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Acupuncture: Does it Belong in Animal Research?

“Acupuncture is commonly used to relieve pain in both people and pets. Can it also be used alongside traditional medicine to manage pain in laboratory animals?

The ancient Chinese therapy is slowly being incorporated into research settings, in an effort to improve clinical conditions and quality of life. A 2015 study in Endocrinology revealed that acupuncture impacts biological pathways ramped up by pain and stress in laboratory rats.

Acupuncture, and other forms of Chinese medicine, treat the body as an element within a universe characterized by energy flow, treats disease as systemic imbalance, and considers health as a part of living your life in harmony with the principles of nature or Tao.

Specifically, acupuncture involves the use of thin, sterile needles inserted into defined points that stimulate physiologic processes through neural signaling.

The use of acupuncture in companion animals has increased drastically in the last decade and is primarily used to treat neurological and orthopedic conditions.

More slowly, acupuncture has started to become used in laboratory animal and research settings.

This delay can be attributed to:

The small size of the rodents commonly used in animal research, which can make proper acupuncture technique difficult.

A lack of training into its technique by laboratory animal veterinarians.

A concern that acupuncture introduces an unknown variable into research studies.

“The risks of acupuncture are very low. The supplies are inexpensive. The only drawback is the time investment to perform the therapy. In our experience, the benefits gained by the animals are well worth the time investment,” Elizabeth Rebecca Magden, DVM, DACLAM, author of a recent study titled “Spotlight on Acupuncture in Laboratory Animal Medicine,” explained to ALN

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