Stick a needle in it

Massage, chiropractic, aquatred, cold saltwater spa… Henry is no stranger to complementary therapies. Yet one thing he hasn’t tried, and in fact I’ve never tried on any of my horses, is acupuncture. No particular reason, really, I’ve just never had access to it or any personal experience with it.

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derp

My vet is a skeptic of “woo-woo” (his words) type things in general. Chiropractic, laser therapy, all that stuff tends to get an eyeroll from him. I appreciate the skepticism in a lot of ways, but I’ve seen enough “woo-woo” things work really well that I tend to be pretty open-minded about trying stuff. I’m all about finding ways to make the pony more comfortable.

bridleless derp

I’ve read a lot about acupuncture, all the different types, and what it can supposedly help with. Take a spin around a few different horse forums and you’ll find opinions ranging from “total hogwash” to “miracle cure”. As with all things, I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in between and depends a lot on the particular horse and practitioner.

A couple years ago we had a vet move into our area that specializes in acupuncture and chiropractic. I put her on my radar as one to watch and see how she fared, and thus far it seems like she’s been pretty successful with it. I know a few people that have used her and seen good results.  I was thinking that maybe it’s time to make a chiropractic appointment for Henry anyway (I’m sure he’s probably a bit out of whack from the stall rest/gimping that has happened lately) so on a whim I emailed this vet for her rates.

noble derp

It isn’t cheap for chiro plus acupuncture from a vet, but I’m thinking about trying it anyway. My curiosity is starting to get the best of me.

Has anyone else used acupuncture, either on yourself or your horse? If so – opinions? If not – would you, or wouldn’t you?

30 thoughts on “Stick a needle in it

  1. My first horse apparently benefited a lot from acupuncture before we bought him. He was stall kept with his previous owner and didn’t get turnout so his arthritic hock got sore regularly and the acupuncture helped. Not sure why they didn’t just turn him out…but whatever. He was always sound and mostly comfortable with us while he was on full turnout and able to move around a lot.

    I’m also glad to hear that my vet isn’t the only one that eye rolls at chiro. :/

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  2. I haven’t ever tried acupuncture on myself or on Roger, but my trainer has used it a few times on her horses and has had fantastic results. Obviously it depends on the practitioner, but I’ve heard enough good things about it from my trainer, that it might be worth a try for you and Henry 🙂

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  3. I’ve never tried it on any of my horses (don’t know anyone local who offers it) but I’ve heard enough about positive results in humans that I’d be willing to give it a go! Especially if I had a specific problem I needed addressed.

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  4. I have a friend who had a dog (a Beagle) whose back gave out on him (disc issues) when he was 13 at the time (too old for surgery) so they tried acupuncture. The dog went from not being able to walk to being functional and able to get around. He is now 16 and still goes for his acupuncture every few weeks as needed and is still going strong (Poor guy has lymphoma now but is still holding his own).

    So ever since then i look less askance at acupuncture (i still haven’t used it on any of my animals).

    So it is interesting to read/hear about others who have had success!

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  5. Woo Woo things work differently for different horses, as you know. A horse I rode a lot got acupuncture and while she certainly enjoyed it, I didn’t noticed any changes in how she went. She was also a nutjob (no matter how dearly I loved her) so I don’t know that her results are representative. Regardless, it hasn’t inspired me to shell out for it since then.

    Body work, otoh, I will apparently just pay for the rest of C’s natural life.

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  6. isabel really benefited from acupuncture (she enjoyed it quite a bit too), and one of my trainers swears by it both for her own bum shoulder and for her horses with a chronic neck injury from intubation gone badly in surgery. it’s something i plan on doing for charlie too (tho other priorities are higher on the list), and probably before chiro bc even tho he’s way less body sore now, i’m still concerned about the effects of chiro possibly increasing his soreness.

    on the flip side, brita didn’t love acupuncture for wick bc he would get 18 kinds of loosey goosey after treatment and just be alllll over the place tipping and stumbling and generally acting drunk for about a week after haha

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    1. I don’t know that a chiro would do more damage or make a horse more sore, but obviously each horse responds to chiro treatments differently.

