Acupuncture is a treatment that involves inserting fine, sterile, stainless steel needles into specific points of the body to prevent and treat disease. The treatment evolved over 3000 years ago in China and it is now being used in veterinary and medical practices throughout the world.

What conditions can acupuncture be used for?

Acupuncture can be used as part of a treatment protocol for many conditions with the exception of malignant tumours, irreparable fractures and end stage organ failure. It is often used in combination with conventional veterinary treatment so the patient experiences the benefits of the combined effects.

In equine practice, acupuncture is commonly used for the relief of musculoskeletal pain, particularly back pain. It is especially useful for treating:

  • Any type of muscle soreness, particularly of the neck, shoulders, back and hindquarters. Clinical signs that may be alleviated by acupuncture include:
  • Resentment of saddling and girthing, dipping on mounting
  • General stiffness, inability to bend on one or both reins
  • Head tilt, inability to flex from the poll
  • Head Shaking
  • Irritability and soreness during grooming
  • Arthritis -Any chronic joint pains which often have associated muscle pain
  • Sacroiliac pain

Who can perform acupuncture?

By law, acupuncture can only be performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon that has undergone special training in the technique. This is because it is an invasive procedure that requires a thorough knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.

How does acupuncture work? Western Scientific Explanation

Inserting acupuncture needles stimulates tiny nerve endings that carry impulses to the spinal cord and brain. This results in responses within the nervous system, leading to the release of neurotransmitters and hormones. These influence the function of the body tissues and organ systems.

The effect of an individual needle is determined by where it is placed in the body and which nerves are stimulated – hence the need for a thorough knowledge of veterinary anatomy and physiology.

Acupuncture increases the release of natural painkillers such as endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin which acts on the pain pathways in the brain and spinal cord and can block the transmission of incoming pain signals.

Acupuncture as a preventative treatment

Acupuncture has a valuable role as a preventative treatment. Fit competition horses taking part in a wide range of disciplines are prone to developing minor injuries that often go unnoticed. Eventually these build up and cause the horse to compensate by altering its way of moving and this makes it susceptible to more serious injury.

Regular examination and treatment throughout the season can catch these injuries at an early stage. By restoring normal blood supply and function to the muscles, they heal quickly and competition schedules are uninterrupted. Some patients – along with some diseases – are refractory to acupuncture and will not respond to treatment, this can occur in up to 10% of patients.

Often the cost of acupuncture can be claimed for on your insurance – please check your own individual policy or with your insurance company prior to embarking on a course of acupuncture.


Electroacupuncture is the application of an electroacupuncture unit to acupuncture needles causing percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS). It is most useful for neuropathic pain and muscle atrophy. A study by the University of Bristol has found PENS to significantly reduce signs of head shaking in horses. The same PENS therapy is used in people to manage neuropathic pain.

For further information call 01483 811007 or have a look at the Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturist’s website:

Is your horse stiff and sore over his back? Does he dip away when saddling or grooming? Headshaking?

Acupuncture may help!

It is a treatment that involves inserting very fine needles into specific points in the body to help prevent and treat conditions, particularly muscular pain. It may be useful alone or combined with other treatments.

For further information call 01483 811007 or have a look at the Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturist’s website: