Acupuncture & Rehabilitation
Veterinary acupuncture has been practiced in China for over 2,000 years. Interest and activity spread to other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea about 1,500 years ago. For the past 30 years, there has been tremendous growth and development of acupuncture in animals in Europe and the United States.
The benefits of acupuncture have been documented in an increasing number of clinical trials and, as a result, we have a better understanding of acupuncture’s method of action. Our patients greatly benefit from these new developments.
View the UF Large Animal Hospital acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to treat non-sweating (anhidrosis) in horses clinical trial.
What can acupuncture help?
- Navicular disease
- Sport-related injuries
- Performance enhancement
- Injury to tendons and ligaments, joint injuries, muscle injuries, and bone injuries
- Immune system stimulation
- Laryngeal hemiplegia (roaring)
- Anhidrosis (non-sweater)
- Recurrent airway obstruction (heaves)
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture may be defined as the stimulation of a specific point on the body, referred to as an acupoint. Physiological changes in response to acupuncture point stimulation are the basis of clinical treatment. Stimulation of an acupoint activates nerve fibers which conduct electrical signals that release endorphins and other neurotransmitters.
Many techniques have been developed to stimulate acupoints such as:
- Dry-needle: An acupuncture needle is inserted in an acupoint for stimulation of that point. The needles are thin, filiform, sterile, and of varying widths and lengths.
- Moxibustion: An acupoint is warmed, causing activation of the point. It uses crushed dried leaves of Artemisia argyi rolled into a cigar-shaped fashion. The herb is burned and then placed over an acupoint without touching the skin. The warming effect of the burned herb causes stimulation of the acupoint.
- Acu-pressure: A Veterinarian uses their fingers to apply direct pressure to an acupoint. Each point requires about 5-10 minutes of constant pressure for stimulation.
- Hemo-acupuncture: A hypodermic needle is inserted into a blood vessel that contains an acupoint to draw a few drops of blood. The purpose of this modality is to release heat from the body.
- Electro-acupuncture: An electrical lead is attached to dry-needles and connected to an electro-acupuncture machine which is used to control the frequency and amplitude applied to each point. This allows for more effective stimulation than dry-needle alone.
- Aqua-acupuncture: A soluble, sterile medium is injected into acupoints. The purpose is to provide a constant stimulation via the pressure induced by the liquid injected into the acupoint. The most commonly injected substances are sterile water, saline, or vitamin B12.
- Pneumo-acupuncture: Fresh air is injected into an acupoint, creating an air bubble within the subcutaneous tissues causing stimulation of the acupoint. This modality can be used for muscle atrophy.
Is acupuncture painful?
The insertion of acupuncture needles is virtually painless. Most animals become very relaxed and may even become sleepy. There are usually minimal to no side effects if performed by a professional. However, there are rare and minor side effects such as local infection and bruising in the area where the needle is inserted.
How many treatments are needed?
The number of treatments depends on the condition, how long the condition has been present, and the age of the animal. Acute conditions resolve quickly within 3-5 treatments. Chronic conditions resolve more slowly; usually within 5-10 treatments. For more information on acupuncture in animals and its uses, view an article written by Dr. Medina and Xie called What Acupuncture Can and Cannot Treat.
Large Animal Acupuncture Appointments
- Monday: Horses seen in the hospital as outpatients.
- Wednesday: Ambulatory farm-call service in Gainesville, Ocala, and surrounding areas.
Return to UF Large Animal Integrative Medicine.
The UF Large Animal Hospital veterinarians treat equine and large animal patients from the Gainesville, Ocala and Jacksonville areas, including Alachua and Marion Counties in Florida, and our clients come from all over the United States. Contact us to speak to one of our specialists or to make an appointment.