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Home No. 26: Is veterinary acupuncture an effective means of reducing animal pain?

Oct 04

No. 26: Is veterinary acupuncture an effective means of reducing animal pain?

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Is veterinary acupuncture an effective means of reducing animal pain?

Reader Question: We're investigating non-pharmaceutical methods of reducing animal pain during our trials, so that the pain relief won't interfere with our data. Among the methods we're considering is veterinary acupuncture. Has this proven to be effective?

Expert Comments: There is a wide variety of choices for non-pharmacological interventions, such as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), warm or cold compresses, E-Stim (electrical stimulation), and physical therapy. Many of them, such as TENS, are effective for localized muscular pain.

Acupuncture offers pain relief and has profound central nervous-system effects, too. It activates the endogenous nervous system, specifically activating the descending pathways and inhibiting incoming pathways. There's much anecdotal evidence that acupuncture works, not just for musculoskeletal pain, but for visceral pain, too. If you check the literature (and you should), you will find that there's not a great deal of published material yet on acupuncture. There haven't been many peer reviews.

But I can speak from experience to add to the anecdotal evidence. I and my staff, along with many of my colleagues, have been pleasantly surprised at how well acupuncture works. For example, in horses you can see an improvement in the lameness scores. For cats and dogs, you can look at differences in weight bearing for a lame limb. The good news is that studies of this kind are finally starting to take place and the evidence will accumulate. One study describes how effective acupuncture is in prevention of post-operative nausea and vomiting. But a lot more research is still needed.

Where can you find veterinary acupunturists? The Chi Institute (www.chi-institute.com) has a list searchable by ZIP code, and the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (ivas.org) has a list as well. Most veterinary schools have someone certified in veterinary acupuncture. And many private practitioners in veterinary medicine are becoming certified in veterinary acupuncture. So you should have no problem finding an acupuncturist to assist in your trials.

Expert comments: Dr. Christine Egger, associate professor, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee.

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Comments (2)
Research Scientist, Beaumont Research Institute, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI
written by David Loeffler, D.V.M., Ph.D., October 07, 2010
While in vet school at UC Davis I worked summers in small and large animal practices in the Central Valley (Modesto and Turlock, CA). One of the small animal vets there had received training in acupuncture, and used it when he felt it to be indicated. I heard from a number of individuals that his use of acupuncture was successful, and in some cases was a viable alternative to standard pharmacological therapy.
written by Dr. Daniel Sindhikara, October 08, 2010
Well one should consider why there is no published positive evidence especially considering the high level of interest and "anecdotal evidence". I would be hesitant to base a scientific study on hearsay.

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