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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2006 / 10 

Equine medical center offering acupuncture services

October 26, 2006

Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center has begun offering acupuncture to its patients.

The new service, which became available in September 2006, is being provided by Dr. Alison A. Smith, a clinical assistant professor in anesthesia at the center. Smith, who is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists, completed the Basic Course in Veterinary Acupuncture through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) in March 2006.

"I had always had some interest in acupuncture in that it was used to effectively treat one of my own horses," said Smith. "The fact that we can offer acupuncture in conjunction with surgery and other traditional treatments is a real advantage."

Acupuncture, an ancient technique that originated from traditional Chinese medicine, is the practice of putting needles in specific points on the body in order to treat disease or relieve pain.

"In the grand scheme of things, it is a philosophy of balance and restoring the body to harmony," said Smith. "You can stimulate those points to return the balance of energy in the body."

Services to be made available at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center include dry needling, in which small steel needles are used; aquapuncture, which involves injecting fluid into the point; and electroacupuncture, which consists of electrical stimulation being delivered through a dry needle attached to an electroacupuncture machine.

"This alternative therapy can also help patients to be much more comfortable and may reduce the duration of their treatment," notes Smith. "Acupuncture will help many of them to get out of the hospital sooner, thereby reducing the chance of infection and making them happier."

Pain management is another area in which acupuncture may be beneficial. "I believe that acupuncture has benefits in many aspects of veterinary medicine but the most common use, and probably the best use, has been for pain management," said Dr. Curry Keoughan, a clinical assistant professor in equine lameness & surgery at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. "It has often been used for back pain with reports of success where other modalities have not had the desired effect."

In most cases, acupuncture will be used in conjunction with traditional medicine. "The acupuncture will be done holistically along with other treatments," said Smith. "In some cases, it may be the only thing that we do, for example, with lameness; but it won't be an either or situation between Eastern and Western medicine."

Smith notes that the number and frequency of sessions required will vary depending on the horse's condition and response to treatment. "It's not a one-size-fits-all answer," said Smith. "It is a bit more gradual."

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a Leesburg, Virginia, based full-service equine hospital that is owned by Virginia Tech and operated as one of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) is a two-state, three-campus professional school operated by the land-grant universities of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the University of Maryland at College Park. Its flagship facilities, based at Virginia Tech, include the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which treats more than 40,000 animals annually. Other campuses include the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Va., and the Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center at College Park, home of the Center for Government and Corporate Veterinary Medicine. The VMRCVM annually enrolls approximately 500 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and graduate students, is a leading biomedical and clinical research center, and provides professional continuing education services for veterinarians practicing throughout the two states. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.