Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years with obvious benefits to both humans and animals. Recently the neurophysiological mechanisms of action have been evaluated and understood from a scientific basis and have been carefully documented and audited. This has lead to the technique being accepted into the mainstream of medicine and the benefits for a wide range of conditions recognised. Many insurance companies will cover acupuncture treatment costs as part of a horse’s treatment regime, so check your policy.

By law, acupuncture can only be performed by a suitably qualified veterinary surgeon and all vets at the practice are qualified to give acupuncture treatments. At Fellowes Farm this service is overseen by Dr Stuart Thorne who is a member of the Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists.

How does it work?

The process involves inserting fine, sterile needles that stimulate nerve endings which carry impulses to the spinal cord and brain. This results in responses within the nervous and endocrine systems, leading to the release of neurotransmitters and hormones. These in turn influence the function of the body tissues and organ systems. Acupuncture also increases the release of natural painkillers such as endorphins, enkephalins, serotonin and noradrenaline which act on the pain pathways and can block the transmission of pain signals. The needles may be manipulated by hand or attached to an electroacupuncture unit to increase the intensity of the stimulation. We use acupuncture points, myofascial trigger points i.e., hyperirritable areas within a taut band of muscle, and tender points, together with needling of appropriate spinal segments.

What conditions can acupuncture be used for?

Acupuncture can be used in isolation, however, we tend to use it as a therapy following an orthodox clinical diagnosis and in conjunction with conventional treatment modalities such as extracorporeal shock wave therapy and or medication. It is particularly useful in the relief of musculoskeletal disorders especially chronic pain including sacroiliac pain, arthritis and muscle soreness especially of the neck, shoulders, back and hindquarters. Electro-acupuncture is the stimulation of acupuncture needles using electrical signals from a pulse generator and often produces a more profound response. The use of the pulse generator alternating between high and low frequency stimulation has particular benefits in the treatment of chronic back pain.

Treatments take about 30 minutes and the number and interval of follow-up treatments varies with the condition; once a week for 2-4 weeks and then wider intervals is common.

Case study

Tom, a 10 year old competition horse experienced a loss of form. The rider felt he lacked impulsion and was concerned that he was just not his normal forward going self. Investigations at the clinic identified a subtle hind limb lameness and a bone scan (gamma-scintigraphy) revealed a sacroiliac strain. Treatment comprised a period of rest combined with extracorporeal shockwave therapy and electroacupuncture. He appears to have made a complete recovery and this season is back competing and wining.