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      1. please note that i did not say chiropractic treatment does damage. my comment reflects my intention to seek less physically disruptive treatments *before* (operative keyword) chiro, since chiro is by definition a more intense treatment than acupuncture. some DVMs will not even administer chiro treatment on a very sore horse without giving it a week or two of muscle relaxers in advance, since sore muscles or compensatory movement can undo the chiro treatment or prematurely diminish its efficacy.

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  7. I had acupuncture done on Suzie after she fell into a sink-hole during a trail ride a few years ago and while it didn’t produce any kind of “wow” results, it seemed to benefit her muscle soreness. The service I believe cost $80 – this doesn’t include the farm call, travel fees, or otherwise.

    On the flip side, Suzie LOVES massage and chiro appointments. I think it is just about finding what works for you and your horse. Some horses will be receptive to it, and some won’t.

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  8. I’ve never done accupuncture, just bodywork (refuse to do chiro on my horses because I had a chiropractor crack one of my ribs once). Bodywork definitely helps, although Taran is useless for a few days afterwards. I feel like it depends very much on the horse – what works for one doesn’t do much for the next, etc. People are like that too sometimes!

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  9. I tried acupuncture with Fiction. He didn’t seem to enjoy it and I noticed no changes. I might try it again in the future, but for now I can’t justify spending the money on something I saw no effect from.

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  10. I used acupuncture on my horse when he was having SI issues (before I just bit the bullet and had him sent in for a bone scan and SI injections). For him, who had a pretty acute issue, it definitely gave him a lot of pain relief. He would get maybe 2 weeks of pain relief from the acupuncture and about a month of pain relief from the electro-acupuncture (acupuncture needles with one of those electrode machines attached to each needle). My vet/chiro did it. He is a drama queen sensitive TB and LOVED the acupuncture.

    Now that he has had the SI injections and is mostly pain free, he just gets regular chiro adjustments every 5 weeks and we haven’t needed the acupuncture for him. Although the vet/chiro is $$$$$, for my guy it makes a world of difference. He gets cranky and I can tell when he needs her to come and then he is a happy camper afterward.

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  11. I used to be a total skeptic! But when my back was not responding to any treatments, I tried it. And discovered my body is responsive to it! I actually really love it. That said, from everything I’ve heard, your body either responds to it, or doesn’t. We have a local vet who does traditional medicine as well as acupuncture and she has seen some good results with it. If nothing else, I think it can be really relaxing and enjoyable for horses, even if it doesn’t cure anything, per se.

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  12. I have used it alongside chiropractic with great results. But I will say I only use it when I have a lame or hard case because that is where I see the most benefit. It’s not something I am going to do on a regular basis because the guy in my area charged $300 and up for a visit.

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  13. I did it on my old mare Fabel way back when I was eventing her and I think it helped her recover from a back injury. I myself have used it for multiple running injuries and have found it extremely helpful. I just don’t see how it doesn’t do something, you’re breaking the skin and puncturing the muscle (albeit very tiny puncture), the body is going to have a reaction to that, so there is no way it doesn’t cause some form of stimulation – enough to make a difference? I think that’s personal opinion, and mine is that it does indeed work.

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  14. The chiro and massage therapy seem to be enough for Eli, but I would be extremely interested in hearing about your experience with acupuncture, should you decide to go that route for Henny.

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  15. There are no scientific studies that show the acupuncture adds any additional benefits to anything though many claim it does. Acupuncture is absolutely fine as an adjunctive therapy but should not take the place of true medicine and treatment for ailments.

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  16. Used both chiro and acupuncture on my old OTTB. Results? Meh…. I think “results” depend partly (in humans) on placebo effect and in animals on the expectations of their owners. But then, I fall solidly into the Dr. Ramey camp on these things. If a “treatment” just happens to coincide with the body healing itself naturally (which it always wants to do) we will give credit to the treatment even though it had nothing to do with the result. We’re especially looking for results when we plow a lot of $$ into the treatment.

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  17. Definitely a fan here of all the “woo-woo” things, having had personal/family experience as well as with my doggie. Ex always said he pretty much owed his life to the chiropractor who helped TREMENDOUSLY with a bulging disk problem. Ex went from virtually non-functional to fine over the course of a couple months and has maintained the “fix” for years now by using a Hang-Ups machine if it starts bothering him. I went to chiro for sciatica and it helped a lot, and then she introduced acupuncture. I’m here to tell you – that WORKED and right away. It hurt a bit when the first needle went in, but then I could feel pain relief. I was astounded that she could zero in on the exact right spot. She only put in three total needles for 10 minutes but it was amazing. It lasted, too!

