Acupuncture and Managing Pain in Horses (AAEP 2011)

Clinical trials still yield a mixed bag of results for acupuncture’s efficacy in treating equine ailments.
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Using acupuncture to manage severe pain in horses and other animals is not a novel concept, but veterinarians have been hard at work lately combing research studies to better understand this complementary therapy’s usefulness, efficacy, and safety. During a presentation at the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas, James Kenney, DVM, an equine practitioner from Clarksburg, N.J., presented an overview of acupuncture and equine pain.

"According to the World Health Organization, the effectiveness of acupuncture has been established in controlled clinical trials (in humans), and the use of acupuncture to control chronic pain is comparable with morphine without the risk of drug dependence and other adverse side effects," Kenney explained.

After an in-depth discussion of the physiologic mechanisms behind acupuncture and pain control, Kenney discussed clinical research on the use of acupuncture in animals.

"Currently, much of the practice of acupuncture in animals is based on the results of pilot research studies, case reports, and clinical experiences," he explained. "Compared with human acupuncture, the clinical application of veterinary acupuncture is in the early stages of development as a science

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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