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I am often asked "What is acupuncture?" or "Will it hurt?" and even, "Will it even help?". It would be very easy to give the standard clinical answers to these very valid questions but, instead, I would like to start with why I studied acupuncture and why I'm an Integrated Practitioner.

My path started at the age of six when I was first introduced to martial arts. As I grew older, I not only fell in love with the artistry and physicality but, the culture and tradition. I was introduced to Chinese acupuncture and herbal therapy in my early twenties after being injured. It was on the recommendation of my Sifu and agreed upon by my physician at the time to seek acupuncture.

Dog Acupuncture TreatmentI went to Chinatown to receive acupuncture for the first time. I will admit that even though I had essentially grown up in and around Asian culture, I was very skeptical. Despite my skepticism, I received multiple acupuncture and herbal treatments.

The results were amazing. The renewed vitality I felt made me question why everyone wasn't doing this and why Western physicians didn't make this part of their standard of care?

Fast forward to my own career as a veterinary medical professional. Having personally known the benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicine, how could I not offer this to my own patients?

Remember, as I stated before, I am an integrated practitioner and see the benefits of both Eastern and Western medicine. I also the beauty and brilliance of combining the two.

Western medicine is amazing at quickly treating an illness but, often times we see long term side effects from prolonged use of pharmaceuticals. Eastern medicine often takes, by Western standards, a long time to be effective. Therefore there are benefits in combining these modalities.

For example, NSAIDs and Steroids are amazing at quickly treating and relieving pain caused by arthritis or intervertebral disc disease. But, if used over a long period of time can effect the liver and kidneys. If used in combination with acupuncture and herbal medicine, these pharmaceuticals can be reduced or even eliminated from the patient's current treatment. This ensures lasting pain control without all of the negative side effects that pharmaceuticals can cause.

Cat Acupuncture TreamentEastern medicine can be used in combination with Western medicine to treat a wide range of diseases. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are not limited to the treatment of arthritis and osteoarthritis in our companions. I have treated skin conditions, behavioral issues and renal disease, to name only a few, by combining Eastern and Western medicine. The outcome has been great for the patients, reaping the benefits of these modalities combined.

I will end this post with the dictionary definition of acupuncture. The only request is that you, the reader, understand that it is so much more. It will not hurt your pet, it can only help and yes, I have seen acupuncture and herbal medicine help my patients as well as myself.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine combined with Western medicine is the future of both human and veterinary medicine as we combine ancient techniques with modern discoveries.

Acupuncture: a system of complementary medicine that involves pricking the skin or tissues with needles, used to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions.

Christopher W. Shapley DVM, CVA, received his undergrad degree from Montclair State University and earned his DVM degree from the Western University of Health Sciences. He is a specialist in veterinary acupuncture and herbal medicine.