Updated: Mar 13
For many years, western visitors to China returned with stories of how acupuncture was being used for the treatment of various medical ailments. Few individuals really took interest in the tales until political and cultural relations between China and the West were reestablished in the 1970's. By then a great many North American and European physicians had become intensely interested in what is one of the most ancient systems of medicine.
It is known that acupuncture has been used in China for well over 3000 years. Occasionally it would be banned for a period only to quickly reestablish itself in the medical realm. It is a system of medicine closely linked to the philosophy of the culture which created it.
Traditional Chinese belief is that there exists a life force which is called ch'i. This ch'i is present in all living things and circulates almost like blood through the body in specific pathways. These pathways are called "meridians" that acupuncturists points lie.
To the acupuncturist disease involves a blockage or imbalance in a meridian to the flow of life energy or ch'i. Either external or internal factors may cause the imbalance and hence the disease.
By using various diagnostic techniques, the acupuncturists will determine the nature of energy blockage. Once the disease is identified, a series of acupuncture points will be selected for treatment.
The acupuncture points as well as being located along the body meridians are also located in actual depressions. This makes the points somewhat easy to find as the finger will almost slip into them. After selecting his points, the acupuncturist will then proceed to stimulate the points. There are a great many ways of doing this but different problems may require a different type of stimulation. Stimulation may be done by acupuncture itself, which actually means insertion of needles into the point, moxibustion, which is when the point is heated with a slow burning herb; acupuncture, where the thumb is used to simply massage the point; electrical stimulation of needles; laser stimulation of the points; ultrasound stimulation and low frequency radio wave stimulation. Different acupuncturists may use different methods for stimulating the point; in all probability it likely makes little difference which method of stimulation is used as long as the point is stimulated one way or another.
Many theories have been presented to the scientific community in order to explain the reason why acupuncture works. At present there is no single explanation of the phenomenon, only various hypotheses. In reference to performance horses, the horseman is primarily interested in how acupuncture can decrease the amount of pain. It is felt at the present time that stimulation of particular acupuncture points will cause the secretion of substances which are as strong or stronger than morphine. Morphine is an excellent pain-killer, one of the best but it seems that the body has its own natural pain killers present which are even more powerful. All that is required is appropriate stimulation to allow these natural pain-killers to be released.
Acupuncture, therefore has been most successful in the treatment of patients with long-standing pain. When properly performed it has been able to give pain relief in many cases of arthritis, low back problems, tendon and ligament injuries ect.
Although the Chinese may claim it is equally successful in the treatment of other medical problems, this point is still in question. By far the most common reason that one may use the services of an acupuncturist today is for long-standing pain.
In the horse, acupuncture seems to have its greatest worth in treating problems of the hind end. Back and hip pain respond well to acupuncture therapy. Lameness of the hind end can often be controlled through the use of acupuncture therapy. For front end problems success has not been nearly as good. This is likely due more to insufficient knowledge of the art than due to the art itself.