How can acupuncture help animals suffering from chronic pain?

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a painful condition of the joints that non-reversible. The cartilage of affected joints is slowly worn down. This causes inflammation, pain and stiffness and has a debilitating effect on your pet’s life. 

This degenerative process in itself is only a part of the problem. The body’s reaction to it, with changes in gene expression, behaviour of nerves and the brain cause an abnormal pain response. The abnormal pain response causes the nerves to be hypersensitive. This becomes a negative spiral of increasing pain, making it hard to go for walks and enjoy life. 

This negative spiral causes increased pain because it reinforces itself. Acupuncture can help to cut this cycle because it works on many of it’s mechanisms. Combining therapies, for example conventional pain-killers and acupuncture, gives the best results, for the same reason.


dog getting acupuncture treatment

About Trigger Points/Painful Muscle Knots

A trigger point is a part of the muscle that is constantly in a state of contraction. Trigger points are something we all know as the painful knots in our back. Though not many people know this, animals can get them just the same as us. Often the pain experienced from trigger points is quite sharp and intense. Trigger points can occur in parts of the body that are used more, and so for example if an animal has a problem with one leg. As a result it will then use the other leg more and this then causes trigger points and pain in the healthy leg. In addition to this, trigger points can occur in muscles around sore and inflamed joints. The best way to treat these is often acupuncture, and once the painful area is more comfortable, the knot itself can be removed by applying gentle pressure. 

What's Involved In a Pain Clinic?

cat receiving acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture works in the same way as in people and is just as effective. Treatment is safe and involves placing fine needles in strategic points on the body. Placing the needles is gentle and pain free. In fact, pets often feel so relaxed they fall asleep during treatments. 

After and during treatment with acupuncture, other therapies can be done to increase the effects. This can be massage of an area that was too painful to touch before placing the needles, of physio/stretching exersizes of a limb that was previously too stiff to move. 

A pain clinic does not just involve acupuncture and massage, conventional treatments that can help will also be discussed as well as supplements. 

A Natural Painkiller

Research shows that acupuncture changes gene expression. The harmful long term changes in your pets gene expression, that occur as a result of arthritis, can be reversed. It induces the release of locally active painkillers such as adenosine. Acupuncture also reduces pain by releasing the body’s natural opioids such as endorphins and serotonin. These substances, also called “happy hormones”, are extremely potent and natural painkillers.


Rewiring The Brain

Acupuncture also affects the brain. Research shows that acupuncture can target the limbic system, a part of the brain involved in the memory of fear, pain and trauma. In this way, acupuncture helps to rewire the brain. Unhelpful but worn in nerve behaviour patterns, leading to the maintenance of abnormal pain, are stopped.

Healing The Body: The Autonomic Nervous System

Acupuncture also regulates the autonomic nervous system. This improves organ function and restores vitality. Like in humans, many animals appear to have more energy and feel better in themselves, after treatment. A balanced autonomic nervous system enables the body to heal.

Conclusion: The Truth About Chronic Pain

Chronic pain arises due to mechanisms occurring in the nerves, spinal cord and brain. Because acupuncture has an effect on all of these, it is a very potent method for preventing it. The name “chronic pain” is deceptive because it can start as early as 20 minutes after injury and when left too long will become very hard to treat. For this reason, it’s key that acupuncture is used in the early stages of your pet’s pain management. Don’t leave it as a last resort.

dog in pain

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