Acupuncture is a branch of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) that has been practiced for thousands of years. Very thin needles are placed in specific points (acupoints) all over the body in order to achieve balance. Research has shown that acupoints contain higher numbers of free nerve ending arterioles, mast cells, lymphatic vessels. When stimulating specific points, research has measured increases in endorphins (nature pain killers), anti-inflammatory mediators, and hormones like serotonin.
In TCVM every individual has a personality related to the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, wind), that predisposes that individual to certain imbalances. Five Element Theory allows the medical professional to better understand the patient and tailor treatment. What’s your horse’s personality?
In health, four aspects of the body and mind are balanced: yin, yang, blood and qi (pronounced chee). When one or more of these factors are over expressed (excess) or underexpressed (deficiency) the patient is not in harmony and will exhibit physical signs of distress. The goal of acupuncture is determining the pattern of illness via observing the tongue, feeling pulses, discussing the history and personality of the horse, and performing a scan of the body, to make an individualized treatment plan. Treatments involve a few or many needles, the addition of electroacupuncture, aquapuncture (where saline, vitamin B12 or the horse’s blood is injected into an acupoint), or massaging acupoints when needles are not tolerated. Sessions typically last less than an hour. For horses, results are usually seen in 3-5 treatments but some benefits may be seen rapidly; long standing issues typically take more sessions to treat.
Herbs may be recommended, which are used to increase and prolong the effects of acupuncture. The herbal formulas that are prescribed are sourced from Jing Tang Herbal, and the formulas are made in the United States.
Acupuncture is a modality that works hand in hand with traditional veterinary medicine. In addition to medications and treatments that are used every day by equine vets, acupuncture can aid in the healing time of wounds and tendon injuries, decrease pain from arthritis, improve fertility, decrease inflammatory flares like uveitis, and promote GI motility. Dr. Sullivan views acupuncture as another tool in her veterinary toolbox that enables her to enhance normal practices and provide options when traditional treatments have failed.
In 2018, Dr. Sullivan attended the Chi Institute and became certified in veterinary acupuncture.Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy
*Legally, in the states of NJ and PA, the term chiropractic is reserved for individuals who hold a doctorate in chiropractic (DC).
This modality identifies joints with restricted motion (hypomobities) and the practitioner makes adjustments—high velocity, low amplitude thrusts—in order to achieve more normal range of motion. Hypomobilities of the spine have the greatest impact on the spinal cord and the nerves entering and exiting the spinal cord. When the nerves are impacted, both incoming information from the environment (spatial, vibration, temperature, etc.) and outgoing information from the brain and spinal cord do not function properly. Nociceptors, pain-relaying nerves, are no longer dampened leading to pain and inflammation, which continues to stimulate nociceptors in a cyclical manner. With pain and inflammation, the joint is used less, adhesions form within the joints, scar tissue forms in surrounding tissues, muscles become weak, all leading to the patient experiencing PAIN and DECREASED FUNCTION. The sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems are impacted by hypomobilities, in addition to the immune system. Overall, identifying and adjusting hypomobilities treats the whole horse. This modality is great for patients ranging from high level athletes wanting to optimize performance to geriatric horses hoping to lessen the aches and pain that come with age.
Dr. Sullivan became certified in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy through the Healing Oasis Wellness Center December 2021.