with thick yellow discharge.
These symptoms suggest a systemic or Internal imbalance rather than a localized or external one.
Conditions Treated with Acupuncture:
• Lung problems
• Chronic cough
• Allergic bronchitis
• Reproductive problems
• Ovarian pain associated with heat cycles
• Internal medicine problems
• Digestive tract problems
• Excess gas
• Neck problems
• Pain and stiffness
• Nerve inflammation
• Neurologic disorders
• Nerve damage
• Behavior problems
• Many are related to pain or energy imbalance
• Chronic pain
• Musculoskeletal disorders
• Laminitis - acute and chronic
• Tying up or azoturia
• Colic (acute and chronic)
• Need good conventional diagnosis
• Not a replacement for surgery
Evaluation of Treatment
Minimal or no improvement
after 4 to 8 sessions - small animals
after 2 to 4 sessions - large animals
Results last only a few days after each treatment. Animal is uncomfortable with practitioner may be wrong diagnosis or wrong practitioner
Evaluation of Treatment
4 to 8 sessions - small animals
1 to 4 sessions - large animals
Treatment should be a pleasant experience for the horse Occasionally sore after treatment