Acupuncture Science – Horses

acupuncture needles

This set of 19th century needles was used for acupuncture, a method of treatment that bears little resemblence to what's practiced today

When acupuncture was first promoted to horse owners, starting in the 1970s, there was a lack of supporting scientific evidence.  Proponents touted a fictionalized history of the practice, falsely asserting that since acupuncture had been practiced for one/two/three/four thousand years (or more), it had withstood the test of time.

Since then, there have been many scientific studies – of very uneven quality – including a number of scientific studies in horses.  The results of such studies are remarkably consistent.  When studies are poorly conducted, lacking such features as blinding, randomization, and controls (where one horse gets treated, and another one doesn’t), acupuncture may sometimes seem to be effective.  But when studies are well-conducted, they are almost universally negative.  When results disappear as the quality of the studies gets better, it always means that the therapy isn’t effective.

Here’s some information about the (lack of) science behind acupuncture in veterinary medicine, and the horse.

In 2000, Dr. Ramey lectured to the American Association of Equine Practitioners about the fact that acupuncture points and meridians have not been shown to exist.  CLICK HERE to see a copy of the article.

In 2001, Dr. Ramey, statistician Dr. Martin Lee, and equine internal medicine specialist Dr. Nat Messer published a review of the western literature on acupuncture.  We concluded that acupuncture does not have clinically relevant effects.  CLICK HERE to see the abstract, and order a full copy of the article.

This article, by Dr. Ramey, pertaining to the (lack of) science behind veterinary acupuncture, was published in 2005, in the journal Equine Veterinary Education.  CLICK HERE

In 2006, a review on acupuncture in veterinary medicine, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal medicine, and performed at the University of Vienna, in Austria, concluded, “There is no compelling evidence to recommend or reject acupuncture for any condition in domestic animals.”  In scientific terms, the lack of evidence for acupuncture, particularly after numerous investigations, is telling; it means that it’s unlikely to be effective. To see an abstract of the article, CLICK HERE.

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