This is one of the most common concerns I hear in my acupuncture practice. One I can understand since acupuncture is, after all, a practice that involves inserting needles into skin and tissues. In practice, many pets have no reaction at all to needle placement. Some, like Grace in the video below, even reach a state of relaxation many of us would envy. Grace is snoring soundly while several acupuncture needles are doing their work.
Acupuncture needles vary in gauge (thickness), but in general they are so fine that they resemble a filament. The thickness of the needle depends on the animal species, size, point location and even personality. There are also different lengths of needles. In general, I practice with 0.5 inch or 1.0 inch lengths. Occasionally I might use something called a Korean hand needle, which is so tiny that it is very specific in its uses.
Acupuncture points are selected by the veterinary acupuncturist to help the body’s own natural healing process and to stimulate production of the body’s own chemicals for pain relief. A variety of chemicals are created by nervous system when an acupuncture needle is inserted into neuro-vascular bundles (nerve and blood vessel bundles) found throughout the body. These points have been mapped out over a few thousand years of experience, mainly in China.
Sometimes there may be one or two points, most often kidney association points in older pets, where they may sense discomfort. In these cases, I will ask pet parents to scratch or rub them in a favorite area to distract them while I place the needles. If there is a sense of discomfort with needle placement, this is a strong indication that the needle is working to open up the blocked channel responsible for the pain or signs of disease.
Following treatment, your pet may experience pain relief for a few days and eventually up to a week or more at a time. The duration of relief is dependent upon your pet’s health status, and whether or not other modalities such as Tui-na, Chinese herbal medicine, food therapy and daily exercise are used. In my experience, the most common use for acupuncture is pain control. In many cases it far surpasses the effects of modern drugs when used consistently. The small amount of discomfort that some pets feel is far outweighed by the benefits of acupuncture.. You might even find that, like Grace, your pet drifts off into restful slumber while reaping the many benefits of acupuncture therapy.