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|Written by Kelsa Staffa|
|Friday, 06 May 2011 07:49|
Acupuncture is an alternative therapy based on traditional Chinese medicine, whereby thin needles are placed into the body along specific acupuncture points corresponding to the area of the body requiring aid. The presence of the needles stimulates these points on the body to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve a desired effect: to promote general health, for relief of symptoms, or for therapeutic purposes.
Qi, a word variously translated as "energy", "breath", or "vital energy," is believed to flow in and around the body in channels called meridians. There appears to be doubt as to whether horses even have meridians, and yet many types of horse owners and trainers in the Western world have embraced the practice of acupuncture, citing improvements in skin condition, lameness, stable habits, nerves, and a myriad of other symptoms and characteristics. According to Dr. Jenni Ahmat, some trainers have found that an acupuncture treatment a few days before a major race start can have a hugely rejuvenating and freshening effect on a horse. Others have claimed that acupuncture treatments can have a seemingly harmonizing effect on the hormonal system of a mare in heat (ready to breed) by creating a sense of well-being help to ease some of the animal's tension.
In equine acupuncture, acupoints may be stimulated through electroacupuncture, aquapuncture, moxibustion (use of heat and combustion), laser stimulation, gold implants, and acupressure. Acupuncture is not the same as chiropractic therapy, which is based upon the relationship between the animal body, spinal column and the nervous system (as opposed to stimulation through acupoints). Injections of vitamin B12 can also be used for longer-lasting effects. Treatment frequencies vary widely from twice-weekly to bi-monthly.
Dr. Earl C. Sutherland explains acupuncture thusly. "Diagnostically, acupuncture is useful to map out where in the body the problem is located. Most abnormal situations of the body...are already mapped out by the central nervous system. The central nervous system reflects this map onto the surface of the body by way of the acupuncture meridians and points. By palpation of the meridians and points, noticing increased or decreased reflexes and differences in tissue quality (firm, soft, yielding to pressure, tightening up under pressure, warm, cold, etc.), the acupuncturist can figuratively read the reflected map."
What? I know it sounds confusing, but Dr. Sutherland advocates for using acupuncture as a diagnostic tool, if not a cure for anything.
I am a fan of natural remedies - I keep my horses as drug- and supplement-free as possible, firmly believing that millennia of evolution have provided them with the tools they need to survive in their environment. I also agree that medical issues such as lameness and sore muscles need to be addressed as efficiently as possible. But acupuncture? Almost every equine acupuncturist also uses modern techniques such as flexion tests, diagnostic nerve blocks, radiographs, ultrasounds and fluoroscopy. What does the acupuncture bring to the table that couldn't be discovered with Western veterinary practices? Dr. DeRock states that, "There are many acupuncture points that directly affect the strength of the immune functions, for instance, normalize the intestines, and help with liver metabolism." Right, but... there are Western equivalents in the form of feed supplements for that, which cost significantly less and which I (and my inner scientist) tend to trust more.
However, my skepticism came to a peak with this next statement. "It is important to remember that individual horses will often show signs of more than one problem," states Dr. Cletus M. Vonderwell, the president of the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS). Wait, you're telling me that a complex animal may not have only one thing wrong with itt? Colour me shocked! Right here I see the clasp on sacred wallet being ripped open. If you're already getting acupuncture for a sore back, what's another ten needles jabbed in at the same time to stimulate blood flow to a shoulder that may potentially be functioning at only 98% capacity? Preventative measures! The vet is already out, so you won't have to pay an extra call-out fee!
I'm not completely convinced that acupuncture is bunk. I'm not convinced that it's worthwhile, either. Acupuncture has been the subject of active scientific research both in regard to its basis and therapeutic effectiveness since the late 20th century, but it remains controversial among medical researchers and clinicians. If I tried acupuncture on a horse and the symptoms improved, I would continue with treatments. However, I feel that this is the kind of alternative treatment that many less knowledgeable or less confident horse owners could easily get caught up in for problems that may have improved without interference, or pay for acupuncture as a therapy alongside traditional Western medicine treatment.
Based 90% on the fact that there is little scientific evidence suggesting that acupuncture is, in fact, a useful therapeutic treatment, I will not be calling out an equine acupuncturist until my basic Western techniques have failed. I certainly advocate trying acupuncture, aromatherapy, and homeopathy (well, okay... acupuncture at least) before resorting to costly surgery, but a veterinarian and/or nutritionist will almost always be able to discern, identify, and rectify the common problems found in our equine friends. And your wallet will thank you.
Tags: accupressure, acupuncture, alternative medicine, doubt, equine care, homeopathy, horses, money grab, non traditional remedies, qi, skepticism