What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture (AP) is one of the five aspects of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). The other four are diet, exercise, Tu nia, and medicinal herbs. In TCVM, health is described as a balance of the body and organ systems as a whole. It is similar to Chiropractic medicine since TCVM is a holistic approach to health care verses Western medicine which is more mechanistic or deals more specifically with one organ system. In acupuncture health is viewed as a lever balance, when the balance arm is in equilibrium or neutral the horse is in good health. The formation of a disease process is illustrated as a lever balance leaving the neutral balance mark and becoming unbalanced. The farther out of balance an individual becomes the harder it is for self healing to occur. Whether the individual is exposed to excess or deficiency, they have to maintain balance or homeostasis to maintain health. When the individual has gone too far out of balance, death will result from the individual’s lack of ability to maintain homeostasis.
The sensitivity of TCVM and Chiropractic medicine is higher for minor changes in balance then Traditional Western Medicine and thus is able to prevent greater losses in balance. However, when the horse’s health is so far out of balance then Traditional Western Medicine is needed to try to push the individual back to balance. In an Acupuncture exam the patient’s history and behavior, the color and consistency of the tongue, the carotid pulse, the body temperature evaluated at the ear and lumbosacral junction, along with a scan of the Acupuncture points is used to determine where the loss in its health balance has occurred. These parameters are generally more sensitive to change then Traditional Western Medicine. Many times these parameters change before a positive diagnostic test occurs in Traditional Western Medicine. Consequently TCVM can be viewed as a preventative type of medicine. In regards to treatment acupuncture is the process of placing fine, solid needles into specific acupoints to illicit a local and systemic response.
How does Acupuncture work?
To grasp the “how it works” question, one needs to understand some of the Acupuncture anatomy and physiology. In acupuncture anatomy, the body has 12 pairs of meridians and two single meridians coursing over and through the body. These meridians have internal organ names, such as liver, heart, spleen, lung, and kidney. Each respective meridian has its largest influence on that particular organ. Meridians function to circulate a horse’s life energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) through the body in a twenty-four hour period. Acupuncture points found on meridians and specific points on the body are composed of unmylinated nerves, blood and lymph vessels and mass cells. When stimulated, the acupoint causes a local reaction, a spinal cord reaction, and a brain reaction. This reaction is caused by chemical, neuro-hormonal release and changes in the nervous system. Just like in chiropractic manipulation the goal is to elicit a response in the nervous system. In the disease process or unbalanced lever arm, Qi is not flowing properly through one or more meridians. Pain is perceived as stagnation or lack of flow of Qi through the meridian. Result can vary from localized pain to changes with a systemic effect to create a disease process.
An illustration of how acupuncture works is the interstate highway system. The meridians are highways and Qi is the flowing traffic. When traffic moves freely everyone is happy with balance or homeostasis; but if an accident occurs, traffic movement becomes restricted and is a “pain” for all people involved. Lack of movement or stagnation of Qi influences the body similar to a highway accident produces local pain (traffic jam), body region effect or regional organ changes (emergency responding personal), body nervous system or endocrine gland function (traffic control personal), or the whole body reaction (general tax paying public financing the system).
When we place the needles in acupoints in acupuncture treatment, we are removing the accident and allowing the Qi to move along the meridian. Consequently, through the effects on the nervous system and endocrine system, we are influencing the whole body to return to balance or homeostasis.