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Equine Acupuncture - FAQs

Equine Acupuncture - FAQs

The Orange County Equine Veterinary Services team is here to explain Acupuncture therapy for your horse!


Acupuncture is a complementary modality that can be used as a standalone treatment or to enhance the treatment of western medicine. The goals of acupuncture can be summed up as stimulating nerves, providing analgesia, decreasing muscle spasms, relieving stress and improving circulation. The most important start to acupuncture is obtaining a correct diagnosis, and initiating western treatment if indicated. Sensitivity at acupuncture points can also be used to aid in making the diagnosis. Without a correct diagnosis, acupuncture may just be treating the signs and not solving the root of the problem.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture points are sites in the body that produce a physiological response when stimulated. Generally, these points are near nerves and/or blood vessels.

What is the difference between medical acupuncture and traditional Chinese acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese acupuncture considers “chi” as the vital energy flow throughout the body. Chi flows along the meridians of the body in a directional way, and disease happens when the flow of chi is altered.

Medical Acupuncture is the modernized approach to acupuncture that focuses on a science-based approach. Neurophysiology and anatomy are considered while forming treatment plans.

What conditions can acupuncture can be used to treat?

Acupuncture can be used as an adjunctive therapy for many different conditions. It is most commonly used for musculoskeletal pain, and is excellent for treating conditions throughout the body such as:

  • Neck pain: poll pain, cervical arthritis, muscle spasms or strains

  • Back pain: kissing spine, facet arthritis, strained or sore epaxial muscles

  • Pelvic pain: sacroiliac pain (desmitis, arthritis), pelvic fracture, muscle spasms or strains

  • Limb pain: arthritis, soft tissue injuries, laminitis, navicular disease

Acupuncture is also used commonly to help many other problems, including but not limited to:

  • Neurologic disorders
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Colic
  • Eye problems
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Reproductive disorders

What is electroacupuncture?

Electroacupuncture is an additional means to stimulate nerves and provide muscle relaxation. Once the needles are inserted, an electrical stimulator is attached to the needles and a current is sent through the tissue between the needles.

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Can acupuncture be performed at the same appointment as chiropractic? If so, how will it provide additional benefit?

Dr. Fertig will often perform Chiropractic and Acupuncture in the same appointment. After her examination, she will determine which treatment should be provided first. Acupuncture works synergistically with chiropractic to provide additional pain relief and muscle relaxation. Chiropractic works more on the mechanoreceptors (touch and pressure receptors), and acupuncture works primarily on the nociceptors (pain receptors).

How many treatments does my horse need?

When treating chronic or severe conditions, the best results are obtained when a series of treatments are performed. The number and protocol vary depending on the severity of the condition, but usually at least 3-5 treatments at weekly or bi-weekly intervals will be recommended.

Acupuncture is often used as a “tune up” while in regular work or before competitions. Often these treatments are performed monthly or as needed.

What additional treatment modalities will be performed with acupuncture?

Chiropractic is the most common additional treatment performed at acupuncture appointments. Depending on the condition, additional treatments such as laser therapy, functional electrical stimulation, or pulsed electromagnetic field therapy may be performed. Most importantly, anything (western) medically indicated will be recommended as well.


Interested in having your horse treated with acupuncture? Orange County Equine Veterinary Services offers Acupuncture (and other services!) at local stables! You can also browse Equivont's other veterinarians and acupuncturists to find one near you!