Does Acupuncture Alleviate Navicular Syndrome Pain?

While acupuncture seemed to help some horses, there was no strong evidence that it relieves pain in all affected horses.
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Does Acupuncture Alleviate Navicular Syndrome Pain?
A recent study of nine horses revealed that while the complementary therapy seemed to relieve pain in some horses, there’s no strong evidence to suggest that it alleviates pain in all affected horses. | Photo: iStock
Palmar heel pain (also referred to as navicular syndrome or caudal heel pain) is a performance-limiting foot condition in horses. Many owners of affected animals will try anything to help relieve the discomfort, and one option that’s gaining popularity is acupuncture. A recent study of nine horses, however, revealed that while the complementary therapy seemed to relieve pain in some horses, there’s no strong evidence to suggest that it alleviates pain in all affected horses.

“There were individual horses who showed improvement following treatment in this study, but there were also individuals (in a control group) who showed improvement without treatment,” said Katherine Robinson, BSc, DVM, MVSc, Dipl. ABVP, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, in Canada.

During the study, horses were barefoot, trimmed by the same farrier, and not allowed treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

“Owners and trainers may choose to try acupuncture because it is … a nonpharmacologic alternative, so it can be used in horses in active competition with no fear of a positive drug test,” added Steve Manning DVM, MSc, Dipl. ACT, an associate professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine

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Written by:

Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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