Accupuncture - July 2013

By Dr. Stephanie Jones

Acupuncture is one of the most common complementary therapies used today in western medicine.  It is estimated that 84% of human chronic pain patients have had acupuncture therapies when medications alone were not sufficient to control their pain.   

Medical-based acupuncture is the practice of using needles gently inserted into the skin to improve health or decrease pain.  This process is called Neuromodulation

Neuro – having to do with the nervous system

Modulation – coming back to a normal state

Due to the advancement of science as well as modern-day technology, we now realize that acupuncture and its practice is simply an application of neurology, anatomy and biochemistry.  Fortunately, using the newest and most-advanced knowledge and technology, coupled with an ancient yet effective and safe practice, we are able to help our patients by incorporating complementary therapies.                                              

Neuromodulation, as explained by Narda Robinson, DVM, a prominent veterinary acupuncture expert, is “an atraumatic treatment that improves nerve function, decreases pain, restores function and maintains homeostasis.”

Homeo – constant, unchanging

Stasis – equilibrium

Homeostasis – finding a balance or equilibrium 

Homeostasis is a hallmark of medical-based acupuncture.   

Medical-based acupuncture works with the body as a whole, using its inherent checks and balances to bring the nervous system into a balanced state.  The goal of acupuncture is always to create homeostasis, whether by directly blocking pain, increasing the body’s own natural pain killers or helping enhance normal function, such as digestive motility commonly altered secondary to stress, pain or other ailments.  

Pain, while bad enough itself, can have a debilitating effect on receptors of the digestive tract and other internal organs.   Medical-based acupuncture can treat chronic pain by helping these receptors become responsive again and thus aid the body in healing. 

Some of the many possible applications of medical-based acupuncture are relief from:




In addition, acupuncture’s benefits include:

Acupuncture: A Brief History 

We used to believe that acupuncture was developed by the Chinese between 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.  Evidence now suggests acupuncture may have actually started in Europe even earlier. 

Otzi the Iceman  

The remains of an iceman – named “Otzi” by his discoverers –  were found in an alpine glacier in 1991.  These remains were estimated to be from 3300 BC.  Otzi had marks and tattoos in areas that did not seem to have any cultural or tribal significance.   

On further investigation it was found that Otzi’s marks and tattoos corresponded to acupuncture sites that matched ailments Otzi most likely had - sore joints and organ dysfunction.  From Otzi we have learned that even in ancient times, people were able to provide pain relief and treat ailments via manipulation of the nervous system through very specific points on their bodies, that is, via acupuncture. 

Acupuncture in China 

Acupuncture was common in China until the seventeenth century, when it was rejected by the Emperors of that time.  In 1949, Emperor Mao Tse-tung reinstated the practice of acupuncture.  The phrase “traditional Chinese acupuncture” became popular during this time, even though the practice of acupuncture and theories of how acupuncture worked varied throughout China.

The Chinese believed that blood was somehow involved in the effectiveness of acupuncture. They used assessments based on their knowledge at the time as well as the very repeatable responses they observed. From this theory, the word “qi” was mis-translated by a Frenchman who was observing this type of treatment while in China. “Qi” describes the idea of energy flow and invisible meridians, which were believed to be the cause acupuncture’s effectiveness.


Due to the advancement of science as well as modern-day technology, we now know that medical-based acupuncture is an application of neurology, anatomy and biochemistry.  Our therapy involves creating a comfortable and relaxing environment for both pets and owners.  We incorporate aromatherapy as well as music therapy during treatments along with treats, toys or any other objects that will help our patients to feel comfortable, secure and relaxed during their therapies.  By coupling the most advanced knowledge and technology of today with an ancient yet effective and safe practice, we are able to incorporate medical-based acupuncture into our practice of veterinary medicine to provide the best patient care possible.