How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years. Ancient Chinese Doctors perfected a system of diagnosis and treatment long before x-rays and surgery existed and those techniques are now being validated by Western Medicine researchers.
When politics and diplomacy opened relations between China and the West, physicians from both cultures began to share more information with each other. Around 1950, Veterinary Acupuncture began to be used and researched in Austria, Germany and France. Veterinarians began turning to Acupuncture as a resource for their patients.
In 1974, the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) was organized in the United States. IVAS began certifying Veterinarians in TCVM and offering basic Veterinary Acupuncture instruction. IVAS now certifies Veterinarians in more than 17 countries.
The formalization and certification of Veterinary Acupuncture ensures that Veterinarians work to provide the best TCVM care possible. The Eastern approach to pet health is both an operational and philosophical shift in medical care. True TCVM training requires many years of study and an intense understanding of the energetics of the physical body and its relationship to the surrounding environment. True Acupuncture training requires far more than a weekend course! Additionally, the structure of the canine and feline (and all other animals) energetic systems are similar to our own but they are also unique. Sadly, there are human Acupuncturists who are secretly (and to the detriment of animals) attempting to follow a recipe of where to put the needles. Veterinary Acupuncture involves a much more intricate and subtle system of treatment than a one-time “recipe of points.”
Inserting fine needles into specific Acupuncture points cause a chemical reaction both at the point where the needle is inserted and along the energetic meridians of the body. That chemical reaction also triggers nerve responses sending messages to the spine and brain to create systemic change. Acupuncture also triggers the release of neurotransmitters and creates changes at the cellular level which is now being documented by Western research.
Western medicine looks at nerve fibers and has documented three areas where Acupuncture effects the nervous system. First, the insertion of the needles stimulates fast pain fibers which do not register pain as much as they register possible pain/threat/damage. Acupuncture needles are too fine to damage the tissue when they are used properly, so they do not trigger the slow pain fibers which actually cause feelings of pain.
Fast pain fibers form a vast system that is ultimately connected to the spinal cord. Along the way they form segments (grouping areas) with other nerves and they also connect with nerves that go to the brain. Nerves “talk” to each through chemicals and electrical impulses. We call the chemicals neurotransmitters. In the spinal cord, Acupuncture stimulates the inhibition of the release of chemicals that alert the slow pain fibers. By stimulating an Acupuncture point related to a specific segment of the spinal and nerve system, the chemicals “talking” to the slow nerve fibers can be turned down or silenced so that pain is reduced or stopped. As you may remember from high school biology class, the spinal cord is wired such that the pain inhibition generated on the right side of the body also benefits the left side. This is the same for animals too. So Dr. Rimar may use needles on your pet’s left paw to if the right paw is too painful for a needle or your pet is guarded about that paw.
The other nerves that travel to the brain have many junctions along the way and can cause a variety of neurotransmitters to be released. A good example of this is endorphins. The release of endorphins can make our pet feel relaxed and less concerned about the pain they are experiencing. Some of the Acupuncture points Dr. Rimar uses stimulate the release of endorphins.
At the point of needle insertion, the blood flow in the capillaries will increase as the capillaries dilate and neurotransmitters are released from the stimulated nerve to promote healing. If the Acupuncture point involves an overstimulated muscle, the area will relax.
This is a basic explanation from a Western medical approach of how Acupuncture works. You might also enjoy this video from National Geographic: Click Here For Video . This article by Dr. Karen Becker is also very informative. Read Arcticle