What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient healing art, for both humans and animals, that originated in China over 2000 years ago. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of a very particular location on the body to achieve a specific therapeutic effect. The point itself is called an acupoint. Modern science has revealed that the acupoints are located in areas of the body that have a high concentration of free nerve endings, lymph vessels, small blood vessels and immune cells. Stimulation of these points causes release of chemicals that affect the function of the brain and nervous system, specifically, beta-endorphins and serotonin among others. These are brain chemicals associated with pain relief, however, acupuncture may have more widespread effects on other organ function as well.

From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, acupuncture helps keep the Vital Energy force known as Qi (pronounced chee) flowing throughout the body. Qi flows in predictable patterns in the body called meridians, which act as superhighways for Qi energy. Acupoints are the “off-ramps” to the body surface, where we as acupuncturists may influence the flow of Qi along the meridians. Pain is interpreted as a blockage, or stagnation, of Qi flow along a meridian. Acupuncture works to “push the reset button” and re-establish the free flow of Qi, thereby relieving pain and improving organ function.

There are many variations of acupuncture treatment which include:


Dry needle acupuncture – the placement of fine gauge needles as specific acupoints to achieve a desired effect on the body.

Aqua-acupuncture – the injection of a liquid (typically vitamin B12 solution) into acupuncture points. This helps prolong the effects of acupoint stimulation.

Hemo-acupuncture – encouraging a small amount of bleeding from specific acupuncture points. This is often used in animals with excess heat conditions.

Laser-acupuncture – using laser light to stimulate acupuncture points.

Electro-acupuncture – applying an electrical current through acupuncture needles. This allows for deeper pain relief through the release of serotonin in the brain.

Moxibustion – an ancient method of heating acupuncture points, often used for animals with cold conditions.


Acupuncture needles are very fine gauge needles. While it is difficult to say exactly what animals feel, humans experience a range of sensations ranging from heaviness, tingling, aching, to deep relaxation. Most animals are comfortable with acupuncture and many animals fall asleep during treatment. For animals that do not tolerate acupuncture needles, we typically use Chinese herbal formulas to support the same treatment goal and/or cold laser to stimulate acupuncture points with light instead.

Acupuncture treatments are generally done every 1-4 weeks for 3-4 treatments and sessions typically last 20-40 minutes. Chronic diseases may require more frequent or prolonged treatments.