Acupuncture involves placing a needle into a specific point on the body in order to modulate the nervous system. The nervous system controls the entire body, so acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Acupuncture needles send a normal stimulus to the nervous system, acting as a reset switch to restore normal function. While acupuncture has local effects near the specific needle insertion points, it primarily affects the central nervous system, which in turn impacts the musculoskeletal, hormonal, cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems for a global effect on the body. Acupuncture is an integrative therapy that should always be used in conjunction with a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Acupuncture points are located where nerve bundles emerge from or penetrate fascia, bone, or muscle; at neuromuscular attachments; at sites of nerve bifurcation; in close proximity to major blood vessels; surrounded by small nerve bundles; or in muscle trigger points.
The benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of lameness include controlling pain and speeding healing time. When a needle is inserted, it causes local microtrauma, neurovascular reactions, and neurotransmitter release. It sends signals to the brain and spinal cord and stimulates responses from the brain and spinal cord. Local tissue effects include capillary dilation which improves blood flow, immune activation, release of proteins and neurotransmitters, muscle relaxation, activation of tissue repair. Effects on the entire body include reduced inflammation, increased serotonin levels, pain control, release of endogenous opioids (pain relieving substances), improved circulation via dilation of blood vessels, and pain inhibition through the gate theory, which means that if a normal signal is sent to the spinal cord (needle insertion), it will interrupt and reduce the pain signal being perceived.
Acupuncture can be used to aid in the healing of injuries, to relieve pain in acute or chronic lameness conditions, or to enhance performance in a sound horse by relieving pain and releasing trigger points and tension in sore muscles.