How can electro-acupuncture help pets suffering from neurological injury?

By Dr. Rinnert van den Bergh MRCVS, April 25, 2019,  Vet at Restore Veterinary Acupuncture

Neurological injury, for example for example from a slipped disc (intervertebral disc disease), can have a debilitating effect on the life of your pet. It causes pain, and reduces their ability walk and enjoy life. It can prevent them from being able to and control their bodily functions like normal toiling behaviour. That being said, there is much that can be done, especially when treatment is started as soon as possible. Of course medical management and/or surgery can be indicated recovery, but not many owners know that in addition to these, acupuncture can be of great benefit. Unfortunately, many vets don’t know about the benefits of electro-acupuncture for nerve problems either. 

The benefits of electro-acupuncture

Aiding neurological recovery

Nerve cells are much more dynamic than what was previously thought. Nerve repair and re-organisation does occur but often the problem is that the body does not do this in the right way. Acupuncture, and in particular electro-acupuncture can provide the right signals along the damaged nerves, to promote healing. Neurological trauma also causes severe pain. Part of this pain is because of the trauma itself, and part is because of incorrect re-wiring of nerves. Acupuncture can help reduce both of these. 

A natural painkiller

Research shows that acupuncture changes gene expression. 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.


Preventing and reducing chronic, pathological pain

dog sleeping

Chronic, pathological pain arises due to mechanisms occurring in the nerves, spinal cord and brain. This type of pain is often a result of neurological damage, followed by a reaction of the body to regulate neurological signals. Often this goes wrong and as a result certain pain signals are amplified and cause pathological pain. This type of pain is very hard to treat with conventional medicines. 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

How does it work?

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. Electro-acupuncture is done by attaching electrodes to needles, spanning the zone where de trauma occurred (for example a slipped disc). The electrical power on the electrodes is adjusted to what’s comfortable. Most animals enjoy the treatment and will have a snooze. 

dog getting electro-acupuncture treatment

What other conditions can be treated with acupuncture?

old dog acupuncture

Another condition that can respond very well to acupuncture is arthritis, but also skin conditions, like allergies and lick granuloma. Acupuncture can be helpful in the management of behavioural problems like fear/anxiety or depression, especially when this is combined with behavioural therapy. To read more about other uses of acupuncture, click here