Equine Sport Solutions (ESS),
is a veterinary practice based out of Colorado Springs, promoting the pursuit of excellence in the equestrian sport.

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Veterinary Medical Acupuncture

Dear ESS friends,

Equine Sport Solutions now offers veterinary medical acupuncture as a supplemental therapy in the treatment of our equine patients.

Developed over 4000 years ago, acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of medicine, in addition to being one of most commonly used medical practices in the world.  Although medical acupuncture is a relatively new treatment modality in the U.S., it is now recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) as a scientifically proven method of providing pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects.

Acupuncture points and channels follow neurovascular routes and myofascial cleavage planes.  The effects of activating nerves at an acupuncture point directly correspond with the physiologic outcomes derived from this treatment.  We call this “neuromodulation.”

In order to understand how acupuncture works, the first step is to look at what happens when a needle penetrates the skin. As the needle is inserted and rotated, collagen and elastic fibers wind and tighten around the needle. This coupling causes deformation in the area, pulling on nerve endings (alpha delta and c fibers) and fibroblasts.  Depending on location, there is also interaction with muscle spindles.  A series of cellular responses follow.  The effects continue even when the needle has been removed.

So how does an acupuncture needle at a certain point cause a change somewhere else in the body? The stimulated nerve transmits impulses from the periphery through alpha delta and c fibers to the spinal cord, and then to the brain.  Both the brain and spinal cord may then decrease transmission of pain signals using enkephalins, endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, purines, glutamate, neurokinin, cannabinoid, ion channel modifiers, modification of transcription, and modification of interneurons, microglia, and astrocytes.  These changes have been documented in scientific studies.

Furthermore, treatment of a particular spinal segment is likely to have effects on related structures that are also served by that same spinal segment...like an internal organ. This  phenomenon is called a viscero-somatic or somato-visceral projection and explains why certain acupuncture points can represent pain from an internal organ. 

Another way we can use acupuncture to alleviate pain is through treatment of myofascial trigger points.  A trigger point is a very painful and hardened muscle band  They can develop for a variety of reasons.  Prolonged spasms can develop due to a recent strain or from compensation due to another problem area, such as osteoarthritis.  Once trigger points form, they tend to become self-perpetuating due to lack of oxygen in the area, which is needed to release the muscle.   Upon placement of an acupuncture needle, an immediate contraction of the muscle occurs followed by a gradual release of spasticity facilitated by increased local blood flow and reduction in neurotransmitters, which help to release metabolic toxins into the bloodstream.

A medical acupuncture work-up is very similar to any other veterinary work up and includes all of the following.

a. Patient history
b. Physical examination (including at least a basic neurologic assessment)
c. Myofascial palpation examination
d. Acupuncture point palpation
e. Appropriate diagnostic tests, consultations, and imaging

Remember that your horse may benefit from acupuncture even if there is not a documented problem.  Acupuncture is a great maintenance tool to maintain normal homeostasis.

Equine Sport Solutions is offering at a significantly reduced introductory price of $45 per session for the next 2 months if more than 4 horses are scheduled during a barn visit. In collaboration with your barn manager, we can schedule “Acupuncture Days.”  The more patients signed up for the day, the more I can discount the price per session.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have regarding acupuncture.   Schedule an appointment today!

Brittany Factor, DVM