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MODERN ACUPUNCTURE FOR OUR EQUINE FRIENDS
© Dr. Lauren DeRock DVM



Dr. DeRock on her very much loved foxtrotter, Tolemac. Dr. DeRock not only works with horses professionally, they are also her hobby and first love; that is, after her husband, Ray. Riding, training in many disciplines, and on many breeds, has given Dr. DeRock a considerable understanding of the problems horses and their riders have.
Dr. J. Lauren DeRock is a licensed veterinarian who has specialized in Equine Acupuncture and Non-Force Chiropractic for over 10 years. She has successfully treated performance horses, race horses, carriage horses, trail horses, and pet horses of every type.  Her accreditation in veterinary acupuncture is through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society  (IVAS). 
 
 

 

 Many of you have heard about acupuncture in the news or on TV. Many of you perhaps have wondered about it, considered acupuncture for yourself, and/or have tried it. Perhaps after you finish this article, you will consider it even more, and for more conditions than you thought it would affect.  This ancient science and art has become more familiar to us in the western world in the last 20 years; but what I'll bet you don't know is how extraordinarily effective acupuncture is in animals. I always laugh hysterically when people talk about the "placebo" effect. I say, "Right! Tell that to the horse!"

Since I am an equine veterinarian, most of my experience is with acupuncture in horses. Let me give you an example: I got a call from a veterinary colleague of mine a year or so ago saying that he had just been presented with a month old colt who had been kicked in the head by a mare other than its mom. The baby had a fractured orbit.  is the bone that houses the eye, right up by the jaw joint. I have found, over the years, that the faster I can get to an accident victim, the better. I was able to see the baby the next day. By that time, the baby was in great pain, was having trouble nursing, as he had a lot of swelling and was showing signs of facial paralysis. While the handler held the youngster, I started treating him. After about 5 minutes, the baby was much relieved and literally fell asleep in the handler's arms. The referring vet called me two days later to say that you couldn't tell that anything had happened, and the colt was back to normal. Have I sparked your interest? Do you begin to understand why the Oriental people at the Olympic Trials had their acupuncturists and therapists right there waiting for them after their events?

Acupuncture has been around for at least 5000 years. We, in the Western World, with our "modern" medicine have a hard time understanding how such a simple thing as inserting a needle in the right place on the body could have any effect, let alone, such a profound effect. In fact, until recently, our arrogant scientists have considered a 5000-year-old medical system "experimental." I won't bore you with the scientific data that is accumulating about how acupuncture actually works. We don't really know exactly. But what has been proven scientifically is that acupuncture works through mediating the endorphin system. Endorphins are the body's regulating chemicals. It used to be thought that endorphins were mostly for internal pain relief. Now it is known that these chemical reactions create all sorts of different effects throughout the body and regulate how it works. The latest, and very exciting, and repeatable research, shows that treating a superficial acupuncture point on the surface of the body has an immediate effect directly on the brain.

When we try to understand how acupuncture regulates the body through these mechanisms, we see the body as a web of electrical circuits. The Chinese call the energy that goes through these circuits "Chi", the Japanese call it "Ki". In fact, every culture in the world has a word for this "life force." Westerners probably are more comfortable with a phrase like "electrical energy." These circuits are called Meridians, and they travel on the surface of the body from the fingers, in a human, to the toes, and vice versa. These Meridians cannot be dissected out as a nerve can be, but they can be traced electrically, and they are consistent. These circuits have internal organ connections and thus are named for the organs they are particularly involved, such as Lung, Large Intestine, Heart, Kidney, Liver, etc. But they are more than simple organ connections. They are Energetic Systems.  There is a Meridian that runs directly up the front of the body, and another that runs up the back. There are also other deep and esoteric meridians, which complicate the picture. I won't go into these here, except to say that their effects are very powerful. 

Gall Bladder Meridian in the Horse.
Although the horse does not have a gall bladder organ as such, the meridian is the same as in the human, and it has a lot to do with the integrity of ligaments especially in the hips and pelvis.

How does acupuncture relate to illness, pain, or injury? Acupuncture helps the body attain homeostasis so that it can better heal itself.  We have built in mechanisms for healing injuries in our bodies. If you have a broken bone, it isn't the doctor who does the healing. But he or she might have to set the bone straight, so that the healing process will work. Sometimes the electrical energies must be "set straight," so that all the cells involved in the healing process can work at full capacity. If there is a blockage of electrical energy, and decreased circulation, to any part of the system, it creates a sort of dam effect. This can, not only cause pain, it can prevent healing. Acupuncture helps to remove this dam and normalize the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area. 

There are many conditions other than injury that acupuncture is absolutely indicated for. There are many acupuncture points that directly affect the strength of the immune functions, for instance, normalize the intestines, and help with liver metabolism. While horses do not have the incidence of kidney malfunction as commonly as dogs and cats, they do get imbalances that can be devastating. In the horse, these kidney channel imbalances can directly affect performance as they are related to back pain. In the dog and cat, kidney malfunction is a major threat in older animals. Acupuncture can work wonders here. Degenerative diseases, arthritis, many allergic reactions are other disease processes for which acupuncture is absolutely the treatment of choice, rather than drugs which ultimately weaken the system. To me, it makes more sense to try something like acupuncture first, for many conditions, rather than to wait until all else has failed before seeking another modality. If that baby colt had gone through the usual, conventional therapy, it might never have gotten completely well. Nerve damage could have been permanent.


Here is a horse enjoying an electrical treatment of
one of the "divergent meridians".

So, if you haven't thought about acupuncture for yourself or your horse yet, here are some common problems that I have had much success treating over the years: 
 

  • Injuries of all sorts
  • Performance Glitches
  • Vague Lameness
  • Sore Backs
  • Cold backed or "Girthyness"
  • Chronic Lameness
  • Toxic Scars
  • Laminitis, Founder
  • Navicular Syndrome
  • Ringbone
  • Arthritis
  • Neurological Problems
  • Immune System Problems
  • Reproductive Problems
  • "Moon Blindness"
  • Geriatric balancing
  • Bad attitudes


You have to, of course, remember that Acupuncture does not stand by itself. This is why I come to each case first as a veterinarian. You need to have a proper diagnosis of the problem. It is very important to evaluate the work of the farrier. It is most important to take into consideration "crookedness." Go to my web page, www.equineacupuncture.com, and look at the page, "Leaning, A New Paradigm." As a veterinary acupuncturist, I always come to the horse to find the roots of the problem, not just treat symptoms. I always start with a fresh eye, so to speak, because often the regular vet has been treating the effects of the problem, not the cause. Not that this isn't important, but it may not be enough to resolve the problems. Saddle fit, training and riding techniques are all important considerations. Sometimes the horse needs intelligent adjustment of misaligned joints for the treatment to be complete.

I recommend highly that you find a competent human Acupuncturist in your area and try it. You will be truly amazed at how, not only old pains can resolve and actual healing can take place, but how it improves your general health. Then look up a person in your area to evaluate and perhaps treat your horse. He will love you for it. You can go to www.ivas.org to find a qualified Veterinary Acupuncturist in your area. 


 
Dr. J. Lauren DeRock's practice, "Pacific Coast Equine Acupuncture and Alternative Medicine", is easily accessed in Central California. She will also travel to your barn. 

If you have any questions, Dr DeRock would be more than happy to respond to E-mail inquiries.

drderock@evansinet.com
URL: www.equineacupuncture.com
Phone: 209 664-1764
Fax: 209 892-7702
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