    Elderly dog’s neck and back started bothering her a few years ago. Regular vet prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxants. Those helped immediately, but when she went off them, bam, pain again (no surprise – meds are not a fix). I looked up an animal chiro and turns out he works on people, dogs and horses and knows practically everyone I know in the horse world here. At any rate, he’s fantastic and totally helps my pup. If she gets ouchy in we go and she’s right as rain the next day. I have not had to do acupuncture on her but I will certainly try it if deemed that it might be helpful. (P.S. Dog is on zero prescription medicine for arthritis – excellent joint supplement (Actistatin) and the chiro as needed keep her comfortable)

    I have been a massage fan for many years and get them as often as I can afford. If I had lots of money I’d be in there every week without fail. 🙂 Haven’t tried massage on the dog but I try to do some myself, which she loves.

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  18. I have only ever had a few chiro adjustments done on horses and it was only on one horse in particular, about 10 years ago. It did help with his neck stiffness. My current Vet does both acupunture and chiropractic on both horses and dogs. I have not tried either one with my current horse, or with my dogs. Since it is too expensive for me personally to consider doing on a regular basis, I will not try either one unless other things don’t work for Dexter. I have heard plenty of good things about both forms of treatments.

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  19. Ashke loves both. We go several times a year and have had wonderful results. Ashke will actually talk to our vet about what is happening with his body more then he lets me know. I’ve also used both on myself and am a believer.

    Our costs are $150ish (depends on if he needs to be sedated) for chiro/accu/exam and we travel to her. Sometimes its a bit less, depending on what he needs. Money well spent every time.

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  20. I’ve done acupuncture on one of my horses and I didn’t notice any difference, plus my horse hated it. He was a nervous, spooky type so I’m not really surprised. It won’t do any damage though so it can’t hurt to try (other than damage your wallet!).

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  21. I think it depends on the issue. I had one horse where I did a couple sessions and it didn’t have much improvement. So I started chiro on him instead which resulted in a HUGE improvement. I think if they’re muscle sore or hold tension, acupuncture can be good. If used in conjunction with chiro, I imagine it would help the adjustment hold a little longer if tension is what gets your horse out of whack.

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  22. My pony is too sensitive for massage…really hates it (tried to kick the massage therapist last time she worked on him…and he’s NOT a kicker), but he responds well to chiro and acupuncture so I try to do both for him annually. My understanding is that acupuncture is particularly helpful in releasing the memory that muscles hold onto after injuries. This proved true for my pony when he pulled a muscle in his shoulder a couple years ago…he healed up well after a couple months, but was still protecting that side of his body and moving weird as a result. Acupuncture REALLY helped him release and he was moving normal again after two treatments.

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  23. Having used the chiro myself I don’t mind using it for my horse but I do think it can be kind of a loop and once you start it’s hard to back off. Less so for horses probably.

    Annie responded much better to her massage than chiro work at the clinic so I would probably be more inclined to try that again. Definitely interested in accu though.

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  24. I will say this: Ollie was used as a guinea pig horse for an acupuncture class for vets. While the instructor lectured for like 20 minutes, Olls was standing there bored and fidgety and I struggled to keep him still. They stuck a needle in some spot on his chest, and he nearly immediately dropped his head and started drooling. Stood there for 20 minutes like that. No injections or anything – just the needle. I believe.

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  25. When I was working as a groom my upper back and arms completely freezed up from all the lungeing & box cleaning I was doing. Acupuncture fixed it in 3 sessions, which was a blessing. I would use it again but I find massage brings me the same benefits but is more enjoyable (I’m not doing physically demanding work any more either, so I’m not so broken!). Never had it done on my horses but I’ve seen other horses be treated & appear to enjoy it.

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  26. The chiro was really, really helpful for Leo. She does acupuncture as well – I haven’t tried it, but it was done regularly on one of the lesson horses for several months and he went from full retirement that was assumed permanent due to lameness and potential neuro issues to starting to do walk/trot lessons again.

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